A Weekly Column

By Joseph Walker



Baby boomers can be strange creatures -- especially as parents. We spend all of our time trying to make life easier and more comfortable for our baby boomlettes, and then we moan and complain when they don't seem to appreciate how easy and comfortable their lives are.

I know I'm guilty of it. A couple of months back I was lecturing my soon-to-be-married daughter about the virtues of newlyweds starting their lives together living on a shoestring, and how her mom and I furnished our first little apartment with refinished furniture and cast-off dinnerware from our respective parents' basements. And then I went out and bought her a brand new dining room set and some cool-looking everyday dishes for Christmas.

Thankfully, I married the rare boomer who believes that our boomlettes need to have some of the same experiences that we had -- even the occasional painful ones -- so that they can learn the same important lessons we learned at Hard Knock U.

At the start of the winter season, Anita took our two youngest children, 9-year-old Elizabeth and 7-year-old Jon, to buy winter boots. Jon selected some boots with pictures of Godzilla all over them, and Elizabeth decided on a pair that paid pink homage to Barbie.

"Are you sure you don't want something less little girl-ish?" Anita asked Elizabeth.

"I like Barbie, and I think the boots are cute," Elizabeth said.

"So do I," Anita said. "But some of your friends at school may not agree."

One of my favorite things about Elizabeth is that she isn't too anxious to grow up. She's content to be a little girl, and isn't rushing head-long into pre-adolescence. But Anita understood that many of Elizabeth's fourth-grade friends view themselves as mini-teenagers, and decry anything that seems . . . you know . . . childish. And they may not be favorably disposed toward one of their peers wearing pink Barbie boots -- no matter how cute they may be.

"I don't care," Elizabeth said. "I like them."

So Anita purchased the boots and braced herself for the inevitable -- which inevitably happened last week. When Elizabeth came home feeling hurt because a few of the kids at school had teased her about her "baby Barbie boots," I handled it in my usual mature, sophisticated manner: "Who are these miscreants, and how much rope will we need to hang them all from our apple trees?"

Eventually, Anita convinced me that first degree teasing was probably not a capital crime. "So," I asked her, "when are we going to get Elizabeth some new boots?"

"We're not," Anita said.

"But the other kids are teasing her."

"She'll survive it," Anita assured me. "Just like we did."

"But why should she go through that if she doesn't have to? I mean, it's just a pair of boots."

"But it isn't really about the boots," Anita said. "For the rest of her life, she's going to be making choices, and there will always be people in her life who don't like some of the choices she makes. They'll tease her and hassle her and belittle her. At some point in time she has to learn to accept responsibility for her choices, and to stand by her decisions regardless of what others think."

"That's a lot to ask of a fourth grader," I said.

"She can handle it," Anita said. "She's tougher than you think."

And toughness is in the curriculum at Hard Knock U. -- even for boomlettes in Barbie boots.


# # #


--- (c) Joseph Walker


Look for Joe's book, "How Can You Mend a Broken Spleen? Home Remedies for an Ailing World." It is available on-line through and