Becoming our Parents

“It’s a fine line between the darkness and the dawn
They say in the darkest night, there’s a light beyond.” — Jimmy Webb

Progressive Insurance runs a series of commercials with a trainer that works with younger adults that are becoming their parents. It’s hard to say how many iterations of this commercial we have seen to date. I want to say half a dozen, but I think you get the general idea. As ad campaigns go, it’s very effective. Anyone that has seen these ads can find themselves or someone they know in at least one of them.

There’s one taking place in the mall and the young adult is about to buy a polo style shirt. The joke is that he’s wearing the exact same shirt. The trainer tried to get him to notice he was buying the same shirt and failed. My wife and daughter immediately busted out laughing. It seems I own a very similar shirt. The joke is that it was a gift from my parents. Hilarious right?

The problem is that they’ve made a joke out of becoming our parents. The cold, hard truth is that we are destined to become our parents. We always have been destined to become our parents. Introspection is difficult to say the least. It is a lot more noticeable when you compare your parents to their parents or other relatives with their parents.

Personality quirks are one thing. We could go on all day about those. Obviously, most of us had two parents growing up, so we become a kind of hybrid combination. However, we also become a combination of their greatest hopes and dreams and their worst instincts and fears. It becomes a competition to see which side ultimately wins. Do we become the best of our parents or the worst of our parents?

When we view politics in that prism, the current state of affairs makes a lot more sense. Many wonder how people could become so nasty and hateful. That doesn’t happen out of thin air. People don’t suddenly become something they are not. What they become is something that has always been inside of them. They have simply chosen (consciously or unconsciously) to become the worst of their parents.

This happens for a variety of reasons. The biggest reason is that a parent’s basic aim is for their children to have a better life than they did. We are in the first time in our nation’s history where that hasn’t happened. College degrees are not paying off like they used to and student loan debt is skyrocketing. Wages have stagnated overall and costs are increasing. It’s human nature for fingers to point outwards when that happens.

Of course, we have politicians. networks, pundits, and talking heads that invite people to do just that. We collectively know we are not as successful as we could or should be. We know it isn’t our fault and so we look for someone to blame. Those politicians, networks, pundits, and talking heads provide the targets to us. From there it is just a short hop, skip, and jump to become the very worst of our parents.

The history of the world is a history of societies growing and crumbling. The growing societies are never perfect, but they seem to improve with each generation. Each generation becomes more open. Each generation becomes more tolerant. Each generation becomes more generous. The preponderance of the people become the better version of their parents.

The hope is that trend continues. It currently has not. The darkness hasn’t completely succumbed us yet, but it is close. Progress has always been slow because there has always been these two instincts playing tug of war inside of us. Maybe the Progressive Insurance guy can’t stop us from becoming our parents. Maybe he should stop trying and focus on how we can collectively become the very best version of our parents. It might be less funny but we will be a lot happier in the long run.

Author: sbarzilla

I have written three books about baseball including The Hall of Fame Index. I also write for You can follow me on twitter @sbarzilla.

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