After a dinner party with two couples, also parents of young-twenties children, I re-read an article from the NYT: "Home Economics: What the Great Recession has really done to family life" by Judith Warner, here.
My parents, married in 1931, had little nostalgia for the Depression. Though they passed their Dirty Thirties lessons on (save for a rainy day, don't buy on credit, help those worse off), they were delighted when Dad was paid in cash again, rather than with chickens and potatoes.
Today, when families say they're closer now that they've replaced ringside seats with board games, I think, Good for them. But I wonder whether their young adult children will desire their families' scaled-back lives, once they are in the workforce.
Many of my sons' contemporaries have chosen the professions–especially law and engineering–not for love of the field, but for future financial gain. These kids seem to be thinking, If job security is a thing of the past, better get into a highly-paid profession.
I don't see many twenty-somethings aspiring to a reduced lifestyle. They want what they enjoyed growing up in prosperity, whether they spent their summers at the cottage or worked for decent pay at a seasonal job.
To paraphrase Sophie Tucker, they may be thinking, I've been a rich kid and I've been a poor kid; believe me, honey, rich is better.
Many middle-class young adults, raised on easy credit and immediate fulfillment of consumer desires, were value-programmed way before the 2008 recession hit.
A few are saving turtles in Costa Rica or studying Anglo-Saxon poetry; altruists, artists and intellectuals endure. But among friends' children, I see fewer choosing to follow bliss and more prepping for the LSAT.
This recession, with the pain and loss that Warner describes, will create a cohort determined to get back to where they once belonged, whether it's the local half-pipe or Aspen.
I hope that, as they plot their financial future, they examine their values closely, rather than endorsing those of my maxed-out generation.
Perhaps they can hit the sweet spot many of us missed: a life of prosperity and responsibility.