Emotional Health · Family & Friends

A Grandmother’s Worries

They say that one of the many joys of being a grandparent is that you can relax and leave all the worrying to the parents. You are finally free to enjoy the kids without the daily stress and hard work that goes into taking care of them and their needs. Spoiling, hugging, and having fun are your main jobs.

Things have changed since our grandparents played this role. Last week I wrote about how much anxiety we suffered during the 50s and 60s about the possibility of nuclear war. I’m sure our parents and their parents worried plenty. Somewhat surprisingly, however, things calmed down quite a bit and by the time we grew up, this anxiety was largely abated, or at least dormant.

Now it has been reawakened by the conflict with North Korea, and once again we are left with the question: what kind of future will our young people inherit?

Fears of war have always been present, however, and our own grandparents came of age in time to fight in (at least) two major world conflicts. I have to remind myself that they had no way of knowing we would win those wars, and it is hard to imagine the kind of anxiety they suffered when they heard the news that Hitler was advancing across the European continent, to cite just one example.

But today there are several worries that are entirely new. Though we always feared we might destroy each other, the idea that we might destroy our planet is a fairly new one. Though overpopulation was a concern during the late 20th century, the anxiety was more focused on the idea that we might run out of resources.

Now we have serious concerns that our air, water, and animal and plant species are all threatened. Gone are the days when a day at the beach was, well, a day at the beach. Today’s parents arrive at the shore with vast stores of sunscreen and bug-spray. Many kids are protected with sun-protective long sleeve shirts and hats. Babies are particularly vulnerable and are often kept inside a tent while their families “enjoy” the sunshine.

The New Yorker had a cartoon a few years ago when the area was suffering from a sewage spill and the water was declared unsafe. A little girl is at the beach, huddled under an umbrella, says to her mother, “If I can’t go in the sun and I can’t go in the water, why did you bring me here?”

Right now, many of the East Coast’s sunny vacation areas are dealing with the aftermath of three monster hurricanes, and those that rely on tourism may not recover for years. For some of the Caribbean islands, this is the equivalent of financial Armageddon. Many citizens of Puerto Rico are saying they may move to the mainland permanently after this, if they can get a flight to leave. The waiting list last week was up to 20,000.

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