Some years ago, the conversation went something like, “Since we misbehaved as adolescents, we don’t feel like we can put any constraints around our own kids. We don’t have the right to criticize their bad choices because we made our own.” On its face, it made sense. No good and decent person decides to be an intentional hypocrite. If we hope to be respected, shouldn’t we endlessly strive toward internal consistency?
So, the story goes on, the children of these good and moral parents lived a life unconstrained by phony indignation but filled with needless peril. “We smoked pot, so we cannot tell you not to do it. We drank underage, so we cannot tell you not to do it. And, look, life turned out OK for us.” Maybe. But if we ate poison berries and somehow managed to survive, don’t we have an obligation to give the next generation a heads-up? Or do our rose-colored glasses and misplaced affection for our progeny prevent us from being the adult in the room?
Even if we managed to survive the peccadillos of our own youth, aren’t we obligated to pass on that accumulated knowledge to those who follow? Driving drunk, smoking cigarettes, Communist rule and careless sexual behavior — should we warn the youngsters or let them figure it all out for themselves? Are we too busy making new mistakes to learn from our past ones?