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Generations

  • To raise good human beings it is not only necessary to be a good mother and a good father, but to have had a good mother and father.

  • Parents and children cannot be to each other, as husbands with wives and wives with husbands. Nature has separated them by an almost impassable barrier of time; the mind and the heart are in quite a different state at fifteen and forty.

  • The gesture with which one generation guards the next is the movement, and the only time we see it clearly, of life itself.

  • ... words are sometimes the most expensive and dangerous luxuries between the generations.

  • ... I was sorting through my mother's things. All the letters from friends had to go. I don't know why she kept them, and now they meant nothing to anybody alive. Each generation flushes the toilet for the last.

    • Lucy Ellman,
    • "Pass the Parcel," in Kate Saunders, ed., Revenge ()
  • ... we are the Whiplash Generation ... raised to be Doris Day, traversing our twenties yearning to be Gloria Steinem, then doomed to raise our midlife daughters in the age of Nancy Reagan and Princess Di.

  • Perhaps every generation thinks of itself as a lost generation and perhaps every generation is right.

  • Isn't it our job to be appalled by our parents? Isn't it every generation's duty to be dismayed by the previous generation? And to assert that we are different — only to discover later that we are distressingly the same?

  • There are two barriers that often prevent communication between the young and their elders. The first is middle-aged forgetfulness of the fact that they themselves are no longer young. The second is youthful ignorance of the fact that the middle aged are still alive.

  • The dead might as well try to speak to the living as the old to the young.

  • ... every generation has a conceit of itself which elevates it, in its own opinion, above that which comes after it.

  • It has always been my belief that children inherit the suppressed tendencies of their parents. A clergyman's son frequently shows abnormal tastes for the pleasures that his father denied himself ...

  • With our parents we bury our past, with our children our future.

  • ... youth is always an enemy to the old ...

  • This modern craze for putting the young in positions of authority — headmasters in their thirties, bishops without a gray hair on their heads, generals who scarcely need to use a razor — ever since it took hold the world's gone steadily downhill.

  • What a tragedy it was that the only thing age could offer to youth was its own experience, and that the experiences of others were never profitable.

  • Sooner or later the young always betrayed the old.

  • I do not believe in a child world. It is a fantasy world. I believe the child should be taught from the very first that the whole world is his world, that adult and child share one world, that all generations are needed.

  • Once an angry man dragged his father along the ground through his own orchard. 'Stop!' cried the groaning old man at last, 'Stop! I did not drag my father beyond this tree.'

  • ... each generation has something different at which they are all looking.

    • Gertrude Stein,
    • "Composition as Explanation" (1926), What Are Masterpieces ()
  • When we are young the idea of death or failure is intolerable to us; even the possibility of ridicule we cannot bear. But we have also an unconquerable faith in our own stars, and in the impossibility of anything venturing to go against us. As we grow old we slowly come to believe that everything will turn out badly for us, and that failure is in the nature of things, but then we do not much mind what happens to us one way or the other. In this way a balance is obtained.

    • Isak Dinesen,
    • "The Deluge at Norderney," Seven Gothic Tales ()
  • ... there are now no elders who know more than the young themselves about what the young are experiencing.

  • ... as long as any adult thinks that he, like the parents and teachers of old, can become introspective, invoke his own youth to understand the youth before him, then he is lost.

  • Even very recently, the elders could say: 'You know, I have been young and you never have been old.' But today's young people can reply: 'You never have been young in the world I am young in, and you never can be.' ... the older generation will never see repeated in the lives of young people their own unprecedented experience of sequentially emerging change. This break between generations is wholly new: it is planetary and universal.

  • ... our parents give us their song of life. We receive it from them and work on it, and will hand it down to those who follow us to make of it a new and better thing, to make it understood by their own generation. Let us be careful to take the song reverently, not to snatch it ungratefully, lest we break the hearts of those who conceive it.

    • Lily H. Montagu,
    • 1916, in Ellen M. Umansky, ed., Lily Montagu: Sermons, Addresses, Letters and Prayers ()
  • When she had been a child, children were expected to defer to their parents in everything, to wait on them and help around the house and so on; but when she became a parent and was ready to enjoy her turn at being deferred to, the winds of fashion in child rearing had changed, and parents were expected to defer to their children in hopes of not squelching their imagination and creativity. She had missed out all the way around.

  • ... when we are young our parents run our life; when we get older, our children do.

  • Stages of life are artifacts. Adolescence is a useful contrivance, midlife is a moving target, senior citizens are an interest group, and tweenhood is just plain made up.

  • ... the desire to enforce our own moral and spiritual criteria upon posterity is quite as strong as the desire to enforce them upon contemporaries.

    • Suzanne La Follette,
    • "Institutional Marriage and Its Economic Aspects," Concerning Women ()
  • ... we all grow on somebody's grave ...

  • The ideal visions of one age eventually are seen as its excesses by the next.

  • ... I was raised the Chinese way: I was taught to desire nothing, to swallow other people's misery, to eat my own bitterness. And even though I taught my daughter the opposite, still she came out the same way! Maybe it is because she was born to me and she was born a girl. And I was born to my mother and I was born a girl. All of us are like stairs, one step after another, going up and down, but all going the same way.

  • The debt of gratitude we owe our mother and father goes forward, not backward. What we owe our parents is the bill presented to us by our children.

  • Generations should not be mingled for daily fare, she thought; they are really contemptuous of one another, and the strong individuals, whether they belong to the older or the younger, impose on the meek their creeds and opinions, and, if they are strong enough, brook no dissent.

    • Jean Stafford,
    • "The Liberation," The Collected Stories of Jean Stafford ()
  • Youth cannot know how age thinks and feels. But old men are guilty if they forget what it was to be young ...

  • I happen to feel that total separation between parents and [adult] children is one of the great tragedies of our culture. Both generations really need the sustenance the other has to give and both are impoverished when the relationship does not continue.

  • The old creep out at the churchyard gate, while the young bound in at the front door.

  • His hatred of her was the hatred of the old for the new, of the traditional for the innovative, of the dying for the living.

  • When three generations are present in a family, one of them is bound to be revolutionary.

  • We didn't have a generation gap, we had a generation Grand Canyon.

    • Mary Crow Dog,
    • in Mary Crow Dog with Richard Erdoes, Lakota Woman ()
  • Each age, like each person, has its own likes and dislikes, and the idols of one generation often turn into the skittles of the next.

    • Elizabeth A. Drew,
    • foreword, Poetry: A Modern Guide to Its Understanding and Enjoyment ()
  • I have no patience with anyone born after World War II. You have to explain everything to these people.

  • ... your actions live after you till this globe is dissolved; they pass inevitably down as an inheritance from one generation to another. ... decency and integrity, courage and compassion, are always well worth while; they are not lost, but pass on down the generations; we are indeed the heirs of all the ages.

  • Every generation must go further than the last or what's the use in it?

  • Modern adults, if they are to be successful in their relationships with modern youth, will have to give up riding in oxcarts and adapt their training methods to a speeded-up society. Some adults refuse to do this. They like oxcarts. Their own parents used oxcarts. It is simpler to use oxcarts.

  • Forget us, children. Our conscience / need not belong to you. / You can be free to write the tale / of your own days and passions.

    • Marina Tsvetaeva,
    • "Poems to a Son," in Elaine Feinstein, ed., Selected Poems ()
  • The glory of each generation is to make its own precedents.

    • Belva Lockwood,
    • speech, National Convention of Woman Suffrage Association ()
  • Youth condemns; maturity condones.

  • ... each age stands on the shoulders of the one that has gone before, and out of the revolt of the old is fashioned the new.

  • Parents and children were put on earth to give each other grief. You were my punishment for how I behaved to my own father. And I'll have my revenge when you have children of your own.

  • My great-grandmama told my grandmama the part she lived through that my grandmama didn't live through and my grandmama told my mama what they both lived through and my mama told me what they all lived through and we were suppose to pass it down like that from generation to generation so we'd never forget.

  • Every generation proclaims that each must lead his own life, but seldom grants the subsequent generation the right to lead theirs.

  • You must invent your own games and teach us old ones how to play.

    • Nikki Giovanni,
    • "poems for black boys (with special love to james)," The Collected Poetry of Nikki Giovanni ()
  • Everyone hates millennials until it’s time to convert a PDF into a Word document.