Get over it: Your kids may not be better off than you

Ruben Nararrette
Liberal Opinion

Ruben Navarrette

Columnist, host & author
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Should each generation be more successful than the last? And what defines success? Is it making lots of money? Moving up the career ladder? Or is it following your passion? 

Whatever it is, there’s no guarantee that your kids are going to be more successful than you, even if they work harder. Millennials, for instance, might make more money than previous generations at their age, but they hold far less wealth.

And according to Straight Arrow News contributor Ruben Navarrette, that may be a good thing. Successful parents, Navarrette argues, would be doing their kids a favor if they didn’t take their children’s future success for granted, and instead taught them how to be grateful for what they have. 

What makes someone successful? I’ll give you a hint. It’s not being famous, or making what my teenagers call mad stacks. For me, it’s about finding your passion, something you enjoy doing from dawn till dusk. So you get really good at it, then finding a way to get paid for your time, talent and toil.

However you define it, it’s wrong to see success as an entitlement, or to assume that it will come naturally, if you go to the right college, or jump through certain hoops. It’s also wrong and foolish to buy into the idea that in America every generation will be more successful than the one before it.

Yet, even with the roller coasters of recessions and global pandemics, a lot of Americans still think that their kids are destined to do better than they did. What? Who promised that? Where’s that written down?

Sometimes it will work out that way. Sure. Each generation will move the ball further downfield, but not always. Life doesn’t come with guarantees. And when it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t mean as some suggest that a bargain has been broken.

There was no bargain, only an assumption. There’s a big difference. Nor does it mean as some insist that America is glitching — that it isn’t functioning as it should, and that someone is to blame.

The whole thing is just one big misunderstanding. We think something ought to be true. We want it to be true. So we assume it is true. And when this something turns out not to be true, because it was never true in the first place, we get ticked off as if we’ve been misled or tricked or lied to. Not so, none of that’s happening.

What makes someone successful, I’ll give you a hint. It’s not being famous, or making what my teenagers call mad stacks.

For me, it’s about finding your passion, something you enjoy doing from dawn till dusk. So you get really good at it, then finding a way to get paid for your time, talent and toil.

However you define it, it’s wrong to see success as an entitlement, or to assume that it will come naturally, if you go to the right college, or jump through certain hoops. It’s also wrong and foolish to buy into the idea that in America, every generation will be more successful than the one before it.

Yet, even with the roller coasters of recessions and global pandemics, a lot of Americans still think that their kids are destined to do better than they did. What? Who promised that? Where’s that written down?

Sometimes it will work out that way. Sure. Each generation will move the ball further downfield, but not always, life doesn’t come with guarantees. And when it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t mean as some suggest that a bargain has been broken.

There was no bargain, only an assumption. There’s a big difference. Nor does it mean as some insist that America is glitching. That isn’t functioning as it should, and that someone is to blame.

The whole thing is just one big misunderstanding. We think something ought to be true. We want it to be true. So we assume it is true. And when this something turns out not to be true, because it was never true in the first place. We get ticked off as if we’ve been misled or tricked or lied to. Not so none of that’s happening.

Someone should tell that to Sirius XM radio host and CNN host Michael Smerconish. Look, I love the guy, because like me, he’s standing pretty close to the middle of the road. If Rubin is in the center, as my podcasts would suggest, that Michael is at least, Senator Risch, still, at times Smerconish gets it wrong. By the way, my wife of 20 years can tell you this also happens to me a lot.

Lately, Smerconish has confessed to his audience that he’s worried that his children will not be as successful as he has been. And he’s been awfully successful.

The native of Doylestown, Pennsylvania, went to Lehigh University, and then got a law degree at the University of Pennsylvania. But he really hit his stride in media hosting a TV and radio show, writing a column offering several books giving dozens of high price speeches each year and much more recently on his radio show, Smerconish said, are my kids, our four children going to be able to maintain the standard of living that we’ve attained? Are they going to do better?

I think it was always almost an article of faith growing up in the United States that you could get to the next rung on the socio economic ladder and go higher than your parents. But people no longer have that view.

To which I would say, so what? So what if people no longer believe something that they shouldn’t have believed to start with, because it’s not always true, and it’s never been true? Smerconish seems to be coming around. He wrapped up with this thought.

Maybe he said, it’s a good thing. Maybe we’ve tapped out, maybe this is as good as it gets. To be sure every American family has his own experience, they travel their own road.

Many immigrant families are killing it in this country. They work hard, put in long hours appreciate each opportunity, and they don’t think of themselves as entitled.

It may be that as time passes, generations become more successful. But they also become more complacent and less ambitious. Our hard work pays off for us. But the comfort it affords our families backfires and hurts our kids by stifling their initiative and weakening their work ethic.

So what do we do? One thing we should not do is worry about whether our kids will be successful, we should focus on making sure they’re grateful and appreciative of everything they have. America doesn’t owe them a damn thing. It’s the other way around.


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