You don't really feel the generation gap until a son or daughter comes home from a term at college. Then it strikes you how out of it you really are. Popular columnist Art Buchwald reflects on an experience which child care workers know only too well. This dialogue probably takes place regularly all over the country.
'Nancy, you've been home from school for three days now. Why don't you clean up you room?'
'We don't have to clean up our rooms at college, Mother.'
'That's very nice, Nancy, and I'm happy you're going to such a freewheeling institution. But while you're in the house, your father and I would like you to clean up your room.'
'What difference does it make? It's my room.'
'I know, dear, and it really doesn't mean that much to me. But your father has a great fear of the plague. He said this morning that if it's going to start anywhere in this country, it's going to start in your room.'
'Mother, you people aren't interested in anything that's relevant. Do you realise how the major corporations are polluting our environment?'
'Your father and I are worried about it. But right now we're more concerned about the pollution in your bedroom. You haven't made your bed since you came home.”
'I never make it up at the dorm.'
'Of course you don't, and I'm sure the time you save goes towards your education. But we still have these old-fashioned ideas about making beds in the morning, and we can't shake them. Since you're home for such a short time, why don't you do it to humour us?'
'For heaven's sake Mother, I'm grown up now. Why do you have to treat me like a child?'
'We're not treating you like a child. But it's very hard for us to realise you're an adult when you throw all your clothes on the floor.'
'I haven't thrown all my clothes on the floor. Those are just the clothes I wore yesterday.'
'Forgive me. I exaggerated. Well, how about the dirty dishes and the soft-drink cans on your desk? Are you collecting them for a science project?'
'Mother, you don’t understand us. You people were brought up to have clean rooms. But our generation doesn't care about things like that. It's what you have in your head that counts.'
'No one respects education more than your father and I do, particularly at the prices they're charging. But we can't see how living in squalor can improve your mind.'
'That's because of your priorities. You would rather have me make up my bed and pick up my clothes than become a free spirit who thinks for myself.”
'We're not trying to stifle your free spirit. It's just that our medical insurance has run out, and we have no protection in case anybody in the family catches typhoid.'
'All right, I'll clean up my room if it means that much to you. But I want you to know you've ruined my vacation. '
'It was a calculated risk I had to take. Oh, by the way, I know this is a terrible thing to ask of you, but would you mind helping me to wash the dinner dishes?'
'Wash dishes? Nobody washes dishes at school.'
'Your father and I were afraid of that.'
From Humorous Stories, Octopus Books Limited