A recurring theme in the rise of the Me Generation is their benefiting from an established set of rules, and then altering them -- even reversing them -- once they could no longer benefit, and would be expected to play the role of the benefactor.
The series of posts I wrote on incumbency highlight this pattern the best. Boomers went all "don't trust anyone over 30" when they were upstarts, insisting that their superiors be cast aside to make way for new blood. After all, those old fogies didn't have a fancy ass degree like an MBA like we do.
The older Greatest Generation largely went along with the coup, seeing it as in poor taste yet still necessary to keep social mobility going for the next generation.
Of course, once the Boomers became the Establishment, their credo switched to "beware everyone under 30," and if the upstarts have fancy little MBA's, well, big whoop, so do us Boomer incumbents. If they have more education than us, that's just pointless over-qualification. If they want good jobs, they should only have the level of education that we had, but back when we had it, not now, because we are already as educated as we are.
They've been all "boo taxes!" since their 20s, yet now that they're set to start collecting Social Security retirement checks (without retiring), "we" are going to have to tax-and-spending to meet our promise to our nation's senior citizens (or aging Americans, or whatever the Boomer euphemism for it is).
I wonder how this dynamic is playing out in the kinship realm. Boomers received loads of help from their parents when they had kids. Greatest Gen grandparents like mine consisted of a grandmother who was a homemaker, and perhaps had been so for decades and decades, and a grandfather who was a man-of-the-house. The grandmother donated endless time minding the grandchildren, freeing the Boomer mother to do whatever else, and the grandfather donated time and effort instructing and passing along know-how.
Some summers as children, my brothers and I would spend entire weeks at my grandparents' home in the middle of nowhere, nearest city Wheeling, West Virginia. Our grandmother watched over us, cooked us meals, made us take baths, and all the other maternal duties of a typical day. My grandfather would teach us how to hold someone in a full nelson, chop firewood, find your way around the woodland trails, shoot a .22, steer a tractor, and all the rest of the things you need to teach a growing boy how to do.
I don't think my parents spent the whole time in frivolous vacation mode. They just had more time to take a breather, and to finally get to all those millions of little things that need to be done around the house, at their jobs, and planning for the near future, that are hard to do while also trying to tame three wild kids.
Are the Boomers now taking on the burden of grandparenting their children's children in the same way? It doesn't look like it. No data to check from the General Social Survey, unfortunately, this is personal observation. You just don't see your Gen X friends posting pictures of dropping off their kids at Camp Grandma for weeks on end during the summer, or pictures of their excitement when they get to return home with mom and dad. No status updates to that effect.
They post all sorts of kid pictures on Facebook, so if they don't include lots of ones with children and grandparents, it's because they aren't really there. The only exception is if the Gen X-er or Millennial is living with their Boomer parent.
Now, some of the distance between today's grandkids and grandparents could be deliberate on the part of the Gen X parents, most of whom either have trust "issues" with their parents, or at least recall the lack of supervision of their own childhoods, and don't want grandma to behave that way again around her grandkids.
Still, it seems like most of the distance is from a lack of will from the Boomer grandparents. Parents today, as cocooning and paranoid as they are about other people being around their kids, are still stretched too thin for time, and would enjoy a break of sanity during the summer. And grandparents don't need to be researched, checked-out, and paid.
My sense is that Boomer grandparents play more of an absentee role, not spending as much time and effort nurturing them and teaching them know-how. My grandmother never ordered a pizza or went out for fast food when it came time to feed us. We got home fries straight from a cast iron pan that must have been a pain to clean afterward. With the Me Generation being so single-mindedly focused on their careers, they have little time and energy left to spend on caring for grandkids.
Boomers were happy to ask for and receive grandparental help, but are loathe to give it now that it's their turn. It's another case of re-writing the rules to benefit them in whatever life stage they're currently in. Being tight-fisted is one thing, but when you yourself benefited so much from asking for generosity when you were an upstart, it makes the hypocrisy unbearable.
Not that it's the most serious consequence, but it's also serving to widen inequality. When the established sacrifice in order to free up the status-insecure to work and earn more money, the extremes move more toward the middle. When the established are reluctant, the gap remains wide. Boomers have enjoyed a double boost to their status -- they got lots of free help when they were young, and they aren't doling much out when they're old.