The term Xennial doesn't exist for the sole purpose of making old millennials feel better about themselves. It's a thing because it simply resonates so deeply with those of us born between 1977-1983. We see ourselves reflected in descriptions of kids who played Oregon Trail, adolescents who used dial-up to chat on AOL instant messenger, and college students using mobile phones for the first time. Our pre-internet childhood separates us from millennials, and it's obvious now that we're parents. There are signs you're an Xennial mom, too. You know, besides your crush on Jordan Catalano.
To be honest, I always felt a bit disingenuous describing myself as a millennial mom. Born in 1981, I'm on the cusp. I have some typical millennial characteristics, of course: I'm liberal, educated, non-religious, and driven. But could I really call myself a millennial mom if I didn't exclusively breastfeed? Would my membership be revoked if I didn't want to co-sleep? Did I dare mention that I think Frozen can't hold a Lumière (see what I did there?) to the original Beauty and the Beast? Perish the thought.
Turns out, there was really no reason for me to worry. As luck would have it I'm not the only one who thinks you're not a real Friends fan unless you had to wait for Thursday to come around to watch a new episode. There are plenty of mix tape moms just like me, navigating motherhood as an Xennial. If you're a mom and Carmen Sandiego means something to you, you might just see yourself here:
Your Parenting Style Is Laissez-Faire
I think you'd be hard pressed to find a helicopter Xennial mom. We tend to parent how we were parented, and our folks were pretty "hands off." I was all about the independent imaginative play when I was little, and when we got older, my sister and I had run of the neighborhood. My mom never requested specific teachers for me, and my homework was my responsibility.
Maybe we're not quite as free-range as our parents. I'm a playground hoverer, myself. I think that's why lighthouse parenting is attractive to Xennials. An approach that takes the best of both the helicopter and free-range worlds is naturally appealing to a group of people who bridge a generational gap.
You'll Be Damned If You Raise An Entitled Kid
I'm not saying that millennials are raising more entitled kids. What I will say is that Xennials grew up before participation trophies, games where scores aren't kept, and teachers forced to make up awards so everyone gets one.
Xennials understand that self-esteem can't be bequeathed upon a child. It is built through hard work and perseverance. I will absolutely teach my daughter that she has rights and is worthy of respect as a human being, but she'll also learn that most things worth having are earned.
You Email Your Kid's Teacher From Your Hotmail Account
You caught me. I still have the same email account I opened as a freshman in college. I have a Gmail like everyone else, but I only got one so I could trick eHarmony into thinking I wasn't the same person they rejected as undateable after filling out their 45-minute questionnaire.
I was raised in a "we don't need email" household, so can you really blame me for being a little sentimental about old Hotmail?
You're Ruled By Common Sense
Xennials vaccinate because it makes sense to protect their kids, and those around them, from preventable disease (and also because science). We try breastfeeding but don't beat ourselves up about formula because it makes sense that fed is not just best, but non-negotiable.
As Xennials, we've seen a lot of things come and go. (VCRs, anyone?) We're going to take a hard pass on anything extreme because we know that what's trending isn't always what's best for our kids.
Gendered Marketing Drives You Crazy
When I was growing up, my Legos were red, yellow, green, and blue, just like everyone else's. I didn't need pink and purple and Lego Friends to be interested in building. According to researcher Elizabeth Sweet, in the '70s, 70 percent of toys weren't marketed to a particular gender and toy advertisements defied stereotypes. It seems like lately there's this explosion of marketing of toys and books specifically to boys or girls. Pardon us if we don't think this is a change for the better (we'll be shopping at Target).
You're Wary Of Screen Time
When I was young, my sister and I were allowed to watch an episode of The Muppet Show or Fraggle Rock after our bath and before bed. That was it. Screens are so ubiquitous now, and Xennials worry about putting an iPad in our kids' hands. We're not wrong, either. Psychology Today says that too much screen time can actually damage the brain.
Xennials are reasonable, though. Screens aren't verboten, they're just carefully monitored. If I'm 10,000 feet over the Atlantic Ocean with a toddler on my lap, you better believe I'm in the "here's my phone/password/social security number/anything you want please just stop crying" camp. I also make exceptions for anything I grew up with. I mean, obviously Sesame Street doesn't count (One! Two! Three! Three apples! Ah ah ah!) because it's educational, you guys.
You Make Your Kid Play Outside
OK, so I'm not going to lock my daughter out and make her drink from the hose until I've watched my stories or whatever. But I do believe there's a lot to be learned by climbing trees and having to entertain yourself.
I think nature preschools were designed specifically with Xennial parents in mind. The outdoor classes and exploration are attractive to those of us who grew up spending the bulk of our free time outside. We want our "containerized" kids to have similar experiences, so a school without walls? Sign us up.
You've Never Used A Filter To Turn Your Kid Into A Puppy
Or you were at least super late to the game. Any time my digital native friends watch my daughter, I receive pics of her in a flower crown. Like most Xennials, I have Facebook and Instagram, but I don't do Snapchat. I just discovered that FB messenger has a filter option. Now that I've turned my daughter into an adorable teddy bear, I kind of get it. But I draw a line at the Bambi voice.
You're Progressive, Even When It Challenges You
Along with our millennial counterparts, Xennial moms celebrated when Doc McStuffins featured an interracial lesbian couple and Target launched its gender-neutral kids' clothing line. Still, we grew up with the binary and remember that Ellen Degeneres's coming out was a "big deal." So maybe it takes us a little longer to get used to using they/them/theirs as a singular pronoun, but we're on board and we'll get there because we won't let anyone or anything limit our children.
Your Kid Is Obsessed With Episodes IV, V, & VI
I am referring, of course, to Star Wars. After all, we're the generation of "a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away." The movies that launched an empire (which would, inevitably, strike back) were released during our formative years. You better believe our kids will know who Luke Skywalker is before he (spoiler alert!) appears at the end of The Force Awakens. If your kid is named Lando and you've taught them the following equation: Ewoks > BB-8 > The Devil Incarnate > Jar-Jar Binks, you're probably an Xennial parent.
Wear it with pride, Jedi Mama, and may the force be with you.