Generations, part two.

Part two of three, I think. We’ll see. (Updated, 10/31: Yes; three parts – though actually four. In any event, you’ll find the final one here, if you’re interested.)

We’ll take this one in what may seen reverse order, with cooking at the beginning. Then, in the middle, the main part. At the end will be a (very loose and vague) bridge to what’s next.

I’m writing this on what would have been the 84th birthday of a woman who was once dear to me, once dear to my late mother. She was a complicated woman, as all women, and people in general, are, though in varying degrees. Among the things we had in common, this complicated woman and I, was a love for cooking. Within that share love for cooking, we both took great pleasure in preparing Ina Garten’s Beef Bourguignon, the recipe I shared yesterday, though I’ll note that this link, in today’s post, will take you to the Barefoot Contessa site, whereas the link in yesterday’s post will take you to a Washington Post article about the recipe that also includes the recipe.

Instead of serving sliced baguette, the woman who was once dear to me made tender Parker House rolls to serve with her stew, since these little tender rolls were her signature dish and the envy of everyone who knew her.

She gave me her secret roll recipe a few years before she died, and I’ve made them once or twice but won’t likely do so again. I make Ina’s legendary stew at least once a year, though, because it’s delicious, and because lighting cognac with a match is always an entertaining, and exhilarating, kitchen experience.

If your diet includes beef and you enjoy cooking and you aren’t afraid to try the whole flambe trick, then I recommend the recipe without reservation. It’s never not delicious, I promise. The cooking part requires some work, cutting onions, carrots and mushrooms; dicing bacon and cubing the beef. The instructions are very specific, and even though I’m not always a rule follower, I do follow these particular rules, even though following them is time consuming.

I think of this type of cooking as a kind of focused, reflective practice. Because I’ve made this particular recipe enough times for it to feel comfortable, I can think about people and experiences, wander a bit down memory lane while I stir.

Tonight’s wander was a surprise, to me, because it connected something in my mind, something we’ll come back around to, in part three. First this:

A dozen years ago I was having lunch with a psychologist friend after a morning of grueling brainstorming meetings. I mentioned to my friend that the meetings were really challenging because some of the people involved were active and engaged but others were resistant and closed off.

What I remember saying to my friend was something like this: It’s like people hit their 40s and either they embark on creative, warm, lively things or they shut down and become rigidly conservative, so set in their ways that they can’t see any other perspectives.

My friend said: Yes. Generativity versus Stagnation.

She went on to give me a basic explanation of Erik Erikson’s model for human development. Erikson, writing in the middle of the 20th century, suggested that humans — all humans — develop from birth to advanced age in an eight-stage process.

When I started working at what is now Kindred Place, I was trained in a model called Parent Aide, a “promising practice” for child development in which lay volunteers (meaning, people like me who were not counselors or social workers) were trained to work with parents on parenting. And the model for Parent Aide was (is) Erikson’s work – the work my friend had referenced with regard to middle aged adults.

The focus of the Parent Aide work, though, was on child development, on helping parents understand that children develop in stages, and understanding those stages can make for healthy parent-child relationships.

In simple outline form, Erikson’s model looks like this:

  • Stage 1 (Infancy): Trust vs. Mistrust (“Can I trust the world?”)
  • Stage 2 (Early Childhood): Autonomy vs. Shame/Doubt (“Is it OK to be me?”)
  • Stage 3 (Preschool/Kindergarten): Initiative vs. Guilt (“Is it OK for me to move around in the world?”)
  • Stage 4 (Elementary School): Industry vs. Inferiority (“Can I interact with the world?”)
  • Stage 5 (Adolescence): Identity vs. Identity confusion (“Who am I? Who can I be?”)
  • Stage 6 (Young Adulthood): Intimacy vs. Isolation (“Can I love?”)
  • Stage 7 (Adulthood): Generativity vs. Stagnation/Self-absorption (“Can I make my life count?”)
  • Stage 8 (Old Age): Integrity vs. Despair (“Did my life have meaning?”)

Young children who have nurturing, safe, supportive relationships and environments develop trust, autonomy, and initiative to do well in school and to continue maturing with respect to their interactions with other people and with the world. So it’s in everyone’s best interest to ensure that all young children have nurturing, safe, supportive relationships and environments, yes?

It’s equally important that adolescents and young adults have what they need to keep growing, keep maturing, and — here’s the important part — to become healthy, nurturing mature adults who can parent the next generation of thinking, feeling, creative problem solvers, whether those problem solvers get labeled Millennial or GenZ or whatever.

Enough to think about until we get to part three? Hope so. Until then, rest well.

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