Father’s furious email brands children failures

An email expressing one father’s ‘bitter disappointment’ in his grown-up children has gone viral online. Many agree with the furious parent: is the next generation really a let-down?

When most people check their emails, they do not expect crushing put downs from their families. But when three grown-up siblings opened a message this February, they were told they had failed their parents.

‘It is obvious that none of you has the faintest notion of the bitter disappointment each of you has, in your own way, dished out to us’, their father begins. Despite an elite education, he says, his offspring have ‘contrived to avoid even moderate achievement’.

His main gripe? The three, retired Royal Navy Officer Nick Crews says, have not lived up to their career potential – and with five marriages between them, they are failing as mature, reliable parents for his seven grandchildren.

‘We are constantly regaled with chapter and verse of the happy, successful lives of the families of our friends,’ the email continues. ‘We have nothing to say which reflects any credit on you or us.’

Unsurprisingly, this was not warmly received – two of the offspring have not spoken to their parents since. But when it went viral this weekend, the email garnered a different response. Crews says he has been swamped by messages of support: parents everywhere, it seems, share his disappointment in the younger generation.

The feeling is sometimes cast as a conflict between ‘baby boomers’, born between WW2 and the 1960s, and their children. Those of the younger generation, the story goes, enjoy unprecedented privilege and have high expectations – but they fail to apply that to real work.

Though more young Brits go to university than in previous decades, for example, they also take longer to achieve independence: one third of men between 18 and 35 live with their parents. Much of that is thanks to a troubled economy. But pundits also accuse young people of having an exaggerated sense of ‘entitlement’, and a lack of personal responsibility.

Nick Crews sees that in his own children. After his letter went public, he spoke of his mother, who ‘made the best of everything’, and his Navy superiors who expected him to ‘perform at a second’s notice’. In contrast he says, his own children have failed to ‘make the best of what they had’.

Decline and fail

What rubbish, many say. What looks like recklessness to a 67-year-old describing himself as ‘bitterly disappointed’ may be a kind of success for his son or daughter. Values change: younger generations must figure things out for themselves, not bow to the dewy-eyed nostalgia of their elders.

Commander Crews’ supporters disagree: young people cannot charge around rewriting the rulebook from scratch. For a stable society, they say, it is essential that traditional values are upheld – and who better to impart these than the older generation?

You Decide

  1. How would you react if your parent sent you an email like Commander Crews’?
  2. Do you think you or your contemporaries have a sense of personal responsibility?


  1. Write a speech arguing that today’s teenagers have it better than any other generation before them – and that they are in a position to value, and make the most of, those opportunities.
  2. Write a letter to your future self, setting out the lessons you think you should learn from your teenage years.

Some People Say...

“Modern society is less moral than it has ever been before.”

What do you think?

Q & A

Surely this is just a private spat?
This is, of course, one family’s very public showdown. But the leaked email has had so much attention because it strikes a chord with many people. Columnists at papers likeDaily Mail and Telegraph rushed to agree with Commander Crews’ views about modern society.
Which are?
In an interview, he described contemporary culture as ‘a cancerous cocktail, where on the one hand everyone is supposed to be free to do whatever they wish, but on the other we all expect protection from the consequences of our actions.’
Is that a new idea?
Not really. In the 13th Century, Preacher Peter the Hermit said the youth of his day ‘think of nothing but themselves’ and ‘talk as if they alone knew everything, and what passes for wisdom with us is foolishness with them’.

Word Watch

Royal Navy Officer
The British Royal Navy, like all armed forces jobs, requires a high level of discipline and hard work. But it also requires long periods of time away from home, working at sea on difficult-to-contact ships. At the height of his career, Crews worked on a nuclear submarine – an especially high pressure job.
Went viral
Crews’ eldest daughter, Emily Crews-Montes, released the letter and it was published in the Daily Mail newspaper. Emily now lives and works in France as works as a freelance translator: she hoped that publishing the spiky letter would draw attention to a French self-help book she is currently translating.
Younger generation
The ‘Baby Boomer’ generation was followed by ‘Generation X’, those born between the 1960s and the 1980s; these were followed by the ‘Millennials’, who are now coming of age. Naming generations in this way is far from an exact science, and the definition of each is quite fluid. But sociologists find it useful because it allows them to discuss groups of people that have certain shared experiences: ‘Millennials’, for example, grew up as the internet was becoming a part of everyday life, and in the aftermath of 9/11.

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