The story of Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie is a classic. A little boy who stays young all his life, flying around Neverland, living (unsupervised) with his friends, and spending his days swimming with mermaids and antagonizing pirates is the stuff every kid hopes for. As adults, we know this is just a fairytale and that every little boy and girl will grow up one day. But children can still believe in the impossible – and that’s what makes childhood so magical.
Childhood is a special time. Everything and every day is an opportunity to learn and try something new. They’re just starting out. They’re learning who they are. They’re figuring out what they like and don’t like. Their personalities and quirks begin to develop, and we can start to see a brief glimpse into who they’ll be as adults. It’s a time of discovery and wonder, and blissful naivety. Or, at least, it should be.
Unfortunately, there seems to be a bigger and bigger push to rush through this already brief period of their lives.
The way this is done can be both intentional and unintentional.
One of the biggest culprits is technology. Access to high-speed internet and affordable connected devices is becoming more and more prevalent, which certainly has a lot of benefits. Unfortunately, it also means our children spend countless hours of the day plugged into these alternate realities. They no longer have to learn to entertain themselves. They have lost the fundamentals of playtime. Who needs to use your imagination when almost anything you can dream of is on the internet?
They’re also being exposed to all manners of things. Just think about the last time you read the news or scrolled through your social media pages. There’s a lot of ugliness out there, and as adults, grappling with these realities can be overwhelming and difficult. If we have trouble processing the information we see, why should we expect (or allow) our children to?
We intentionally force children to grow up by treating them like commodities. From an early age, parents start jockeying for admission to the best pre-school, the top elementary school, and so on. They’re picking out nursery colors and planning for college all at the same time. They’re pushing them into elite sports teams and signing them up for lessons they have no interest in. They’re essentially laying out the groundwork to get the best return on their investment, all in the name of helping them achieve a brighter and better future. Every parent wants what is best for their child. But sometimes the best thing is just letting them BE a child.
So we see them navigating their smartphone devices and creating TikToks and winning games, and we forget they’re still children underneath. Their brains are still developing. Yet, we expect them to have complete control of their emotions. We get frustrated when things that seem tiny to us send them spiraling into uncontrollable tears. Beneath it all, they’re still kids. And they won’t be for long.
Let’s stop pushing them to grow up any faster than they have to. The world is a hard place, and there will be trials and tribulations aplenty – none of which we can control. But we can control this. Let them stay little for as long as possible, and don’t rush them through these childhood years. The days are long, but the years are short.
Tell us what you think. Do you think we are rushing childhood for the next generation? What are you doing differently that you would like to share with our community?