Too good. That’s the only way to describe my early childhood. Lots of friends in the neighborhood. Sandlot football down at the end of Quince Street in East Houston or shooting hoops against the garage backboard. There were family reunions at my granddaddy’s little bay cabin, plus fishing, floundering, crabbing, swimming, and eating.
But best of all, we were given room to be kids. Just kids. Listen, I went to school barefoot until the fourth grade, and I was still playing cops and robbers into junior high. Scout’s honor. Nobody pushed me to grow up. Life was allowed to run its own course back then.
No longer, it seems. There is a new youngster in our city streets. Have you noticed? Perhaps I’m overly sensitive because I’ve finished reading David Elkind’s splendid book The Hurried Child, with the provocative subtitle “Growing Up Too Fast Too Soon.” On the cover is a little girl, not more than eleven, with earrings, plucked eyebrows, carefully applied cosmetics, teased and feathered hair, and exquisite jewelry.
Music, books, films, and television increasingly portray the young as precocious and seductive. “Such portrayals,” writes Elkind, “force children to think they should act grown up before they are ready.”
Emotions and feelings are the most complex and intricate part of a child’s development. They have their own timing and rhythm, which cannot be hurried. Growing up is tough enough with nobody pushing.
Am I overreacting to suggest that the unique traumas among today’s children are somehow tied to all this? Younger and younger alcoholics. Increased promiscuity among preteens. Higher crime rate than ever involving the very young. And the all-time high suicide rate among children and adolescents is certainly telling us something . . . if nothing else, at least for those kids, it’s telling us we’re reacting too late.
Scripture clearly states, “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven” (Eccles. 3:1). How about time to be a child? How about time to grow up slowly, carefully—yes, even protected, naive? Otherwise, it is too far, too fast, too soon.
Allow your children the joys of childhood.