What is childhood?

Artist Raindropmemory from www.wallpaperswide.com

Artist Raindropmemory from http://www.wallpaperswide.com

Reading the comments below this blog post on extra-curricular activities for children has got me thinking – what is childhood?

Are those who say “let children be children” and “XXX is being robbed of his childhood” a bit disillusioned? It’s only in recent decades society has romanticised childhood. Before the war and for hundreds of years (and in many countries even today) children were/are expected to work in factories, not have an education and provide for their family doing laborious, and very dangerous, jobs.

Children now in the Western world have never had it better. Education, toys, technology and more all on their doorstep. No longer are they shoved up a chimney or whipped to fetch a pail of water. Most are privileged to have loving families, a school system to help them succeed and to participate in extra curricular activities, which more often than not, are fun.

A fair number of parents shake their heads disapprovingly at the latter. When a parent is prepared to pour their time and money (not to say it always requires money) into educating and bettering their children, how can that be a bad thing? I see and hear about parents who don’t read to their kids, aren’t fussed about homework and let them play on the streets until dark in the name of childhood. Letting their child fall out of education without a plan in place, because you know, little Timmy is still trying to work out the path he wants to take.

Children get stressed when they have too many choices. Choices should be arbitrary (“would you like a custard cream or a digestive?”) not about serious life decisions. No child will ever volunteer themselves for maths tuition (or anything else that requires effort quite frankly), but that doesn’t mean it’s cruel to enrol them. DS1 started Kumon workbooks I bought from Amazon from aged three and they were a game to him.

At aged five, DS1 has been enrolled onto the Kumon course for three months now. He gets home from school, has a snack, does his 20 page Kumon worksheet in approximately 15 minutes, practises reading with his daily book from school and then he is allowed free play. He understands the routine, there’s no fight, no shouting, no tears. The misconception that a strict routine entails negativity from the parent is wrong. He is praised for his efforts and excited for the sticker at the end. Kumon hasn’t only taught him sums – he’s learnt routine, concentration (even when the task in hand isn’t brightly coloured and flashing to get your attention like most activities – that’s another blog post for another time…), to work autonomously, self-correction, seeing things through to the end, pencil control among many others.

The key to success is to be relentless with everything you do. I try my best to instil good habits from an early age, so as they grow up my children are hungry to achieve for themselves.

Young and Aspiring.

At twenty-one, I am criticised for being too young, yet I am too old to be down with the kids. They say your teenage years is about identifying yourself and evolving into a well-rounded grown up, but evidently this continues long into your twenties and thirties. For some, they may never reach that stage of maturity.

Tell tale sign I am not as youthful as one may think: I can no longer drink vodka straight.

It is almost impossible to use expressions such as ‘when I was younger’ or ‘I feel like I am aging’, without an elder reminiscing their youth, dismissing your reasons for feeling like this, in an almost superior fashion. Similarly, when one frets over something, be it money, renting, jobs etc, an elder once again chirps in with some unhelpful remark of how they have ‘been there, done that’ and how we ‘have it all to come’. This line of conversation seems acceptable for most, but if I were to reverse the situation and make a comment about the other being ‘over the hill’, this would be outrageous.

Whilst I should also be dismissive and use this opportunity to embrace my youth, I am simply not that youthful anymore. I can no longer attend Taking Back Sunday gigs, barging my way to the front in hope of catching a used towel or some sort of memorabilia, only to be pressed against a barrier and kicked in the head by a crowd surfer. It is just not viable.

I have a baby, husband, a full-time job and bills to pay, such responsibilities should equate to some kind of respect. Marriage is usually held in high regard amongst elders, so I often refer to myself as ‘Mrs’ over the phone or in emails as I receive such a welcoming response, in contrast to when I was ‘Miss’ or when someone meets me in person and immediately judges me because of my age. Despite this, I do not believe that it is wholly these stages in life which makes one mature. It is the ability release yourself from your past; whether it be, what went wrong in your childhood or the idolisation of your parents/role models, from one extremity to another.

I cannot say I have matured in entirety, but I do believe my focus and drive has ameliorated from my early years. I will continue battling with myself, torn between reminiscing my youth and careering my family and I into a life full of riches.