Whatever happened to childhood? Childhood has become more and more abridged in the post millennial era. The innocence of childhood has become a thing of the past much like Afros and wide leg pants. I reminisce about my childhood much like my parents reminisce about the music from the 60’s and 70’s. The innocence of childhood is a jewel that future generations have been robbed of. If one is not allowed to be a child, how can they be expected to mature into an adult? I recently came across a book by David Elkin called “The Hurried Child” which was first published in 1985. In his book he warned about the danger of rushing the process of growing up. He cautioned about the perils of having children make more and more adult decisions each day.
An interesting point he brought up was the commercialization of childhood with million dollar industries promoting products such as “Einstein baby” who are built on stimulating children from the time they are in the womb until they start school. We now have devices that allow pregnant women to “stimulate” growth and brain development while in the kids are in the womb. Interestingly, the brain managed to develop just fine on its own for centuries. I wonder if Einstein’s mother regretted not stimulating him enough, how about Edgar Allen Poe, Sedar Senghor, Bronte, Chinua Achebe, Shakespeare, Ferdinand Oyono and Marie Curie?
Nowadays, it is par for the course to hear parents boasting about how precocious their children are. I often ask my self does it really matter if your child starts walking at 9 months versus 14 months? A friend of mine boasted about how smart her child was because he could turn on her iPad at 8 months. I was puzzled by her sense of pride given that iPad usually have one button the front and if you let a baby droll on it long enough they will figure how to push the “one button” on the device and eventually turn it on. What is the incessant rush to meet milestones anyway? It’s not like learning the ABCs at 18 months versus 24 months makes the 18 month old a savant since he got a “whopping” 6 month head start.
Somewhere between the 20th and the 21st Century, parenting turned into a sport with today’s parents trying to outdo each other by attempting to impress others with their children’s exploits. Parents became expert raconteurs and parenting groups turned into braggart-fest with the main goal being to outshine the next parent with even more grandiose exploits. Parents went overboard and created a subculture where mediocrity was celebrated, hard work was unnecessary and everyone was declared a “winner”. I would caution today’s parents that being proud of your child is highly encouraged but you should not turn a private parent-child moment into public showboating. Otherwise they are at risk of conditioning their children to seek and eventually crave public praise and recognition at all cost. Children are our offspring – yes and perhaps our greatest accomplishments but they should not be treated and paraded like animals at a country fair show prancing around looking to win the first place ribbon.
The combination of electronic over stimulation and parenting styles influenced by state fair competition rules has led to a generation of children who have grown up hurriedly and experienced things too fast without really learning much about life.
We are left with self promoting, self declared life coaches who can write code eloquently using python, ruby on rails or java. These young adults are assertive, confident, go-getters who are ready to prove their worth. But they are also afflicted with approval addiction seeming to need validation for every aspect of their lives with “likes” and re-tweets. These precocious kids have grown up to become “emerging adults” who never want to leave the nest. Emerging adults are the new age class which includes people between the ages of 18-29 also known as “late bloomers”. They are well spoken, educated and entitled cynics who are so self assertive they don’t need go through life’s lessons. At the end of the day who needs life experience when you can just “google” it or read a blog about it. The following quote by Maya Angelou articulates my views on the evolution from “precocious children” to cynical “emerging adults”: – A cynical young person is the saddest sight to see, because he or she has gone from knowing nothing to believing nothing.