What is childhood? As a society we seem to have got it into our heads that it is a magical time of fun and play, a safe and secure time where you are free to be “a child”. We protect “childhood” with the sort of diligence that would cure cancer or stop Aids, yet what is it we are actually protecting?
From time to time the media harks on about how children grow up so fast these days. The parents lap it up and double their efforts of protection. But don’t we want them to grow up fast? What is childhood if not a time to learn and progress into being an adult?
If I remember correctly common wisdom says our ability to learn begins to decline from the age of 8, yet we want to waste this time with false truths and pointless ideas. The more false truths we tell them the more we stunt their ability to make logical leaps of their own and push their own learning boundaries.
For example, it is very common for parents to avoid the question of where they came from. Now I’m not saying tell them all the details straight away, they are still young and learning is a process (journey not destination etc), but at least don’t lie to them. Give them enough to let them ask questions and learn at their own pace.
A few years ago my little brother was about to start the sex education part of the national curriculum. There was a parents evening to explain to the parents what they were going to be taught etc. Several of the parents objected to the meagre information being dished out to the children, citing wanting to protect them. I feel for those children and the harsh realities they will face one day. Besides, kids have a habit of knowing something well before their parents think they do.
The irony to all this is that not that long ago children were down the mines and working the fields to earn a living and provide just like everyone else. Now I’m not calling for a return to those times. I still want to protect childhood, but I want to protect it for learning and development and not to fill it with falsehoods and half truths.