I saw a story the other day that reflected something I’ve been thinking for a long time:
Today’s American kids are being cheated out of their kidhoods.
It’s tough being a kid today. For one thing, the world is whole lot scarier. It seems like there’s a new threat every day, and for the days when things appear to be threat-free, there’s always someone willing to conjure up a new one.
And there’s so much more a kid has to know these days. Your average 21st-century third-grader is being presented with material I didn’t get until my second year of reform school. I mean high school. And when I say “get,” I mean “was presented with.” There’s a lot of stuff I still don’t “get” as in “understand,” such as “chemistry.”
But the biggest difference I see is in time. When I was a kid, we had gobs of it. The days were 36 hours long and a week took 11 days to complete. School vacations lasted for months and the holidays stretched on forever, except for Christmas. In the olden days, the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas took at least seven months, but once it got here, Christmas itself was over in about 45 minutes.
That’s how it seemed, anyway.
The point is we had time to be kids, time that didn’t have to be devoted to schoolwork and private lessons and organizations and carpools. We had time to play baseball all day if we wanted. We had time to browse for hours at the comic book rack. We had time to hang out with our friends without having to schedule a play date.
Today’s kids … well, let’s just say I see a lot of kids whose lives aren’t lived as much as they are managed, and usually with the aim of satisfying some adult. A kid takes violin lessons because parents read a story indicating a child who studies music does better in other subjects – and not for the joy of learning to make interesting sounds with a musical instrument.
So to today’s kids, I say this:
You’re smarter than I was at your age, and probably better prepared to meet the world. But I also hope every once in a while you’ll tell the grown-ups to scram and let you just be a kid for a while. I think you’ll be happier for it.
I recommend a Wednesday. That’s the day the new comics come in.