The Myth of a Carefree Childhood
I saw a meme on Facebook the other day that read:
I just want to be 10 years old again with no worries in the world.
If I remember correctly, it was accompanied by a picture of a child on a bike, riding with no hands, or some other heart-swelling image of nostalgia.
Several comments followed about the carefree, joyousness of childhood.
Youth is wasted on the young and similar cliches.
The same faulty rhetoric people feed teenagers when they declare,
"Enjoy high school. It's the best years of your life."
Trust me, if high school was the best years of my life,
I would have snapped and gone running naked down the street a long time ago.
It's all lies.
Because, you know what?
I live with a ten year old.
A smart, beautiful girl who does well in school, has close friends, as well as a strong family that loves her fiercely... And, she worries about everything.
Not just about how she looks or if her favorite Disney Channel couple is going to stay together.
She worries about the little girl who stole her snack from her locker because
"Why would she need to steal food, mom?"
She worries about her friends when others tease them.
She worries about the boy her sister likes not being nice enough for her.
She worries about what the country will be like for her children.
(No, I'm not exaggerating.)
The idea that childhood is this blissful, free of stress, time is absurd.
At no other point in your life are you in such confusing situations
with such little control over your own destiny.
I remember laying in bed at night, unable to shut off my mind.
My mom probably remembers having to call my third grade teacher at home because I couldn't stop crying. The teacher had made a boy stand in the trashcan as a punishment during class. I was so humiliated for him that I couldn't sleep and so scared of getting the teacher in trouble, it took my mom a good hour to get out of me why I was sobbing uncontrollably.
That's the carefreeness of childhood.
When adults look back through the rose-colored glasses, they discount the overwhelming pressure of that time in a child's life.
By the time I was my daughter's age:
- My parents were separated for the third or fourth time.
- I had lived in three states in three years.
- I knew what drugs were.
- I knew what alcoholism looked like.
- I had sat at the graveside of someone I loved.
- I had vague information about what sex would be and the thought was pretty terrifying.
My life was far from stress-free. And, I wouldn't consider my childhood to be "bad". It just was.
Children deserve for adults to respect the their emotions, ease their fears with out belittling them and offer empathy and compassion.
Not just a patronizing pat on the head and a wistful,
"Oh, when I was your age..."
So, tell me your story.
Do you remember your childhood as all sno-cones and games of tag?
Do you think people romanticize those early years?
Is high school ever the best years of someone's life?