214. The Hurrying Child

Modern society does things to make children feel that it’s not okay to be children. Children are quick to pick up whatever messages society seems to be giving them. Some want to be “cool,” and it doesn’t take long to learn that it isn’t “cool” to be a child – that being an adolescent is much “cooler.”
They get this message from many sources. Scriptwriters for TV shows are adults, and even if the shows are intended for children, the lines written for children to say are very often lines written to make children sound older than they are. The timing of the laugh tracks suggests that it’s cute when children sound older than they are. I’m sorry, but I don’t think it’s cute.
I feel like complaining about the hurrying effect of society, but I think it would be spitting in the wind. I don’t think the amount of time and energy I’d spend complaining would be worth it. The forces that combine to make children hurry up and become adolescents or adults are too numerous and powerful. I’ve tried to convince children to slow down and savor their childhood, and for the most part, it hasn’t worked. Pop culture is big business.
So instead, I try to go with the flow. I do my best to tune in to the bits of teen culture that trickle down to children. In effect, I try to allow them to be “cool” without rebelling. When a child echoes some of the music or lingo of adolescents, I don’t fight it. I give it the same kind of attention I give the stuffed animal another child shares. And since these “cool” children really are children at heart, they appreciate that attention.
If we stop trying to fight the adolescentization (my word) of children, and accept it as part of who our children are, perhaps we can postpone some of the more difficult manifestations of adolescence. We can make it so that children can adopt the pop culture that’s all around them without rebelling.
Adolescents often don’t like to see their younger siblings moving in on their culture. Adolescent culture is supposed to separate its members from childhood, and if children keep connecting with it, it loses its effect. So fads turn over pretty quickly.
I never quite learned how to deal with adolescence – my own or anyone else’s. This whole article is an exercise in speculation. I know there comes a point when we adults have to let go. I remember that much from my own adolescence (most of which I try to forget). But I hope we’re not making that point come sooner than it needs to. I have a hunch that we contribute to the adolescentization of children by fighting it.

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