366. Giving Children a Turn

When we were children, we didn’t always get to do what we wanted to do and have what we wanted to have, even if it was available and affordable. If something we wanted appealed to someone bigger than we were, we sometimes had to wait our turn, scrounge for leftovers, or give up altogether. When I was five, if my whole family was washing the car, I got to wash the wheels, because I was shorter. Who wants to wash the wheels? They don’t shine as much; they’re not the REAL car. Or when we got to an elevator somewhere, if I wanted to push the buttons, my older brothers or parents usually beat me to it. Children are second-class citizens.
Sometimes we children didn’t even know what we wanted to do or have until we saw someone else doing or having it, and suddenly, often too late, we knew. Of course, the bigger people thought we only wanted it because we saw someone else enjoying it, and they may have had a point, but so what? We were beginners, and we didn’t always know all the possibilities. It was simply no fair that we had to wait until we were older to do and have what we wanted. We had already been younger, so in a way, we were already older. Were we supposed to wait until we were older than our siblings or parents? They seemed to get older about as fast as we did. There didn’t seem to be any chance to catch up.
And then it happened. We grew up, and we were finally older. We could push the elevator buttons if we wanted. If children wanted to, maybe we’d let them, and maybe not. We’d paid our dues, and now we were going to get what was due us. But now that we were adults, some of the thrill was gone. We found out that pushing elevator buttons and washing the shiny part of the car isn’t really that exciting.
Many of us adults forget how important little things used to be, and get annoyed when children obsess on what seem like trivia to us. Partly, we’re annoyed because catering to children’s obsessions slows things down, but I think sometimes we’re annoyed because we think it’s our turn; we’ve grown up, and we don’t have to wait any more. And so we finally have our moments in the sun, and children just have to put up with it. They’ll get their chance, right?
This cycle can keep going, through generations. Of course, some of the things children want are impractical – unsafe or too difficult. And everybody’s supposed to learn that they can’t always have things their way. But I’ve watched myself and other adults, and I think at least some of what we get to do or have has to do with getting even with the bigger people who used to pre-empt us. Let’s try to be more fair than they were. Let’s give children a turn.

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