434. Skipping Childhood

Over the years, I’ve known several people who have said that they or their children skipped childhood. Their feelings about that perceived phenomenon range from pride to bitterness. Sometimes people have told me that their children are reincarnated adults, but I think very few (if any) of those people really believe in reincarnation; they don’t mean it literally. I, personally, believe that everyone has a childhood. That doesn’t mean there are no precocious children, or that traumatic events and/or negative patterns can’t rob children of some of the blessings other children have.
But I’ve known many children, and they’ve all fit my definition of “children;” they’ve been young, and have had to learn some things about life that adults tended to already know. And they all started out quite a bit shorter than the average adult. I don’t think anyone skips childhood, and I think we can do harm by treating children as if they aren’t children. And this isn’t just a matter of semantics; I’m not playing a word game with you.
Piaget, Vygotsky, Gagne, and many other people who have studied children have written about stages of development children go through. The writing of these psychologists, though, is usually descriptive, not prescriptive; they’ve written about what they’ve observed, and they haven’t said or implied that all children go through the stages they’ve described on any precise schedule. People
are complicated right from the start, but I believe that they’re all children before they’re adults.
We owe it to children to recognize that they’re children. Children deserve to be accepted for who they are, and to grow at rates that are right for them. That may mean that a child who squares two-digit numbers in his/her head or reads Shakespeare may still sleep with a security blanket or teddy bear. Any of the above can be done by people who qualify as children.
And we also owe it to children to make sure their childhoods contain some security, some joy, some love – all those gifts that make life something to be glad about. When children have to do or experience things that ought to be done or experienced by adults, or things that shouldn’t have to be done or experienced by anyone, those children are not being robbed of childhood; they’re being robbed of their rights as humans. Children, adults, and everyone in between deserve to get some of the best things life has to offer, and to be protected from the worst.
Whether it’s meant positively or negatively, I don’t think it’s accurate or useful to say that someone has skipped childhood.

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