598. What Adults Don’t Have to Do

Lots of adults think a lot about what they have to do and wish they didn’t have to – go to work, pay taxes, and much more. Some see children not having to do all that, and envy them and/or get nostalgic: “Ah, to be free, like a child!” When children hear about that envy and/or nostalgia, some are impressed by it, and take pity on the poor adults who have so many unpleasant responsibilities. Like Peter Pan, they don’t want to grow up and join the ranks.
Spending lots of time with children, I don’t envy them. Every day, I see children having to do things I’m quite happy not to have to do any more. And this has been true for most of my adult life; it’s not just because I’m retired, although now I’m also happy not to have to do some of what many adults have to do.
Let me help you count your blessings. As an adult, we have choices children don’t have. Take reading, for example. Many of us get to decide whether, when, what, and how much we want to read. Some adults have to read some material, but there are usually ways to cut corners. Besides, the adults who have to read a lot tend to be the ones who want to; they’ve chosen careers that involve lots of reading. And what they have to read tends to be right up their alley. Children in school have to read when, what, and as much as they’re told to read.
Adults don’t have to be well-rounded; they can specialize much more than children are allowed to. An
adult who is fascinated with a certain subject or activity can spend days, years, or decades focussing on that subject or activity. And adults who want to avoid some things can do so much more easily than children can, and without the harsh consequences some children face; faced with boring or otherwise annoying material, adults can more often say “no” with impunity.
Calculators, digital clocks, and computers have made certain skills far less crucial than they used to be. Children spend so much time learning how to perform mathematical operations that many adults never perform. They’re taught how to tell time by looking at circular clocks that have hands that point to numbers. And they learn how to write letters by carefully putting graphite or ink marks on paper. They do lots of worksheets and workbook pages on which they practice these skills. Whether or not you think these skills ought to be preserved through schooling, you have to admit that many adults, some of whom are quite happy and/or successful, can’t do some of the above.
This essay is not intended to convince educators to adandon the policy of teaching children how to compute, tell time, form letters, and do other things many adults can’t and/or don’t do. I have written some and maybe will write more about that. I just intend to remind you that even though you have many things you have to do that children don’t, they have to do many things that you don’t.

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