There’s a lot of talk these days about childhood. With concepts like “tiger mothering” and “preparing for college in kindergarten,” there’s a debate on just how much we should include in the childhood years.
A recent editorial written by a Dartmouth professor (only one “voice” or “side” in the issue) got my attention. She says, in effect, “there’s something to be said for letting children be children.” I’m not equipped to critique her view; I’m only writing to say that I’m intrigued by it, and I probably lean in her direction.
God seems to have been content to make us with (more-or-less) discernible phases of human development. We are not born “adults.” By too quickly imposing this world’s standards upon our children (getting them positioned to be admitted into the ‘best’ universities), we run the risks of overlooking things which have essential value in the ‘growing up years.’
My concern from a spiritual formation standpoint is this: what “ideal person” view and standard are we going to accept as normative? We do this on the other end of life too—trying to keep people “looking young” (and behaving ‘young’) as long as possible. But who decided that “youthfulness” is the ideal of peak phase of human existence? The Bible doesn’t seem to teach this; instead, it ascribes value to every phase of life.
Might this not also be true of “childhood?” Are we actually ‘damaging’ our children because we don’t have them speaking Latin or playing the violin by the time they are three? Is it not at least possible that when Jesus said, “Let the children come to me,” he was completely happy to have a brood of munchkins climbing all over him, pulling his beard, and otherwise enjoying themselves. And if so, why might that not be good enough to create human beings who didn’t have to trade in “childhood” to be competitive and productive “adults” before their time?
We might even end up developing people who can “get old” without having to spend billions of dollars a year on “lifts”, injections, and pills.