In a world that pushes kids too fast, let's let childhood linger a little longer.

My 11-year-old daughter plops down next to me on the couch, curling her legs up into a ball.

She says nothing, but her furrowed brow makes it clear something is bothering her. “What the matter?” I ask, praying it’s not something horrible. (I always pray it’s not something horrible.)

She takes a deep breath as her eyes fill with tears. “Everything is changing,” she says. “Everybody’s growing up . . . and I’m not ready yet.


Oh, my sweet girl. I remember having this same conversation with her older sister at this age. My kids have deeply cherished their childhoods. They lament when they feel time accelerating, their bodies transforming, their friends moving away from imaginary games and shared childhood fantasies. As galloping gives way to girl talk, make-believe morphs into make-up, and pirates and princesses get replaced with periods and pimples, they mourn.

And as much as I dislike seeing my children unhappy, I’m glad.

I’d much rather my kids hold onto childhood than hurry into adolescence or adulthood.

They will have the rest of their lives to be grown-ups—I see no reason to rush any of it.

But my daughters’ reluctance to grow up feels like a stark contrast with the dominant culture, where children are pushed by the media, their peers, and sometimes even their parents, to grow up faster than they should. The quintessential hallmarks of childhood–play, imagination, innocence—are fleeting in a society simultaneously obsessed with reality TV banality and academic achievement. Clothes, games, and media are marketed to tweens with an eye to making them into mini-adult consumers. Television programming purportedly aimed at teens is more often consumed by tween-and-younger audiences.

But it’s not just the trickle down of adult media and pop culture that concerns me.

For years, I’ve been surprised by how few school-aged children we see in parks or forest preserves during non-school hours. Most of the time, the only people we run into at such places are parents with babies and toddlers. Where are the big kids?

It’s no secret that we live in an era of scheduled activities and increasingly competitive everything. And while organized sports or other extracurriculars can be highly beneficial, they also consume a lot of a child’s time. Add heaps of homework at earlier and earlier ages, plus the lure of screen time, plus parental fears of sending children to explore outside (either because of the fear of child molesters or nosy neighbors who will call CPS), and we’re left with kids who are missing out on the educational and emotional benefits of free, active, imaginative play.

To be clear, I’m not saying that kids shouldn’t have any cares or responsibilities.

I’m a big fan of chores, reasonably high expectations, and community involvement, and I think those aspects of maturity are healthy for kids to get familiar with early and often. It’s the over-scheduling and the “Rated M for Mature” world that I think kids deserve to be shielded from. The taking away of recess and art class to make time for test prep. The thong underwear made for tweens. The social media world that encourages social ranking and cyberbullying.

Being a parent in the age of non-stop media is tough. Marketers know what they’re doing. But unless parents take an active role in limiting exposure to and mitigating the effects of advertising and popular culture, our kids will internalize the idea that childhood ends somewhere around age eight. That’s not something I’m willing to accept.

We can’t protect our kids from everything, but we can do our best to protect childhood.

It may seem paradoxical, but I believe that giving kids the time, space, and shelter to be children as long as they need to actually helps them mature more quickly when the time comes. Just as a butterfly stays cocooned in its chrysalis until it’s wings are fully developed, living a full childhood begets a healthy adulthood. I see it happening now with my older daughter. I’m amazed at how much she’s changed and matured since those days of lamenting about growing up. Now, at 15, she talks about how glad she is to have lived a full childhood and relished her childlike innocence while she could. That feels good to her. And it feels right to me.

So I put my arm around my middle child and wipe away her tears. “You are going to grow up,” I tell her. “Everyone does. But you don’t have to let go of being a kid just yet. You’ll eventually move on from the things you like to do now. But there’s no rush. Take your time and enjoy your childhood while it lasts.”

She smiles and nods, gives me a long, fierce hug, then gallops off to play.

This post originally appeared on Motherhood and More. You can read it here.

True

When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."

Canva

Dr. David McPhee offers advice for talking to someone living in a different time in their head.

Few things are more difficult than watching a loved one's grip on reality slipping away. Dementia can be brutal for families and caregivers, and knowing how to handle the various stages can be tricky to figure out.

The Alzheimer's Association offers tips for communicating in the early, middle and late stages of the disease, as dementia manifests differently as the disease progresses. The Family Caregiver Alliance also offers advice for talking to someone with various forms and phases of dementia. Some communication tips deal with confusion, agitation and other challenging behaviors that can come along with losing one's memory, and those tips are incredibly important. But what about when the person is seemingly living in a different time, immersed in their memories of the past, unaware of what has happened since then?

Psychologist David McPhee shared some advice with a person on Quora who asked, "How do I answer my dad with dementia when he talks about his mom and dad being alive? Do I go along with it or tell him they have passed away?"

McPhee wrote:

Keep Reading Show less
True

When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!