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.

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Women around the world are constantly bombarded by traditional and outdated societal expectations when it comes to how they live their lives: meet a man, get married, buy a home, have kids.

Many of these pressures often come from within their own families and friend circles, which can be a source of tension and disconnect in their lives.

Global skincare brand SK-II created a new campaign exploring these expectations from the perspective of four women in four different countries whose timelines vary dramatically from what their mothers, grandmothers, or close friends envision for them.

SK-II had Katie Couric meet with these women and their loved ones to discuss the evolving and controversial topic of marriage pressure and societal expectations.

SK-II

"What happens when dreams clash with expectations? We're all supposed to hit certain milestones: a degree, marriage, a family," Couric said before diving into conversation with the "young women who are defining their own lives while navigating the expectations of the ones who love them most."

Maluca, a musician in New York, explains that she comes from an immigrant family, which comes with the expectation that she should live the "American Dream."

"You come here, go to school, you get married, buy a house, have kids," she said.

Her mother, who herself achieved the "American Dream" with hard work and dedication when she came to the United States, wants to see her daughter living a stable life.

"I'd love for her to be married and I'd love her to have a big wedding," she said.

Chun Xia, an award-winning Chinese actress who's outspoken about empowering other young women in China, said people question her marital status regularly.

"I'm always asked, 'Don't you want to get married? Don't you want to start a family and have kids like you should at your age?' But the truth is I really don't want to at this point. I am not ready yet," she said.

In South Korea, Nara, a queer-identifying artist, believes her generation should have a choice in everything they do, but her mother has a different plan in mind.

SK-II

"I just thought she would have a job and meet a man to get married in her early 30s," Nara's mom said.

But Nara hopes she can one day marry her girlfriend, even though it's currently illegal in her country.

Her mother, however, still envisions a different life for her daughter. "Deep in my heart, I hope she will change her mind one day," she said.

Maina, a 27-year-old Japanese woman, explains that in her home country, those who aren't married by the time they're 25 to 30, are often referred to as "unsold goods."

Her mom is worried about her daughter not being able to find a boyfriend because she isn't "conventional."

"I really want her to find the right man and get married, to be seen as marriage material," she said.

After interviewing the women and their families, Couric helped them explore a visual representation of their timelines, which showcased the paths each woman sees her life going in contrast with what her relatives envision.

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"For each young woman, two timelines were created. One represents the expectations. The other, their aspirations," Couric explained. "There's often a disconnect between dreams and expectations. But could seeing the difference lead to greater understanding?"

The women all explored their timelines, which included milestones like having "cute babies," going back to school, not being limited by age, and pursuing dreams.

By seeing their differences side-by-side, the women and their families were able to partake in more open dialogue regarding the expectations they each held.

One of the women's mom's realized her daughter was lucky to be born during a time when she has the freedom to make non-traditional choices.

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"It looks like she was born in the right time to be free and confident in what she wants to do," she said.

"There's a new generation of women writing their own rules, saying, 'we want to do things our way,' and that can be hard," Couric explained.

The video ends with the tagline: "Forge your own path and choose the life you want; Draw your own timeline."

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