Is Childhood Necessary?

Recently I was reading the June issue of Vogue (yes a bit late but I just got it sent to me in Italy), and I found the article written by Molly Ringwald about her time as a young woman in Paris. She talks about how the experience truly changed her and is what she describes as the time she grew up.  The main thing that caught my eye was her saying she never really had a childhood because she was constantly under the pressure to work and keep looking towards furthering her acting career. Because of this she decides to attempt university and a normal life, but instead finds herself living in Paris. There is more to the story and if you can find the issue around I suggest you go read it.

But my main point is really childhood. Childhood is a new concept, along with “teen years”.  And the question is; is childhood really important?

Through most of history babies were born, taken care of through infancy but then become adults expected to contribute to the family, to work and to help out. There is no room for enjoying youth, hanging out with large groups of friends, going out and playing. You are an infant then an adult. More recently there has become the idea of childhood and adolescence. This idea seems to have arisen when children were no longer sent to work but to school to learn, then go out into the world and find a job, rather than follow the family job. The thought might have been that by sending to children to school we further their education and allow them to ease into the world, by socially connecting. However really in school though it furthers your knowledge so you can tell people all that you know, it isn’t as helpful for real world issues. Also by trying to put this ease on children by letting them take 12+ years to get used to the world, it appears we just cater to their every need and we actually just turn them into a bunch of wimps.  By the time college comes around and teenagers are thrown into the world away from home, or when they leave college and suddenly are completely on their own with no meal plan or advisor or peers to assist them, they are completely lost and often have no idea what to do with themselves.

However, if a child would enter the adult world immediately with no “childhood” they might know more about the working world, but they would not have a social interaction basis and they would not have had the happy (or not) experiences of growing up. There would be no “coming of age” no “middle school angst phase”.

Childhood allows for the growth of our personalities, for us to become who we really are, through experiences with making friends, losing friends, finding part time jobs, joining clubs. All these experiences shape our interests, style and opinions. Without the 12+ years to figure this out, we would become more a standardized reflection of our work. For example a child grows up on a farm, he’s thrown into work  never goes to school, all he will know is what his family tells him, his opinions will be shaped by what they say, not by multiple inputs. Same with interests and style.

Do we really grow though, through these years of school or is it when we are thrown into the world alone that we finally grow? Is leaving home the beginning of truly growing up or is it the final point?

I personally think my ending of childhood and the end to my technical “growing up” (of course we are always still learning, but in a child to adult way) was when I stopped making decisions based on others. When I found out what my goals were, and did what I needed to get there.

Ringwald brings up this idea of being under pressure with no childhood; she left for Paris and learned the harsh ways of the world herself. Isn’t this the problem with all childhood stars? Molly had a positive output, by pushing herself to a goal in order to prove she was all grown up. But other childhood stars, who make it big young then are constantly pushed into work, they do not experience a childhood, they do not have time to grow into who they are truly but more they grow into what their work turns them into. For example Miley Cyrus, who seems to finally be coming to this point in her life, realizing that she is not who she’d thought she’d be. She thinks (stated on twitter and various other medias) that her Hannah Montana-pilates-brunette-average girl is not who she is but rather who her job and family has shaped her as. She did not have a childhood to grow so she suddenly has decided that “who she really is” is whatever that thing that got up on stage at the VMA’s is.  She ran into the problem that since she had no time to grow she created a whole persona for her, that maybe is just a rebelling of a lack of childhood (NOW that could also really be her and this may all be wrong, this is just a theory, and as you can tell I don’t like her).

I think that really childhood is important in creating a wide range of personalities and interesting people, but that maybe the way we are doing it these days, is wrong. Childhood should be experiences but it should not be a spoiled and overly catered time. Children need to grow, not for their every need and want to be met.



One comment

  1. You hinted at it, but you are leaving out the enormous factor of personal choice given to people now and how much difference it can make. It’s a level of freedom that most previous generations never had, and while the numerous opportunities of 10-20 years ago may no longer be there, the coice on how to go about pursuing the ones that are are no longer rigidly guided by those who are bringing us up.


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