I have been thinking about children and how far we have come in recent years. Once upon a time, children were expected to become adults, and spent their childhood training for adulthood. Now, children are expected to be children and continue to be children well into what would traditionally be considered adulthood. What have we done to our children? Are we raising them to be children or productive, functioning members of adult society? I think the unfortunate answer is obvious. We are raising them to be full grown children, unable to make mature decisions, take adult responsibility or lead future generations into the great unknown. And society at large is helping us. "They" expect children to be helpless, incapable and defenseless. "They" think they know better how to raise our children than we do. "They" are emasculating their children and trying to do the same to mine.
When my mom was a little girl, she lived in West Seattle. By the time she was five, she was making breakfast for her family (mother, father, sister and two brothers) including making bacon in the broiler and frying eggs. She also rode the public bus downtown Seattle to meet her Grandmother at The Bon Marche for an afternoon lunch and nobody thought twice. My dad, having grown up in the then wild spaces of Vashon Island was hunting by himself by age ten (yes, he actually used a real gun!). When my husband was five, he walked himself to school about 1/2 a mile away after having gotten himself ready and out the door (his mother was a widow and worked - so she was away from home in the mornings). When he was seven he was riding the bus to the shopping mall where he would spend the day looking around and playing in the park. This was in Bellevue, Washington, - no small town, but rather a bustling metropolis. When I was a child, I rode my Honda Trail 50 two miles on dirt roads to go swimming in the swimming hole. I was eight.
And you can look back even further than a couple of generations. David (as in King David of the Old Testament) killed Goliath at about age 17 and had killed lions and bears threatening his father's flock when he was much younger than that. Joan of Arc went into battle when she was 15 and in 237 BC, 10 year-old Hannibal (the Carthagian) said to his father before he left to the war in Spain, "I want to go with you". Hamilcar, Hannibal's father, without a word, took the child with him to Spain and went to battle! Even Alexander the Great, although 20 when he took the throne, had obviously not been coddled as a child, but rather had been raised to be a man.
Now, we have children who must be buckled in car seats until they are 13, whose food has to be cut up for them until they are 10 and who can't carry a pocket knife because they are "unsafe". What are we thinking? Have our children somehow lost brain capacity over the last few hundred years - or is it the adults who no longer understand that our children require challenges, hard work and a little responsibility in order to become viable adults.
Well, I for one do not believe our children are any less intelligent than their predecessors. I think that we as a society have emasculated our young men and dumbed down our young ladies. I think our children are every bit as capable as David when he slew Goliath and Hannibal when he lead his vast armies. I think we need to train them to be competent and expect them to be capable. I think we need to teach them to do the "dangerous" things (Hand Grenade uses the chainsaw and Miss Calamity hunts - with a real rifle) and then let them do them. I think we ought to teach them to stand up against injustice and live lives of character when they are young so they can battle injustice and live lives of character when they are older. I think we need to stop coddling and start expecting and then - watch out! We will have a generation of exceptional leaders - not another generation of wimpy, spineless, emasculated drones.