Wednesday, July 19, 2006

The Loss of Childhood

By: L.A. Kohl
July 17, 2006
(published in the July 19, 2006 edition of "The Bullseye")
I find it so disturbing, that it’s a big reason why we homeschool our children as long as we do. It happens much too quickly from my point of view. What am I talking about? The loss of childhood.

I saw it reiterated once again last month, as I spent a couple of weeks working at youth camp. My twelve year old daughter was now old enough to go to the “older” youth camp – the one for Jr. High and High school age youth. She was excited about it, but I was rather dreading it.

The very first day, I overheard conversations from the other twelve year old girls in her cabin. Every conversation seemed to be something about “boys." At one point, I felt I could be a quiet bystander no longer. I looked at the girl that was talking about some boy, and I said, “You know, if you haven’t figured it out yet – my girls don’t do ‘boys’ very much, unless they want to go catch frogs or play pirates. We just want our girls to enjoy childhood as long as possible.”

I tried to smile and say it in a light-hearted manner, so as not to embarrass my daughter or the other girl too much; but inside my heart was aching for these very young girls who were wanting to act so “grown up." And my twelve year old, who had been looking rather lost, looked relieved, laughed, and said, “Yeah, the only boys I know very well are my cousins!”

At another point during camp, a sixth grade girl started telling me about this boy that she had “dated."(What does a date between two twelve year olds look like, I couldn’t help wondering?) Perhaps she was just making up stories to try and impress me with how grown up she really was – but she picked the wrong person to try and impress.

“You are too young to be dating,” I told her, before she had hardly even finished her sentence.

“That’s what someone else said, too,” she lamented, “but I don’t understand why they think that.”

I didn’t hesitate to tell her why I thought it. I don’t go into “lecture” mode very often with anyone other than my own children, but I couldn’t help myself this time.

“Because you are only twelve years old,” I began, “and before you know it, you’ll be an adult. You only have a tiny amount of time to be a child; you have the rest of your life to be an adult. You shouldn’t try to grow up so fast – enjoy being a child while you can.”

She walked away, and I suspect that what I said went in one ear and out the other, but I couldn’t help saying it anyway.

I wish I could have brought that whole cabin full of twelve-year-old girls home with us after camp…away from all boys. I wish my girls could of shared their dress up clothes with them (they get great deals on old formals at garage sales,) and then hosted a tea party for them. I wish they could have went out to the lake in the paddle boat, and let my girls “accidentally” push them out in the water in their old clothes – not having to worry about if some boy noticed that they had their stylish bikini on or not. I wish they could have come and strapped on some plastic swords and tri-corner hats, and created some swash-buckling adventure with the video camera. I wish they could have come and stood around the piano, while my daughter tried to plunk out some old Disney movie songs while they all sang their lungs out.

Childhood is a precious, brief time in life…and I wish our society wasn’t so consumed with trying to rob it from our children.

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