Saturday, March 07, 2009

The race that is childhood

Message board copy & paste:

"One of the bragging points is 'My little Johnny doesn't watch those shows anymore. He's much too mature for Barney and Dora. He much prefers watching Arthur and Spiderman.' "


My, everything has got so competitive, hasn't it? Even child-rearing is a race.

It breeds something I call pseudo-maturity -- the adoption of pop-culture affinities, behaviours and attitudes of people who are older than you. Kids are considered "ahead" of their peers if they like the pop icons, clothing, music and friendship of kids older than they are. And so we have 4-year-olds who are too cool for Treehouse, thongs for 8-year-olds, and Grade 5 classes where everyone has a "crush" on someone.

But none of this real maturity, which I would define as a strong sense of values, a secure sense of self, and the impulse control and sense of responsibility required to act on those core values. I've noticed that often it's the kids who exhibit relatively "young" likes, meaning they still play with stuffies at age 10 or admit to enjoying Treehouse at age 6, are the ones who end up demonstrating the most real maturity.

(Do I dare admit that my kids have occasionally vegged in front of "Treehouse" up to the age of 10?)

6 comments:

  1. Oh hell, I stayed at home with a friend last week and we watched Matilda and played Candyland. We're seniors in college. And there was no drinking involved.

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  2. Anonymous9:35 am

    I was thinking of this just the other day. My six year old has only just started watching Treehouse occasionally and thinks it's great. She has no knowledge of Hannah Montana. Her Aunt gave her a Bratz doll for Christmas and so far she's shown no interest in it. I was wondering whether my delight in this was an unhealthy desire to keep her young, to not let her grow up since she's my only.

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  3. Great observation!

    I was one of those children that liked to play with dolls and Barbies up until the 5th grade... I was made such fun of for this by the neighborhood kids... and that was a million years ago (OK, so it was 30+ years ago LOL)

    I have a son who so longs to be older, its his nature and possibly due to being the youngest in a family of teen and adult siblings; nothing we have encouraged here--I do remember feeling the same way contrary to my playing preference. In fact, it can be quite annoying at times. I want him to enjoy his childhood, the innocence--he will be grow soon enough. Why push it?!

    But it is quite often the things you have mentioned that he strives to use as means to prove his maturity (not thongs, but definitely tv shows, language/word choices, attitudes, the idea of a girlfriend) it can be a battle at times to get him to simply be himself, to accept his youth/age and not try and be something other than who he is at the present time.

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  4. BING BING BING! You nailed it!

    This: "It breeds something I call pseudo-maturity -- the adoption of pop-culture affinities, behaviours and attitudes of people who are older than you. Kids are considered "ahead" of their peers if they like the pop icons, clothing, music and friendship of kids older than they are."

    Sadly, the little girl next door (a year older than my dd) just moved to Hawaii, but I will not miss this aspect of her influence in our lives. She was wearing her mother's heels in public and and attending Hanna Montana concerts at age 6. It was difficult explaining to my kid that being a model was not, in fact, the penultimate career goal in life and that no, she did not need a nose job.

    All in all it was an opportunity to explain to my kids what we reject about popular culture; we were able to use that checklist of pseudo maturity as a foil against which we balanced things that do matter to my kids, and see what she genuinely valued.

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  5. Interesting post!

    I slept with a stuffed monkey until I was 18. But I was cool enough to get away with it. ;-) Only the very self-assured can get away with doing "immature" things. Emotionally weaker children are more likely to submit to fashion and peer-pressure. In my case, I just didn't care enough about what other kids thought to do or wear something just because they had recommended it.

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  6. Kids are shoved through life so fast these days...it's sad. I'm glad we have kiddos who are fairly insulated from that - our 12 year old daughter still loves to "play" ... she has dozens of those Littlest Pet Shop critters and they're a fave at the moment.. she's got that 'growing up' maturity going on, but she's still young, if that makes sense? The growing up maturity that she has is the GOOD kind - the kind that shows responsibility and such.. not the boy crazy wanting makeup thing that many seem to equate with growing up...

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