At the risk of sounding like my great-grandmother from the Old Country, I think kids are growing up too fast these days.
Now I do NOT mean this in the “I don't know what's wrong with these kids today!” way. I'm actually not thinking that the kids have anything to do with their growing up too fast. Truth is, it's coming from the adults and the easy access kids have to our world.
It's Not a Race
It starts early. We want them to be the first… to talk, walk, know their colors, dance, etc. It doesn't really matter, we just want them to do it early. If not early, we're desperate that they do it at least on time!
What if they don't? Maybe they're not going to be smart – oh no, that can't be. But then they might not go to college, get a job, be independent. Excuse me, Dad – he's 3! And while I admit to a bit of hyperbole, you know what I mean, and you recognize some truth in it for you. After all, we've lived in a fear-based culture for over half a century. If our kids don't excel, then they're failing – and so are we!
Here's the thing – there's a lot to be said for a little immaturity. For not having the oldest kid in the class, or the tallest, or the most well-developed, or even the most “advanced for his age.” And if your child is the most advanced for her age in something, I sure as hell hope she's behind somewhere else. Am I arguing for their limitations? Limiting potential? I don't think so. But I do believe that:
Life is hard – so we don't really want everything to come too easily for our kids. It will serve them well to learn to handle a little adversity. After all, resilience is a critical component to success in adulthood.
When we expect too much too soon, we rob our children of their childhood, training play out of them. Do we really want every moment to be goal-focused and outcome-oriented at age 6 or 8?
Let Your Kid Be a Kid
So I say, it's time to stop pushing our kids to grow up so fast, and start giving them permission to slow down, to have a little immaturity. Really, you know, this life they've got is not exactly a sprint. It's a marathon, and god-willing, they're going to be on this path for a long time.
So slow down, pace yourself, and invite your child to be a child. Let her wrestle on the floor a little longer, wear a childish outfit a little later, act sillier than you think she “should” for her age, even “like” a potential boyfriend or girlfriend (when he's actually old enough to know what that means).
Because the truth is, you're not raising a little adult – you're raising a child. By the very definition, a child is going to be immature.
A client told me, recently, that she wants to have more mature, adult-like conversations with her kids. I asked, “Appropriate to their age?” She paused, and smiled when she realized what she'd said.
Sometimes we just want our kids to be more grown up, more mature, because it would be easier for us. We want to hurry them up because it would mean they are “winning” in some unspoken race, and frankly, it would be more interesting. After all, kids can be so, well, childish! If I'd known how much fun kids would be as adults, I would have had more.
But I urge you – don't wish the immaturity away. Enjoy the time you have with your kids, and let them be kids. I assure you, it will be over in the blink of an eye, anyway, and you'll wonder how it all happened so fast.
So be careful what you wish for, or you will surely get it. Before you know it, your kids will actually be adults. At that point, you certainly don't want them searching for a long-lost childhood. You want them to revel in the one they had, and let it bolster them when life gets hard. Of course, that presumes they ever had a childhood in the first place.