Sometimes I wonder if the world is upside-down, especially when I “people-watch” and notice who’s following who.
Doug and I are enjoying a week in Santa Fe and I overheard a conversation at a table in a nice restaurant the other night. The parents were trying to convince their son, who looked about 8 years old, that he would enjoy something on the menu. It was more than helping him choose wisely; the tone was more “we really hope you’re happy”. For at least an hour, the parents kept catering to the young man, and the young man consistently refused to be happy.
I remembered the times my sister and I would whisper to each other in the back seat of the car on the way home from church, “You ask ’em.” “No! You ask them.”
Sunday was the day we had the best chance of stopping to get lunch on the way home; we didn’t eat out often. My sister and I were arguing about who’d ask if maybe we could go to Burger King. Most often, neither of us ended up asking.
I’m not feeling sorry for myself for growing up without a lot of extras; instead I’m noticing a distinct U-turn in who’s following who.
Not that long ago – ok, maybe it’s been a few generations – children followed parents around. Children learned to be adults by living in an adult world, and by walking along side parents who taught them everything from mowing the lawn and car repair to cooking and cleaning.
Today, parents follow children around in a child-centered world – to endless sporting events and ball fields, trampoline parks, theatre lessons, dance lessons, and art lessons. Even children’s museums.
No, I don’t think children’s museums are evil; it’s just an interesting phenomenon that as a culture we believe children will love museums because we build a child’s world for them to enjoy on a large scale – instead of inviting them to walk with us into a real museum and learn to enjoy a mature world.
Few families I know have time to mow their own lawn or repair the car – or clean their own home. Their children’s schedules take up all the time that is not consumed by the adult work that is often required to pay for the activities – and lawn service and maid service.
So, how is this working for us? Are children happier and better adjusted when it’s time for them to “launch” into the adult world themselves?
I don’t find too many people who believe that to be true. I read a statistic the other day saying for the first time in history, more than 30% of college graduates are “not hire-able” because they’re struggling significantly with anxiety, depression, and addictions.
Do you know “adolescence” is an American invention? The concept is as new as the late 1950s. A “teenager” is a recent idea, too. It’s frightening to know that a recent addition of the American Journal of Medicine indicates the age for adolescence now extends from age 10-12 to about age 30.
But it hasn’t always been this way; there are really five stages of maturity – and adolescence isn’t one of them:
- Infant (birth – age 3)
- Child (age 4 – 12)
- Adult (age 12/13 – the birth of our first child)
- Parent (the ages when we are raising our own children)
- Elder (the ages when we are contributing to a greater community)
By design we are meant to be cared for, and to care for others. And by design, this is what we find deeply satisfying.
Jesus’ words to His disciples, “Follow me.” So very simple in a new kingdom kind of way. “I came that you may have joy, and have it more abundantly.”
I look forward to your comments – and your ideas about how we can offer children a safe and humble place in our homes and education environments