Two stories in the Times over the past few days raise the same kinds of questions: How young is too young? When did childhood become something to leapfrog through?
The first, an essay in the New York Times Magazine this past weekend by Peggy Orenstein, is about homework in kindergarten. Orenstein concludes that it doesn’t help children later in life, that it may in fact be harmful to learning, and that there has to be a stop to the trend of children doing things younger and sooner.
“How did 5 become the new 7, anyway?” she asks, then doles out blame among parents, schools that are “teaching to the test” and “what marketers refer to as KGOY — Kids Getting Older Younger — their explanation for why 3-year-olds now play with toys that were initially intended for middle-schoolers. (Since adults are staying younger older — 50 is the new 30! — our children may soon surpass us in age.)”
It’s not just academics and toy preferences in which age creep is a problem. Teen singing stars used to actually be teens. And sports used to be something young children did for fun, not profit. Here, too, one has to wonder how much of the cause lies with the parents, who either actively encourage their child or fail to discourage them from narrowing their lives at too young an age.
Yes, Tiger started young. But would he have lost any ground had he started later? And for every Tiger, are there not countless other children who have burned out early because they leapt too fast and too soon out of the gate?
In his book “Young Runners,” Marc Bloom responds to the question he says too many parents (and he cops to this one himself) ask:
“Is your child a star? No. Doctors specializing in youth sports and child development say that, despite what some parents may think, there is no such thing as an 8-, 9- or 10-year-old ‘star’ in running. … True talent and commitment are not genuine before puberty.”
Which leads us to a second piece here in the Times this weekend, about race-car driver Macy Causey — who is eight years old. “I like going fast,” the second grader told reporter Bill Konigsberg, sounding an awful lot like Will Ferrell’s character in Talledega Nights, “and I like spinning out.”
Macy drives a 550-pound Bandalero racecar, which stands less than three feet off the ground and can reach speeds of 75 m.p.h., though speeds are restricted to 60 m.p.h. in the 8- to 15-year-old class in which she competes.
Konigsberg paints a portrait of a child who loves her sport, and of parents who have given a lot of thought to her safety. But he also tells stories of kids hitting walls and flipping cars during these races. And he only hints at the question of whether fulfilling your lifelong dreams at the age of eight is a prescription for a mid-life crisis shortly before puberty.
Today’s parents, critics tell us, are managing to mess up our kids in two contradictory yet somehow simultaneous ways. On one hand, we push them to grow up too fast, proud that they are reading before they are walking, pleased that they are taking college-level math in middle school. On the other hand, we keep them from really growing up at all, helicoptering in to solve all their problems well into young adulthood.
Is it possible that the answer lies, as most answers do, somewhere in the middle? Maybe if childhood was time to be, well, a child, the rest might sort itself into place?
Today children are growing up way to fast. The world has changed so much from when I was a child. We are watching babies having babies today. What I mean by this is a child as young as twelve years old are having babies. I think that the parents are letting children do what ever they want to do as long as they do not bother them.
When we have children that are putting away baby dolls to have their own baby we have a problem. Part of the problem is that the parents give their children too much freedom and not enough discipline. The other part of the problem is the kind of people that the children hang around with. For example, if you let your child sleep out by a friend’s house and you do not call to check on them, then how do you know that they are there?
Parents today have more important things to do besides raise their children. They will push them off on who ever will take them for that day. So when your son or daughter has to tell you that they are expecting a child, the first thing you want to do is start screaming at them. But wait, you have to ask yourself where you were when this happened. When you sit down and figure it out you were most likely not around are shoved them off for the day.
I do not think that young children should wear make-up. Once again how do they get the make-up? This is a sign that they want more attention from the opposite sex. This is when they start meeting friends at the show or different things after school. Parents have to be very careful on what they let their child do without them being around.
So parents make your child your best friend and let them know that they can talk to you at any time they need to. Be there for you child. Don’t just push them off on who ever will take them. I am not saying to lock your child up and never let them have any fun. This is your child’s way for calling out to you. I am not saying everyone out there is a bad parent. But, some parents need just a little bit more help. Get involved...