I'm not sure why there is such a rush for children to grow up quickly. Childhood, at least from the vantage point of the years just prior to senility, seems like it was an enjoyable time for me. Children are acting older, dressing older, and exhibiting signs of independence guaranteed to get them noticed. Parents are not only often complicit in this rush to age, but at times seem to be instigating it.
Okay, it's probably just me being old fashioned. I don't like seeing infants and toddlers with pierced ears, and the other day I saw a very young boy, possibly elementary-school aged, with a tattoo on his arm. My old instincts as a state child protection worker kicked into gear and I thought that I ought to report it. Then I realized that his school teacher, a mandated reporter, probably already had. Of course not all kids attend school - regardless of their ages - and I have been out of the child protection business way too long to know the legal constraints regarding tattooing children.
I recently heard an appalling story from an old man that I know. He said that years before he had taught his six-year-old nephew how to chew tobacco. Everyone who heard him tell that story was aghast, but he blundered on: "Well, he asked me to show him. If I didn't someone else would have. What was I supposed to do?"
And then there's the topic of kids and guns. Lots of parents push a knowledge of guns on their children for a whole variety of reasons - and the NRA sponsors classes to teach children how to shoot "responsibly." Sometimes that works out, and sometimes it doesn't. I personally knew a thirteen-year-old who was killed by his friend while they were both playing with a gun in an unsupervised setting. Adam Lanza's mother kept several firearms in her home and took young Adam to the range so that he could learn how to fire them. She was rewarded for her efforts when he shot and killed her in her sleep and then took a couple of her guns to the local elementary school where he killed a group of first graders along with their teachers and principal.
Missouri has a youth firearms season for hunting deer which was held recently. This week the local newspaper ran a full page of color photos of successful young hunters with their dead deer. (The Missouri Conservation Department refers to the annual deer hunts as "harvests.") The young hunters - six girls ranging in age from 7 to 14 and four boys aged 9 to 13 - were all smiles as they knelt beside their trophies. They were mighty proud, and their parents were proud, and I like kids - so heck I was even a little proud for them myself, but I still felt a bit of the uneasy queasies thinking that some very young people were becoming comfortable carrying deadly weapons.
It seems to me like somebody may be getting shortchanged out of a few carefree and happy years. The deer may not be the only thing getting harvested - we may also be taking the best years of childhood away from our children.