Friday, June 1, 2012

The Age of Innocence

This week my eight-year-old told me I should write about love and drama. What better topic then the third grade field trip. Third grade has been quite a change up for elementary school. It has come as quite a shock, and I think my son has noticed a few differences too.

Someone told me earlier this year that they loved my son because he was still so "childlike". What did that mean? I wasn't sure how to take it. Was that a polite way of saying he was immature? I didn't understand it fully until I chaperoned a field trip this week, and got a full dose of what is happening to the children of this generation.

Third grade is the cut off point between glue sticks and crafts and the hard work of training for standardized tests. It's also when children start becoming hardened by the impressions of the world. The age when innocence starts to fade.

The kids on the trip weren't bad or disrespectful. They were certainly energetic since it was the only field trip in over a year. What I noticed most was the language. Not coarse or cursing, but too mature. The topics, too, were not what I would expect among eight and nine-year-old's. Who had a crush, who was the man or wouldn't get "punked". They sounded like teenagers. They looked like teenagers.

Up until this year comfort was the main focus of my son's wardrobe. Now he's become concerned with the design on his t-shirt and how his hair looks. Not because he's fashion conscious but, rather he's afraid of being made fun of.

Maybe my children have been sheltered. They don't watch movies that weren't meant for grown-ups. We pause the DVR recordings of the crime shows we like until they've left the room. Even though my daughters are only six, they wear clothing that covers their bodies. My son has never played a teen rated video game. There are even certain "kids" shows, I don't let them watch.

They may not know it yet, but I have given my kids a tremendous gift. I have given them their childhood. Yes, compared to his classmates, my eight-year-old is more childlike. He enjoys riding his bike, building tents out of quilts and daydreaming about ninjas. Mint chip ice cream can still turn a day around.

My girls like nothing more than to have a sleepover on their brother's floor on the weekend. All three kids still love to pull a chair up to the kitchen counter and help me make pancake batter.

On the flip side, my son is one of the most responsible kids I know. Even other adults have commented how they can trust him with certain tasks without hesitation. On the field trip, while other kids were spending their money in the gift shop on as much candy as they could get, he bought something for his sisters and something special to remember the trip by. Then he asked me if I'd like to get anything.

I don't tell you all these things to brag about what a wonderful kid I have. He has his rotten moments too. Like any good big brother he torments his sisters on occasion. Every hour on the hour. You should also stay clear of him when he's hungry. It is not pretty.

My point is that a child can be mature and still enjoy their childhood. It's our job, as the adults in their lives, to insure they're getting that childhood. They only get to have that playful innocence the first time around. We need to make sure that their environment in not propelling them into adulthood on fast forward.

Third grade should be a time for recess and dodge ball, not love and drama. At the rate things are going there will be a reality show based on hard core eight-year-olds owning the halls of the elementary schools.

How childlike are the children in your life?


  1. This is beautiful! My son is 8 and just finishing second grade, and I've spent time with his class and seen some of the same things you're talking about. At one of his baseball games one of his teammates was talking to my daughter (6) and jokingly saying, "Would you go out with me? Do you like me?" I frowned and told her she needed to stay away from that boy. She didn't know what he was talking about but I told her that the things he was saying were not appropriate for them to be talking about.

    I often worry that my kids will be too influenced by the kids around them, and I can only hope and pray that they'll keep some of that innocence and realize how special it is. We do a "morning devotional" every morning in which we have a song, a prayer, and I read a story from the Friend Magazine and we talk about it. That's my little way to contribute to their "Armor of God" each day.

    I'm with you on letting them be little. I'm glad my son still adores Thomas the Tank Engine, despite the harassment from his classmates, and I think it's things like that that help them to not be afraid to stand up for other bigger stuff later on. 'Cause it's only going to get worse. *sigh*

  2. Well said! My kids are pretty childlike, too, but only because I'm a big kid and they pay a lot of attention :)