I was at my granddaughter’s soccer game last week. (She’s going to be 5 this month.) The team is made up of 4-6 year olds.
During the game, a grandpa from the opposing team yelled at his grandson: Next time I come, I better see you score a goal! This on top of other berating comments yelled at his grandson throughout the game. The kid couldn’t have been more than 6 years old!
I know this an ongoing story—a story played out on fields and courts across the country. Story after story has been written about over-demanding parents/grandparents trying to live out their failed dreams through their kids or grandkids. Rather than allowing kids to be kids and enjoy free-spirited fun play and competition, we’re turning kids’ sports into our own personal Super Bowls or NBA Championships or World Series. Instead of allowing our kids to experience the joy of movement and teamwork, we’re trying to shape them into the next multi-million dollar athletes.
It’s a shame! We’re robbing our kids of childhood. We’re imposing education on them at earlier and earlier ages. We’re taking recess away from them in school (or no longer allowing use of balls or anything else that might “hurt” a child so that all the kids can do during recess is stare at each other), we make demands of them in sports or school or other activities that are way beyond their developmental level and at the same time we’ve padded them up with so much bubble wrap that they can hardly move or breathe. And then, when they “mature” into coddled, self-important teens and young adults, we wonder what happened.
At the risk of waxing nostalgic for the good old days, I remember being a kid…we’d say goodbye to mom in the morning and run off and play until lunch, then do it all over again until supper. We started school in kindergarten, which served essentially as way to begin to socialize us into school, not to get us reading Tolstoy by the end of the year. We skinned our knees and looked in awe at our new warrior wound. We got our hands dirty. Our parents let us be kids.
Yes…the world is in many ways a different place. But kids still have the need to be kids. That’s the best way for them to grow up—to start the growing up process being kids. Having fun for the fun of it. Getting dirty. Running around with friends. Playing soccer without having to score a goal or worry about the score, or about grandpa chewing them out for not scoring a goal.
When kids aren’t allowed to be kids, we stunt their growth.
So maybe it’s time for us to grow up and let our kids be kids for the sake of being kids. And maybe in the process we’ll rediscover the joy wonder of childhood ourselves.