A few months ago my soon to be eight year old daughter rediscovered her American Girl Doll with a vengeance. After sitting in the land dump of stuffies and dolls, Ruby was once again a part of the daily cycle of family life here in BGIM-land. Unlike a few years ago when Ruby first became a member of our household, soon to be eight has decided that depending on the day, Ruby is either her baby or her sister. My daughter reads to Ruby, feeds her, and yes, Ruby goes everywhere we do. Ruby makes the rounds at the Farmer’s Market where several of the local farmers actually know her name. According to the picture below, I did the same thing when I was her age except my dollies didn’t look anything like me.
Considering that my daughter just finished second grade and won’t even turn eight for a few more weeks, in my old fashioned and outdated mind I thought that playing with dolls was a normal childhood activity. It turns out, I was very wrong. I have tried to ignore the looks of dismay when people turn around to see my daughter interacting with her doll. It reached the point that I actually started talking with other parents and well, I am surprised.
In my area while kids may privately still play with dolls, most by my daughter’s age no longer cop to playing with toys or dolls publicly. I have seen this at my day job where we do have a handful of kiddos in my daughter’s age group who have announced that they are too old for childish stuff like toys. Whoa!!
As a friend recently told me over lunch, I should be prepared for my daughter to be considered one of the strange kids…what??? Soon to be eight will be starting at a new school in the fall, for grades 3-5, where it is not unheard of for a kid to have their own iPod or iPad. Now I am not technology adverse, after all we have a family iPad that is primarily used by the girl child. But her own private iGadget worth several hundreds of dollars? Nope, I am a working stiff and considering that wages have not kept pace with the cost of living in over 20 years, on general principle the idea of spending that kind of money is simply not something I am comfortable with.
Yet when every other kid has their own cell or iGadget by the time they are ten, I admit that I am aware I am fighting an uphill battle. If the price of admission to friendship is having what others have, I know that my values will matter very little to my child. But where has childhood gone? My son is only 13.5 years older than at his sister and I remember him clearly playing with his action figures well past the ripe old age of almost eight. Sure he had electronic gadgets like a Gameboy but gadgets 10+ plus years ago didn’t cost as much as three weeks’ worth of groceries nor did they require a monthly financial commitment…data anyone?
On the flip side we are rushing kids through the childhood years but once they get close to adulthood in the later teen years we are halting their development. Back in the day, when one was 18, they were an adult. Sure your parents may have paid your college tuition bills or sported you money to live on but society saw you as an adult. As we learned last year not even our auto insurance company considers my now 21 year old son an adult. By virtue of the fact that his legal residence is now my house (it used to be his dad’s) and I am his mother, we pay to cover him on our policy despite the fact that he doesn’t even have a car. My folks ceased being financially responsible for me when I moved out of their house at 18, yet in today’s world early adulthood is seen more or less as an extension of childhood. We have assisted him during these college years and have been happy to do so, but there is something about the fact that in some cases I am forced to do it when it isn’t necessary, makes no sense.
Never mind the tales my son has shared in his three years of college; roommates who were woefully unprepared to live on their own even in college. In his freshman year he had a roommate who did not know how to do his laundry…at all. Instead the kid would save it up and after a few months and take it home to dear ole mom to launder. The problem though was that in a small shared space, the odor of the funky clothes became so intense that my son took to burning incense to cover up the eau de funk. In another instance I remember my son wanting a friend who lived less than 100 miles away to visit our house. It was suggested that the young man who was 16 at the time and in possession of a driver’s license take the Amtrak train to get to our house, nope the kid’s mom wasn’t comfortable with her son taking an hour-long train ride even though the kid could legally drive a car. While I understand having a comfort zone, if a 16 year old boy is ready enough to drive a car, the same boy should be able to take an hour long train ride. The ability to navigate public transit is a valuable skill because sometimes cars break down and you may be in an area where public transit is the norm.
In the end, I cannot help but feel something is terribly wrong with how we view childhood, our kids are being rushed to grow up, and those who refuse to fast forward through childhood are seen as “different” in the not good way. Yet just when our kids are ready to leave the nests, we hold on for dear life and refuse to let them grow up. It’s enough to give a Mama a headache.