Children shouldn't waste childhood trying to grow up
In a week dominated by the Papal election, pop star Justin Bieber's bad-boy antics and an enforced bout of throne-sitting by the Queen, one particular press release seemed to slip though unnoticed. This was a survey by an online parenting site which reveals that childhood now ends at age 12.
Due to what is described as a "toxic combination" of influences, it seems the innocence of our children is disappearing earlier with each passing generation. Almost nine out of ten parents questioned felt that celebrity culture, TV and social media are to blame, with a paltry one out of 60 parents believing they have successfully protected their child from growing up too soon.
This is one of the saddest things I've read in a long time. Maturity cannot be rushed, children need sufficient time to grow emotionally. Yet take a stroll down your high street on a Saturday morning and you'll see 11 and 12-year-olds acting like mini-adults in trendy clothes, clutching their mobile phones and trying to look cool. Why aren't they out roaming the fields and climbing trees, like I was at that age?
Ah, it's the parents, of course. But then it almost always is. So many mums and dads are too wrapped up in themselves to do the ordinary things with their children, like going for walks, playing board games and encouraging them to read books. Or to simply spend time with them.
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It's no surprise that when those children are left to their own devices, all too often those devices are electronic. If a child's early influences are dictated chiefly by ideas he or she gleans from television, X-Boxes and the internet, how can they develop a curiosity about animals, nature… about life? In short, how can they even hope to have a childhood?
I ask you, is there really a happier time than when you are young and innocent? Who among us grown-ups hasn't sometimes wished to be transported back to a childhood day in summer, to roam the fields, wade the streams, climb, fall over, laugh oneself silly, be gathered up by our loved ones, to simply run and run and run – just one more time?
Alas, there isn't a road back into the warm cocoon of a carefree, sunshine-drenched childhood. It's gone, finished. All we can do is gaze wistfully into the past and linger awhile as we strain to capture the sights and the sounds of our childhood for those few fleeting seconds before they fade, in the hope the memory might burn a little more brightly in our minds, all the longer to sustain us in our declining years.
Yet, as we wax lyrical about our own childhoods, so too should we adults take the care to gift wrap our children's own precious time in the sun so they too can look back with the same fondness. The most effective way to do this is by allowing them to be children for as long as they want to be.
Because, as we ourselves have discovered, they will certainly spend long enough being grown up.
It was when my hand no longer fitted inside a Pringles tube that I knew I had to lose weight. After trying all the well-known diet plans – and failing spectacularly – I've come up with one of my own. It's called the inflation diet. Each week I spend the same amount of money at the supermarket – and each week I come home with less food.
A hearty cheer for Candace Kendall and her campaign for a Dog-Mess Free Frome (check out her Facebook page).
She certainly has her work cut out – some days the streets of Frome seem to be dotted with more pyramids than you'd find in Egypt.
Mind you, it was so cold this past week you were more likely to trip over the stuff rather than tread in it.