The BBC has written a piece about childhood being too short – taken from a website run by and for mothers. If you ask almost any mother, childhood is too short. Some of us may have found certain phases far too long as we went through them, but by the time our beloved offspring have reached later teenage years and beyond, it is a common experience to see it as time passed far too fast.
According to the article, childhood ends at about 12. That sounds about right to me from my own experience – puberty starts, the world shifts a bit, things which seemed obvious become less so, the hugs become about as frequent as the shouting, the future starts to loom, and I wanted to be treated differently from a 4 year old.
In the good old days, I’d have gone to work – into domestic service, or into the factories. I’d have been expected to do a job day in day out, to take some responsibility for myself, always with others in charge and overseeing me as I grew up. And that is perhaps the point. Children weren’t grown up at 12, but they were often moved away from their home into a different environment, and expected to operate in a different way. Apprenticeships served a similar purpose.
I’m not advocating a return to the days of shoving small children up chimneys. But most of the point of being a parent, as far as I am concerned, is to make sure that my beloved offspring can stand safely on their own feet, preferably without trampling on anyone else in the process. That means leaving childhood behind well before they leave home, so that they can learn to function as adults in some small ways before they launch themselves into the big wide world and really learn to fly. The more I can help them, the better.