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Let Kids Be Kids

There's a phrase floating around, one that's gotten a lot of negative attention lately.

"Let boys be boys."

The original intent of the phrase was a lighthearted way to poke fun at the rowdy and rambunctious play that toddler boys exhibit. Some of that type of play is probably nurture-influenced, and some might be nature. I'm not sure how much of each influence is involved, nor do I think the creator of the phrase put much thought into that component.

Full disclosure: I have no idea how old that phrase even is. I can guarantee you it was coined in a time when boys were the only kids who were playing in the mud or trying to pick fist fights in the park.

Here's where it gets sticky: the term "boys will be boys" never had a really popular counterpart: "girls will be girls". Instead of becoming a way for exasperated mothers to lovingly complain that their son once again dragged mud into the house, it became a way to excuse behaviors that were beyond mere mischief. "Boys will be boys" became a way to sweep bad behavior - malicious, self-serving, disastrous behavior - under the rug. To minimize the severity of truly bad human behavior, simply because it was a male human who was behaving badly.

So let me be clear: when I say, "Let Kids Be Kids", I'm making a few intentional choices. Kids is genderless - it includes all kids, not singling out boys or girls. I'm also using it within a pretty narrow definition. It's less of a dismissive sigh, and more of a declarative statement. Let kids be kids, people.

What is childhood, anyway? A time of joy, of carefree fun. It's innocence and naivete - and in children, those are virtues. Nobody likes a truly naive adult, let's be honest. Naivete isn't cute any longer when your life choices have real consequences on the people you're adulting next to. But in the youngest of us? Naivete is a sign that the world hasn't succeeded in beating their spirits down.

If I'm not sounding entirely optimistic, it's because I'm PMS'ing. And also because I'm just feeling the real weight of adulthood at the moment. I remember, when I was a kid, I thought adults had all the answers to the tough life questions. Why do people die? Why do people suffer pain? Why aren't there the same number of hot dogs as there are in hot dog bun packages? As an adult, I realize that none of us have the answers. We're all just fumbling about in the vast expanse of life's circumstances, trying to survive in a cruel world. Adulting sucks sometimes.

My kids deserve to have a happy, sweet, aloof childhood. I want to give that to them.

When I was young, my parents joked that I was, "Eight, going on forty!" They probably let me read too much Reader's Digest. I was prematurely approaching retirement age (ha!), so my parents probably didn't think too much about the news I was consuming. I don't recall the riots in LA (I was only four at the time), but I do remember them being discussed a few years later during the O.J. Simpson murder trial. I was seven years old when the O.J. was acquitted. Even then, I felt like everyone knew that he had murdered Nicole Brown. So I didn't understand why people were celebrating when he "got away with it".

Looking back, my childhood understanding of that event was deeply limited and flawed. I lacked context, and experience, and perspective. THANK GOODNESS. Carrying that weight now, a fairly complete understanding of all the factors influencing the O.J. Simpson trial, is overwhelming. The immensity and complexity of all those problems embroiled in one moment of public agony...it blocks out the sun.

And so: Let Kids Be Kids. While some children may experience trauma or loss that forces them "grow up" too soon, not all children do. And where we can, we ought to be preserving the purpose of childhood: to learn through play, to begin building who we are in a world with lightweight consequences. To experience joy unfettered by the real problems of the adult world.

 

 

How are you preserving childhood innocence for your kids? Hit me up on Twitter @pi3sugarpi3 with #CarefreeKids

 

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