What happened to Childhood?


What happened to Childhood?
by msabaye

I was listening to a program on CBC about high school students volunteering. I was taken aback by one of the panelists repeating, "...students... during their high school career..."

When did high school become a career? And then I remembered my nieces and nephews in elementary school and realized their education resembled a career too. Every day, my nephews came home from school with a heavy load of assignments as well as projects. Two to three times a week, we had to go shopping for various events at the school. This was in Iran, and my other niece and nephew in Germany go through the same. This is during the school period, but summer is not much different as kids have to attend all sorts of classes and camps and ...

What happened to good old carefree childhoods? I remembered my school days and the annoying homework we had to write or memorize every day. But there were also endless summer days where we would run out of ideas on what to do with our time. We played a lot, and we had to think quite hard to come up with ways to spend time. Games, competitions, plays (I mean staging plays in the basement), ... would cover only so much of 24 hours which we intended to spend fully awake. The parents' demands on mandatory afternoon naps... Not that they were ever met by us, but their mere existence bothered us.

I didn't learn much in summer in terms of formal training though some of my friends did. But I got to read a lot, to spend a lot of time on my own reflecting (on whatever kids reflect on), daydream, and do things I liked. I made a cooking book with photo accompanied recipes copied/cut from various magazines. I made drawings of garments for women (I wanted to be a fashion designer and an astronaut and ... the list was updated on a weekly basis). I read so many novels and stories. And I got bored quite a lot. Through all these, I learned how to manage my time partly because nobody managed it for me.

I was listening to another program where some financial adviser encouraged parents to talk about savings and financial planning when taking their (elementary school age) children on a walk in the park!

I feel bad for children today. They get into the 'real world' or models of it too soon. There is no doubt they have to work, they have to earn money, ... at some point. Why does it have to be so soon? They are encouraged, if not sometimes pressured, to get into work force to earn money to afford things adults have.

I look at teens, and compared to my times, they seem to have a lot more. They have jobs, income, cars (at least they drive), .... But often most of these have become possible by missing out on one thing they will never get a second chance to have: an old-fashioned, carefree, idle childhood.


Recently by msabayeCommentsDate
Freedom to be Poor, Ill, Forsaken
Oct 14, 2012
Newfoundland: Leave your Camera behind
Sep 29, 2012
Test (Result)
Sep 20, 2012
more from msabaye

true and sad, at least from

by msabaye on

You are right. I know quite a few parents who earn huge incomes by constantly travelling or dwelling in different cities. I am not talking about struggling families but those where each parent owns one or two houses in addition to the common place of residence, which incidentally hardly anyone lives there since the parents keep travelling and the children spend most of their time in daycare, school, or various classes. They often tell me with a sigh, "I don't raise my kids. Daycare/school raises them." And I wonder, why?


my topic of curiosity

by msabaye on

I agree that all of these factors play a role. Regarding computers, I think they have, to some extent, substituted TV. I remember some years ago, some parents left the kids with a babysitter and a few tapes all day. Now, it is computer games.

I think the fact that people have fewer children nowadays also make a difference. When I was growing up 3 to 4 kids seemed very much order of the day. So we had other kids around us to play and communicate with. Nowadays, most families go with one or two children. Often, children don't have other kids around to play with. Just a thought.


couldn't agree more

by msabaye on

Thanks for the websites. Feel free to link my article. Best.

hamsade ghadimi

true and sad, at least from

by hamsade ghadimi on

true and sad, at least from the perpective of someone from my generation.  in addition to substitution of social games with technology that was mentioned, i think that rise in dual income households and the consequent materialism has also led to more outside activities for children (school, camps, organized sport, ...) and a need for educating the young on spending.  it's a sign of the times in which we're living.


my topic of curiosity

by Monda on

We can trace the onset of "quick childhood" through the lens of global or regional economy and sociology.  Or we can just break it down to this: When parents are not available, kids have to parent themselves, become "parentified", a process which does not afford them to remain children.  

Then of course there's the impact of (unsupervised) Internet at young age. The worst of which has been the promotion of quick results, low tolerance, low emotional regulation, superficial relationships, etc. Don't get me wrong, I am not blaming it all on the Net, but computers have played the role of caretakers for at least a decade now.  There has been a new sense of community in progress. Virtual is very different than the real face to face connections that we grew up with.  A piece that parents of my generation are warming up to.

To calm us all down, I really believe, when we notice our kid acting grownup too fast, that's when we should give ourselves pats on the back for noticing it. Because only then we can re-evaluate our kid's resources (interests, temperament style) - while looking at our own.  

This is such a great topic, I'll be back. 


Couldn't agree more

by sima on

You're absolutely right. Childhood has been ruined -- I don't know when exactly it happened! But you know what hurts the most? Even when you give kids free, unmanaged time they make horrible choices. As I'm finding out since I've been homeschooling my son, he overwhelmingly chooses computers over all other activities. It is a constant struggle. 

 I run a website www.mothersofbadboys.com and will be doing an issue on play. May I link to your article? Also, here's a good article about what one writer calls "Idlle Parenting":


There's a very well-known psychologist who blogs on Psychology Today, Peter Gray, and one of his specialties is play. He's great -- just in case you're interested!