Kids Behaving Like Adults

My little blog is suffering from a lack of post. Somebody just told me the other day that he was going to stop checking every day if I didn’t post something new. So to save me from losing a reader, here we go. By the way, if you don’t want to keep checking every day, just sign up on the blog itself to receive an e-mail. The blog entry will be sent to you via e-mail every time I post. Easy, huh?

I had a conversation the other day with someone about the difference between what young kids are expected or not expected to do here in the U.S. as opposed to other cultures. It started me thinking.

I had dinner with a family recently. There were three generations there — parents, son and wife, and grandson. The grandson was in his early teens but I was impressed with how he sat by the table with us and carried on a normal conversation about soccer, life in school and many other subjects. Only later I noticed that I had just witnessed something unique — kids here are not expected to spend much time in the company of adults who visit your home.

Actually, kids are generally segregated from adults even in other settings. In church they normally have their own services. In social gatherings the hosts provide a table for the “young folks.” Even in malls, young people walk together, children have their play areas and adults run around trying to catch up with their kids.

This conversation led me to think about the things I did as a child that most of the kids in the U.S. would never be required to do. At 8 years of age I would walk to the market with my mom for about half an hour one-way and help her carry groceries back home. Since the age of 4 or 5 I learned to fold and put away my own clothe. When I was 9 I started working selling sweets on the streets. At the age of 10 I was working at a grocery store and when I was about 11 I was on the back of a truck lifting and loading big sacs of sugar and rice.

I became the president of the junior department at church when I was about 12-13 and at 15 I preached my first sermon. I babysat all my younger siblings since I was about 8 and was sent with my sister on mission to get a midwife to attend to my mom when she was in labor pains to deliver one of my siblings at home — a mission we failed miserably at but that is a story for another day.

I also remember serving as a sort of taxi driver to younger ladies in my neighborhood who were a bit older than me, taking them to work or school on a bicycle. I must have been about 12 then. Even as a young teen, if my parents needed to go somewhere, they had no qualms leaving our younger siblings for me and my sister to look after. We were 9 so this was a lot of responsibility and thought nothing of it. Today this would probably be considered some kind of abuse, at least in the U.S.

When I was in 5th grade, I walked 40 minutes one-way to school with my sister for a whole year. I had to get up about 4 am right before school started every year to get in line to get the yearly shots that were a requirement to enroll in school. This was before I even entered High School. Well, the list could go on and on. And none of this stuff, by the way, made me feel, then or now, that I was robbed of my childhood…

And that’s why I laughed hysterically (at least inside) when I was in Cambodia once with a guy who had retired from working with livestock in an academic setting in the U.S. Traveling in the countryside one day, he noticed a girl who couldn’t be more than 6 or 7 guiding a cow with a simple stick, a not too uncommon scene in Cambodia. He said he would love to meet the parents of that little girl and warn them of the dangers of having a girl her age around large animals like that. I wanted to say something like, “Dude, these people having been doing this for hundreds, maybe even thousands of years, and you think you are going to teach them something new about children and livestock now?” But I kept my mouth shut.

Putting kids in an adult world and expecting them to do “big” things when they are still young, within reason, will help them grow stronger. It will give them confidence and it will result in their becoming much better citizens, able to adjust to any set of circumstances and face any challenge thrown their way. At least that’s what I think it did to me.

How about you? Do you have memories of doing things that only adults would do today? Do share!

Ivanildo C. Trindade