Let them have a childhood

Published 10:14 pm Tuesday, October 29, 2019

By Nathan Rice

I have heard similar things many times before, but what I heard on this particular day broke my heart more than it had on some previous occasions. I was listening to the conversations of the elementary school students around the table.

Every conversation being held by those young students was about an adult topic. One student spoke about the salacious news of a popular singer. Another was busy calling one of her adult neighbors a term that I won’t repeat. The next was sharing about the violent deaths he watched on the television, and the last was talking about a set of horror videos she had watched online. None of the little ones around the table had yet reached middle school, but their conversations were already PG-13 and above.

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I paused and thought, “What have we done to our kids?” Childhood is a precious gift, and every child gets only one shot at these precious years. Why have we decided that our kids should no longer enjoy these years of innocence, fun, imagination and growth?

I know that evil people, as well as circumstances beyond our control, sometimes steal a childhood, but I’ve noticed that many childhoods are stolen in two other ways.

The first is through a faulty thought process that believes children are simply smaller adults.

Adults can watch celebrity gossip shows if they want to know the latest activities of their favorite celebrities, but why are we letting our kids watch them too? What happened to the days when we would shield the eyes and cover the ears of our kids when certain topics were discussed?

Adults have the right to listen to explicit music if they so choose, but why have we decided that it’s wise to fill the hearts and minds of the youngest among us with sexually explicit, violent and vulgar lyrics? Why have we decided that there is no longer a need for a time of innocence?

Children are not little adults, and it’s time we stop treating them as such. I’m not stating that we need to shelter them from all the negative things in our world. I am saying that we should protect them, let them be children and introduce them to adult things in the right way and at the proper time.

The other way I see childhoods being stolen is through the selfish behavior of adults. Adults are so determined to watch their favorite show, listen to their favorite music, or speak to their friends about certain topics that they do not care if little eyes are watching and little ears are listening. The well-being of children is too often placed behind adults’ desire for fun and entertainment.

Today, I am crying out to all those reading my words. Please stop pushing adult topics and situations onto your children. They don’t need to hear you talk about the activities of your neighbor, know the latest gossip about adult celebrities doing adult things, hear the lyrics of particular songs, or watch certain things.

Let them be kids. They have one shot at childhood. Don’t take it from them.

Nathan Rice is a Hampton Roads native and can be reached at nrice@abnb.org.