not shelter, protect
it's hard to keep kid a kid
and not go too far
There has been a lot of Santa Claus talk in our house lately. The wee-one is 6 and some rapscallions at school have been spilling the beans about the Santa myth. He is still inclined to believe in the fat old elf, though, and I'm happy about that. In fact, I create outlandish stories and scenarios to egg him on. Maybe that's not great, but I'll be damned if my first grader is going to have to give up on the magic of Santa just yet.
This has me thinking about when I was a kid. I struggled – fought, really – to believe in Santa until I was probably 10 or 11. And at that same age I still played legos everyday and ate ice cream when I came home from school and had special places for my dolls to sleep on my bed. I read Beverly Cleary books until I was made fun of for it in middle school. (Note to the girl who mercilessly made fun of me; the girl who was 12 and reading Stephen King: I am 32 and still reading Beverly Cleary books. I like them. And now I write books like that, too. So poop on you, Katie from Earth Science. You made me doubt myself, which, granted, is a rite of passage in middle school, but still, no need to be a little asshole.)
One day, in the fifth grade, all of the kids were giggling uncontrollably and I had to know why. "Something fell out of the card catalog!" one of the girls laughed (Yes, card catalog, remember those?) "Guess what it was!" she shrieked. I tried and tried to think what could make everyone laugh like that. Fake dog poop? A cheeseburger? Underwear? Nope. "A rubber!" she squealed.
I had no idea what that was or why it would be funny. A rubber what? I remember wondering. And even when it was halfway explained to me what a condom was, I still didn't understand, because I didn't have context.
Was I sheltered? Naive? I don't think so. I was 11! I was still a kid. Very much a kid. And I worry now about my kids. Will they still be children when they're 10,11,12? Will they want to believe in Santa even though they don't anymore? Will they still play dress-up and make-believe and tag and kick ball? Or will they be just as jaded and cynical as everyone else?
I don't know that the world I grew up in was any simpler than the world today. Obviously, technology was different, but as a whole, the world was not less complicated. (double negative!)
I'm just kind of yammering right now, but I think my point is, I don't want my kids to grow up too fast. Who does, really? But then, there's always that little asshole out there, calling your kid a baby for reading certain books or playing certain games or watching certain TV shows… or believing in Santa.
So I say, Quiet down, little assholes!
Do not make my kids ashamed to be kids. And same goes to you, world-at-large. Do not turn them into mini-adults with you-tube blaring phones and cynical hair cuts. I want them to be kids for as long as possible. And then they can go to middle school, have it all tortured out of them, go to high school, look back on it in embarrassed fondness, go to college, decorate their dorm rooms with childhood kitsch, and then finally be adults who are comfortable enough with themselves to be able to enjoy all those childhood things again, without having to camouflage it in irony.
When your kid causes trouble, sometimes people will say "kids will be kids." Well, I hope so. Because I am a kid, and it will suck for my children to be more grown-up than I am.