Can kids just be kids?

I’m noticing a trend now that I have daughters.  I guess this isn’t something you would notice as a man until you had girls.  It never crossed my mind until I got married, and my wife and I had kids.  I hope that I’m not being over sensitive to it either, but I am trying to teach my kids to reach for the stars.  We’re teaching them to be anything that they set their mind to be, and helping them stay on that track until they can do it on their own.

I have very young kids, and we enjoy taking them to places.  We take them to the beach, to the park, to nature trails, to museums, etc.  We enroll them in sports, and different kind of classical dances.  I’m very proud that my wife and I are giving them all of the opportunities that we didn’t get as kids.  It’s an awesome feeling seeing them during a recitals, practices, or playing a sport that they love.  It’s kids in their element; having fun and playing.

What I’m noticing is that very young kids can’t just be kids now a days.  My youngest isn’t school aged yet, but whenever she plays with a boy?  I hear the adults say things such as “Look at lil so and so’s girlfriend!”  “Lil so and so has a girlfriend!”  “Look at my lil guy, he’s such a chick magnet!”  “Look at my guy, he’s such a flirt, he’s a ladies man!”  The list goes on.  It may be innocent talk, and it’s cute because they’re so young.  Like seeing a dog wearing a suit.  Dogs aren’t supposed to wear suits, and kids aren’t supposed to date.  So it’s funny.  It’s just make believe, and no one means anything by it.  We as adults know that.  What about those kids though?  What do they think when they hear it?

I’ve had parents, and grandparents say this in front of me about both of my children.  I remember being in a store, and having a lil boy wave at my youngest.  Not even school aged yet, and the grandfather remarked how his lil grandson is already getting the ladies.  I stopped smiling when he said it, and said that kids like making friends.  He nodded, and kept walking with his grandson.  I don’t want to be that guy constantly bites people’s heads off at mindless comments.  I usually just ignore it but…

I’ve wanted to strangle people at times.  I usually reply something to the effect of “That’s what you think?” and give them a lil laugh.  My kids don’t understand gender roles, or what boyfriend/girlfriends are.  They see a kid and want to make friends.  They just want to play.  They want to make friends with boys, and with girls.  When parents see it?  They have no problem telling the kids that they are going out, and the girl is usually referred to as a possession.  It’s always “Look at (fill in the name here)’s lil girlfriend!”  You never hear,” Look at my lil so and so, he’s a lil boyfriend!”  It’s automatically the girl chasing the boy.  And it’s not seen as friends, but as a precursor to their future dating.

I’m not old school, or the type that will try to keep my kids hidden, or blind to the world.  I want them to go out, have fun, and live life.  I know that they will grow up one day, and date.  I’m prepared for that when they’re at an appropriate age, and after we’ve taught them about the world.  I’ll keep them informed, and guide them to be safe, and to be mindful of what’s out there.  I just don’t like people talking about children who aren’t even school aged as boyfriends and girlfriends.  What will my kids see themselves as if that’s all that they’re hearing from adults before they start kindergarten?  Why is my daughter wanting to play at the park with your son mean that my daughter is chasing after him for a relationship?

Middle school, and high school will be tough enough for them.  Why not let them be kids for a few more years, and just play?  I know parents don’t literally mean what they say.  It’s all fun talk.  They are not wanting adolescents to be in relationships.  But what is the thinking behind it?  Why are concepts that are way too mature for children something fun to joke about in front of them?  They are at a very formative age, and are soaking up everything cognitively like sponges.  It’s play talk, but people should be mindful to what it’s doing to kids.  People wonder why kids act way too old, and do bad things at such young ages.  I don’t.  I’m pretty sure those kids grew up hearing much more of this play talk, and felt encouraged by it as a side effect.

I do not want my kids to be starting school, and already referring to themselves as a girlfriend.  I want them to aim a lil higher than that.  Maybe think of themselves as a future President, Astronaut, Doctor, etc.  Or as they’re suggesting now, Archaeologist, Artist, Marine Biologist, Veterinarian, or Paleontologist.  I think that all little girls should be encouraged to aspire to the loftiest of expectations.  I know that as a lil boy I was encouraged to be whatever it is that I set my mind too.  Kids shouldn’t have to enter school thinking that their role is to chase boys, and be lil so and so’s girlfriend.  That’s not something I want them to be taught, or to learn.  There will be a time for that talk years and years from now.

I know that this is mainly the way that we think, so I don’t get overly vocal about it.  I’m guilty of doing it myself when I was growing up, and living it as a young boy.  It doesn’t make me happy now that I’m aware of it, but what can I do to people like that?  Nothing really.  All I can do is teach my kids that they can do anything other people can do.  Even boys, and that they can attain their dreams one day if they work hard at it.  Don’t limit yourself, and don’t think that you have to be a label.  Don’t depend on anybody but yourself, and don’t let others define who you are.  Or what you are.

They’re young, but they already know that they have to study hard, try hard, and do their best so that they can be what they want to be.  My eldest tries to ace all of her assignments, because she wants to go to college.  She knows that college leads to the job she wants to get.  That if she doesn’t try hard, and doesn’t get an education?  She will be limited at what she can accomplish, and won’t get that dream job of hers.  The same dream job that will probably change a dozen more times until she graduates high school.  She does not like that at all.

If I had a boy, I’d tell him the same things.  I’d hold off on the boyfriend girlfriend play talk for now.  I’d teach them to work hard towards their goals, and to try to attain whatever it is that they dream of doing.  I’d teach them to aspire for greatness, and to do their best on assignments so that they can go to college.  I’d also teach them that they can be friends with everyone, and that’s fine.  Girls can be their friends, and they can enjoy playing at the park with them.  They make great teammates when fighting imaginary zombies

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