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Thursday, 7 April 2016

Let Kids be Kids

Let kids be kids.

I have actually always agreed with this sentiment, but not in the same way some people mean it. 

Sadly I frequently see this phrase used in a way that is more synonymous with "Restrict kids to basic things, don't trust them or their abilities."

Don't make kids learn about sexual education and puberty and the like. Because, Let kids be kids. 

Kids shouldn't be learning about LGBTIQ issues. Let kids be kids.

Kids shouldn't know anything about current big world issues, like war and death. Let kids be kids. 

This is just a couple examples of how this phrase is often used.  And it drives me crazy.

This particular usage of the phrase suggests that there is some universal truth on what kids are, what they think, how they think, what they like, what they are capable of. It's not dissimilar to the idea that boys like cars and girls like dolls.

 It's an -ism. Ageism.

 To me, Let kids be kids, means, let them be kids. Let the kids decide what it means to be kids. We are not kids any more, how can we know what it means to be a kid? How can we assume that we know better about being a kid than kids themselves?

 Let kids be kids. Let kids be people. Let kids be themselves. Let kids be.

So, when I read this article on The Guardian, about 9 year old Hilde Kate Lysiak and her real journalistic publication, Orange Street News, I was at once horrified and impressed beyond measure. 

Here is this young girl, making a choice on how she wants to be a kid, a big choice that has a lot of meaning, requires hard work, resilience and thought. Here she is doing the work that the "real" journalists weren't even doing. Here she is being amazing.

 And some people can only think to say, "Stick to tea parties and playing with dolls," and, "Leave it to the professionals," as well as insulting her work.

 Ugh. Seriously? I have to wonder if some of it isn't jealousy and elitism. Aaaaah a nine year old just did something I can't do. Horror of horrors. Someone restrict her freedom to be herself, because it is seriously hurting my superiority complex.

But I think it is also partially all about that ageism I mentioned earlier. The idea of kids being tiny stupid ineffectual beings is just what we are trained to believe. When a child breaks out of what is basically their traditional role (according to our Western society), it turns the world upside down. It makes people question everything they believe about kids. And this isn't always a comfortable road to take, this questioning of our assumptions.

 If a nine year old can be so eloquent, determined, knowledgeable, and, wow, can handle being near a murder scene. Then what does this mean about our assumptions of, say, the incapability of 13 year olds to get married and have children? It's a thought that could pop into your head and make you feel very, very, very uncomfortable. It's things like this that make amazing girls like Hilde an object of ridicule. 

I am not making any suggestions of if it's right or wrong for 13 year olds to get married and have kids. It's just an example of how our assumptions being proven wrong can lead us to question everything we believe. And that's why we fight so hard to keep people in the place society says they belong. So we can continue to be comfortable with our assumptions and not face the uncomfortable questions - no matter what the answer is, it's the questions we so badly want to avoid.

It's not Hilde who is doing anything wrong here. She doesn't deserve the criticism of her age, and her abilities based on her age. This is a problem you might have, yourself, with how you view the world. It's your problem, and it's not the place of a nine year old girl to shoulder that problem for you. You should be doing it yourself, not taking it out on someone else.

 Or can't you act like an adult?

This girl is awesome. She is being a kid, the kid she wants to be, she isn't letting some adult tell her how to be what she IS and they are most decidedly NOT! Good for her. Good on her parents for not trying to force her to be something else.

And you know what, it works the other way too. Let kids be kids also means, if a kid chooses to play with dolls and tea sets, then let them do so - don't force them to be a full on journalist or whatever else.

Kids can't make all the right choices, yet. Of course. But one choice they can make, is the choice on how to be kids. And they know how to make that choice way better than us adults do.

So we should probably just stay out of their way and let them be kids.


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