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Child's Play or Parent's Way?:

1999

I was three when my family moved to Florida from Massachusetts. Florida held many new wonders for me. In addition to sunshine all year round, there were lizards, bugs of every variety, and trees that were ideal for climbing. I spent most of my first year in Florida either in a tree or chasing down some hapless animal. It was fun while it lasted. I spent my second year in Florida not in the warm sunshine, but in the hot spotlight. You see, I was a child model for K- Mart. At the time I was too naÔve to know what had been taken away from me. All that I knew was that I wanted to be outside frolicking in the sun.

I feel parents, in general, push their kids too hard, too soon, and too fast. Children, all the while, are happy to comply with Mommyís and Daddyís every wish. At the time, they have no idea they are being robbed of their childhood. Every parentís dream for their child is to see him or her do better than they did. In essence, they make up for their regrets through their children. Their children must be smarter, prettier, and more athletic. Parents have the obtuse idea that in order to do this they have to start early.

All too often, a parentís attempt to assist their child in being an early achiever ends in tragedy. One case in point is JonBenet Ramsey. Her mother was a Miss America pageant contestant who started her daughter in beauty pageants at the tender age of 5. Nobody knows who killed her, but I think itís safe to say it was an obsessed fan. I hold the parents accountable. Her mother obviously never lived up to her own expectations or her parentsí of her, whichever of the two provided the driving force behind her not-so- successful modeling career. This probably left her with regrets and remorses that she would later attempt to subdue through her daughter. Her daughter was a bloom that was prodded open before its time. Like a flower, she was forced open and didnít live long after being exposed so early.

The general obsession parents have with molding their children in the cast of their regrets also ended the life of Jessica Dubroff. Jessica was seven years old when her life ended in a tragic plane accident. Her flight instructor and her father died with her. Her father was pushing her to establish a record as a pilot prodigy. She was so driven that even though the onset of a storm was imminent, she hopped into the Cessna and flew off to her death

There are many reasons why "faith in the eternal rhythms of childhood has been lost." These reasons arenít limited to parental control. Some of these are by chance or by circumstance such as the case of the 14th Dalai Lama, His Holiness, Tenzin Gyatso. He was identified at the age of two as the reincarnation of the 13th Dalai Lama. This cut his childhood at the roots. By the age of five, he was in the capital of Tibet. To be that young and in a position of power is asking a lot of a child. Many great leaders began their reigns at an early age. Further examples of this are Queen Victoria, King Solomon, and King Edward III. They all handled their power with maturity and justice; however they never knew the joys of childhood.

If society persists in placing such high expectations on children, the right will no longer be reserved to the parents to determine when to enroll them in school and at what rate they should be progressing intellectually. In England, children start school earlier than American children. In England it was deemed by the government that it was the common desire of its people and thus made standard, removing any choice the parents had in their childrenís right to a childhood. It is necessary for children to have a time in their life to learn solely from their parents and from their home environment, things that school just can not provide adequately. It gives children the chance to understand the world around them. When I entered Kindergarten, I did not know my own address or phone number, and I had no idea not to talk to strangers, and I was a very friendly child. Most children know that going into school. However, nothing bad became of it.

Children possess the innate desire to please their parents; they do not need to have this characteristic instilled in them. Rather than drive them to exceed that, parents should provide support and a tender nudge in the right direction. Metaphorically, kids can be seen as a present you are supposed to open on Christmas. You donít open the present early because it ruins the surprise. How children will turn out will be revealed in due time. Good things come to those who wait.