You may look at this picture and think it’s really cute or adorable even? Kids are sponges and absorb everything that surrounds them. It’s how they learn. A major part of learning is mimicking everyday life. All children pretend at being a grown up and fantasize as to what it must be like. I know I did! I even offered my mother a cup of coffee which was made out of mud and water, it had froth and everything. My culinary skills didn’t stop there either, she was partial to a slice of mud pie and if she was going out I was always sure to offer her a dab of my very own rose petal perfume made from…you’ve guessed it mashed up rose petals and water. There isn’t a child out there that doesn’t play at being a grown up. But these days, in this cappuccino culture we live in, there seems to be less of the make believe and more of the real thing, and at such an early age.
The other day I was on the daily school run and a few of my daughters friends were walking along the road with takeaway coffee cups in their hands. They probably had hot chocolate or babycinos or something but it was the way in which they swaggered down the road with their handbag like school bags and hair all tousled that made me take notice. They were desperately trying to look cool and grown up and the takeaway coffee cups were a key part in bringing the look together. If I hadn’t have known better I would have put them in their late teens, the way in which they were interacting with each other, the language they used…I don’t mean they were swearing, but they chatted like I do to my friends, and called each other honey and gossiped about music and clothes and make up much the same as I do. They swapped stories about who was seeing who and who said what on Facebook and where they were meeting to go shopping that weekend. Can you picture the scene? How old would you say they were? Would you be surprised if I told you that between them they were aged 9 and 10?
My daughter started secondary school this September and we have given her a mobile phone for the first time, she is now allowed to the park and into town to meet her friends and given a well-earned taste of independence but a level of independence she can cope with. So I was quite dismayed to hear that a group of her friends were going shopping to Westfield on their own the other Saturday. I was shocked to tell the truth. At the age of 11 I was just about allowed to the post office at the end of the road (I seem to recall, perched on the back of a friend’s bike sitting on a very uncomfortable wire rack but was preferable to walking)! Those were the days when we all played out in the streets without fear of speeding cars, paedophiles and weirdoes!
So in times of ridiculous daily paranoia, in which we live, where no-one trusts anyone and every stranger is an axe murderer , I find it astounding that children (and at the age of 11 they are very much still children) are allowed, encouraged even, to lead the lives of adults. What is there for them to look forward to? Although I was flabbergasted at the thought of my daughter going to Westfield, if I am honest and had said she could go, I am pretty sure she would have declined the offer as she knows she would be out of her comfort zone. She is a savvy kid and likes her independence, but only to a certain extent and knows she will grow more and more independent as she gets older. But for now she is happy and confident within her boundary’s.
Are we allowing our children to grow up too quickly and do you think the cappuccino culture and social media are partly to blame, with coffee shops and internet cafes on every corner, in every secondary school and a huge part of our daily lives?