I have gathered, when kids express they feel it can be hard to be a kid, some parents laugh, saying the kids’ feeling is wrong, that what is hard is being an adult and having to work and pay a mortgage, to earn money to care for and provide for kids who would turn and complain about their lot in lives.
Certainly, children know little of the problems of adulthood. There’s the exertions of work, the stress of finances, and the time consuming tasks of raising children. There’s the emotional stresses of wondering whether our life has really mattered, if we’ve made the right choices, and what type of world we’ll leave to our children.
We may find ourselves looking out on a summer day which we’re about to spend doing thankless office work or thankless housework and remember those summer days that were as free as rain water when we could do most anything we wanted. When we could sleep until 9 in the morning or later and then run until the sun went down, with almost boundless energy. What energy we often have is drained in drudgery spent at work and at home for kids who complain about their lot in life.
There’s something to be said for gratitude. Modern middle class American children need to learn it. If they were born another time or in another country, their lives would not be spent playing video games or demanding cell phones. They’d be spent working in the field or in some sweatshop. Their country and their parents have afforded them a great deal of opportunity.
Rather than blaming the children for feeling their lives are hard, let’s graciously remember two things. They typically lack the perspective on life needed to realize how easy they have it compared to past generations of kids and kids of lesser economic situations. They are also not capable of commiserating with the challenges of adult life. They’ve never been adults. But adults are capable of taking off their rose colored glasses and remembering what it was like to be children–what it was really like.
In addition, beyond the confines of the safe home you raise your well-adjusted family in, the sad reality is many children are suffering greatly in situations bad beyond our comprehension. Kids are easy to abuse in the most vile ways imaginable by adults. Kids from abusive and otherwise disadvantaged backgrounds can be easy prey for bullies. Kids suffer from hunger, starvation, discrimination, and poverty in every corner of the United States and even more so around the world.
Yet even kids in far better circumstances lack control. The biggest things that kids can’t control is who conceives them and who parents them. While there are now designer parents, children will never get to have designer parents. An infant doesn’t get to request an emotionally supportive father, a mother who will encourage her interest in sports, or a parent who will sacrifice part of her career to stay home with her and any siblings she has. They don’t get to choose if they’ll have a parent who will read to them.
Birth parents begin making decisions for a child before he’s even born by the birth mother’s habits during pregnancy and how she takes care of herself and then during the developmental years. Decisions are made about exposure to media and stimuli that will set the course for the rest of their lives.
Kids don’t get to choose their economic strata or what type of schools they’ll be able to attend. They don’t get to decide whether their parents will be dedicated to making their marriage and family work. They don’t get to decide how much exercise they’ll get in early life or whether their food will be healthy. They don’t get to decide whether the parents will make decisions that are far beyond their ability to understand: whether they’ll receive religious instruction or how it is given if it is.
Kids suffer all the time due to parental unwise decisions made as a result of a lack of knowledge of their unique kids’ unique needs and how to meet them while emotions like pride, fear, and shame keep the parents from seeking professional help. Parents can allow kids to do whatever they want, only for the children to suffer later because the parents didn’t consistently say no to something harmful.
Some types of short term pain produce long term benefits. Parental-induced boredom may be meant to prepare children for the fact life isn’t a non-stop party of fun. Limiting junk food and screen time may produce healthy bodies when they’re older. Yet, such reasoning is beyond a child’s comprehension.
From a child’s own, limited perspective, it is indeed hard to be a kid. After all, even as adults, Christians are still children in relation to God. We don’t get to decide his Word or His Commandments, His Ways are often beyond our comprehension. And, if we are truly submitted, then we are not in control, He is. And at times, we don’t understand, and get very frustrated at how hard this foreign way to live is.
If it is hard, at times, to be a child in the hands of a God who loves us, how much harder is it to be a child helplessly in the hands of well-intentioned but flawed human beings?