Allow me to warn you right off the bat that this is going to be a bit of a rant. So, I told you first, let the record show.
I've been teaching 7th and 8th grade for eight years now, which means that my first classes are now actually adults, which is weird. But aside from that, I still have contact with many of the kids who have passed through my classroom doors and sometimes, I just want to take their faces in my hands and say "Stop. Right now." (Though let me make it perfectly clear that this is not about any one person, but about a general problem I have with society in general terms.) What disturbs me, thus being the topic of this particular rant, is how quickly some of them want to grow up, how quickly society wants them to grow up on the whole. And it's frightening to me.
First of all, growing up isn't really all it's cracked up to be. Can I get amen from those of you who would gladly go back to the time when you lived for free at your parents' and your greatest concern was what you were going to do on the weekend? Having bills to pay, decisions to make--sometimes, it really sucks. We all know that now. And I get that it can only be learned the hard way.
The deeper issue is how these kids want to grow up in other ways too. Society pushes teens, particularly girls for some reason, to be more than whatever they are. I get that this could be a positive thing, but let's be honest and say that most of the time it's not. We look at a girl and tell her that she's thin but could be thinner, pretty but could be prettier. Society creates a lifestyle that looks like so much fun that it seems stupid not to replicate it. Why be average when you could be famous? Sadly, famous usually looks too much like infamous. One decision is really all that stands between the two.
In an effort to be "grown," young women tend to make poor choices. They end up compromising their beliefs, and ultimately, themselves. It may be drinking or drugs, it may be sex. Sometimes, parents are trying to stop them before they make a decision they can't take back, but other times, they don't. Sometimes, the parents don't want to seem like the enemy, so they choose to be the friend. My point, and I promise I have one, is that we should encourage kids to be kids. We should tell them that they are good enough, smart enough, pretty enough and help them chase the things that matter, instead of those that don't. We can be the adults, and let the kids be the kids. Isn't that the way it was supposed to be all along?