What does it takes to make childhood the most magical and lovable part of one’s life? Boys with grubby faces, frogs and beetles stuffed in grimy trouser pockets, pouncing on “stupid” girls to make them cry; eyes twinkling in anticipation of the next prank. Girls in frilly frocks and hair neatly tied with colourful ribbons; dolls lovingly tucked under the arm; busy with little pots and pans copying moms. Boys and girls playing cricket on a makeshift pitch with an upturned bucket as the stumps and a wall as the boundary line. Believing it an honour to carry the teacher’s stack of notebooks to class, struggling with homework, listening to bedtime stories and going off to sleep dreaming of castles, kings and talking animals—vignettes of a childhood as most of us knew it, right?
Childhood is all about purity of heart, unadulterated minds, simplicity of thoughts and unconditional love. Innocence is the one word which truly captures the essence of childhood.
Seeing childhood in its present form makes me wonder if it still does. And it makes me sad. Take little girls, for instance. Do the clothes they wear make them look like angels? Spaghetti straps, off-shoulder dresses, asymmetric tops—clothes designed to seduce and sizzle! These ensembles are just mindless copies of dresses worn by celebrities, ramp models and fashionistas of an older age bracket.
Our society has made a collective decision to stop children from being children. We are expecting them to grow up much too quickly, force-feeding them our own materialistic and consumptive culture. We are robbing them of much of the innocence of childhood. With television and the Internet playing a bigger role in their lives, children are being introduced to ideas and issues that used to be kept away. Rather than having fun and going out to play, they are receiving the adult world largely unfiltered.
Today’s kids are always in a competitive mode to achieve the best in everything they do. From being a topper in class to achieving the best in the extracurricular activities, children want to achieve the highest summit in everything they do. When I see them, one question lurks in my mind—in pursuit of their dreams, are children losing their innocence? In the midst of ever-growing competition, are they growing faster and turning mature exceptionally early?
In the tussle between the old and the new, it would be unfair to say that children of this generation are not enjoying as much as we did. To assume that yesteryears’ toddlers were happier is questionable. Happiness is always within—whether flying kites outdoors or flying a plane using simulated software is a matter of choice.
Your child may be manoeuvring the latest iPad with ease, but no longer believes in the magical moment of Santa leaving gifts under the tree.