I don’t like the expressions “raising children” or even “rearing children”. It implies the end product is children.
If you’re a parent, you’re not aiming for an end product of childhood, but an end product of adulthood. You’re not raising kids, you’re raising grownups!
I’m not trying to imply that children shouldn’t have a childhood, play, be silly, and enjoy life. On the other hand, I think it would do most grownups I know a lot of good to play, be silly and enjoy life, too. I think that particular aspect of life is less a developmental stage and more of a part of the human condition. Hell, I’m in my 40s and I like snowball fights, baking cookies, making up games when playing in the pool, and being absurd as much as I ever did. Doesn’t stop me from mopping the floor when it gets dirty or doing taxes.
What I do think is that we prolong childhood way too far.
I was thinking about it this weekend when I revisited one of my favorite movies, The Lost Boys. The focal characters were mostly between the ages of 16 and 19. Even casting aside the whole idea that they were vampires, so probably even older than that, these characters were what happens when you have people whose bodies are adults, but they’re at loose ends because they’re told that they’re children, powerless and don’t have a useful or productive place in society. All that youthful energy had nowhere to go. Energy that has nowhere to go more often than not goes into destructive channels.
The mother character gave completely mixed messages to her oldest son that got even stronger when you get to see some of the scenes that were cut from the final release. Now, on the whole, I think the character was quite a good mother, but merely acting as a product of our society. On the one hand, she wanted him to look after his younger brother when she couldn’t be there – to be a parent surrogate. That’s an adult role. But then she discouraged him, in some cut scenes, from contributing financially to the family in a time of need. Sure, her reasoning was understandable. She wanted him to continue his education! But what she was really discouraging him from doing was stepping up to the plate as an adult and contributing to the welfare of his loved ones.
Given our social and economic structure, I’m not sure how this problem is going to be solved, but we need to and soon. It’s been going on since the 1950s and we’re going to run ourselves into the ground if we don’t stop it.