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We are our childhood

By February 9, 2012 No Comments

We are our childhoods

“More and more,” wrote Angela Carter, “I am convinced that we are our childhoods.”
“We are our childhoods.” I heard it on the radio the other day, and it rocked me a bit, in the way that really great writers can tell you something that you’ve always known, at a deep level, but have never really thought about consciously or (more to the point I think) never wanted to examine too closely.
We are our childhoods.
In a country where childhood obesity is now a recognized trend rather than a rarity, where kids are more likely to be shooting monsters (or each other) on their Xboxes than building dens or climbing trees, where a recent survey by the Howard League for Penal Reform of more than 3,000 children found that almost three-quarters had been assaulted over the previous year, that’s not a comforting thought.
In 2007, a UNICEF report on the well-being of children around the world, ranked the UK at the bottom of the world’s 21 richest countries. For all six parameters: material well-being, health and safety, educational well-being, family and peer relationships, behaviour and risks and subjective well-being, the UK was amongst the bottom five countries
It made me wonder what the world will look like in fifty years time, when it’s being run by a generation that never learned to love the outdoors, that have few happy memories of playing in trees or on grass, and whose childhood reminiscences are rooted in violent experiences acted out for them by a computer chip, on a television screen, or in the playground.
I’ll be dead, or nearly so by then of course, but (and here’s the thing) that’s the world my kids will have to live in.
So if we are our childhoods, if our lives are, as I believe, rooted completely in the lives we had growing up, don’t we owe it to our kids to take a long, critical look at the childhoods we allow them to have today?
Don’t we have a duty, not just to them but to the future they will shape, to give them more of what they need, and less of what they don’t?
I’m reading a report by Play England called A World Without Play. It’s talking about the steady erosion of children’s opportunity of play, as well as the evidence of how important play, and the opportunity to indulge in it regularly, is for every aspect of a child’s development.
A world that understands and supports children’s play is a world that is likely to be healthier, more vital, more alive and happier than a world without play.
We are our childhoods. And so’s the world.

Jonathan Millington

Author Jonathan Millington

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