Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Is Youth Wasted on the Young?

I have just come up with a hypothesis so revolutionary that I wanted to share it with you right away: Youth just might be wasted on the young.

My first piece of evidence: Big Boy has recently decided that he will not deign to eat dinner, regardless of what is served to him. Whether it be such adventurous cuisine as tofu burritos or eggplant parmesan or more standard fare like macaroni and cheese or PB&J, he categorically refuses to eat. 

Some more evidence: Tiny Baby is an excellent sleeper, especially for an eight month old infant.  Nevertheless, he seems occasionally scandalized by the suggestion that he lie in his crib and sleep, even when he is obviously tired.  Big Boy, too, protests his naps now and then, even though he routinely sleeps three hours in the afternoon and eleven hours at night.

And I want to tell them: do you know how much I would love to be served nutritious, well-balanced meals three times a day complete with fruit (pre-sliced) and veggies (gently steamed)?  To never lift a finger in their preparation or clean-up?

And I want to warn them: when you get old like me, you will be tired all the time and naps will be few and far between. 

And I, the war-weary mother, want to ask them:  Do you know how lucky you are?  Your worries are few.  Your "jobs" are to play, to absorb, and to explore. The only expectations of you are that you eat, sleep, pee, and poop.  And when you do these things, praise rains down upon you.  Enjoy it while it lasts, boys! 

And then I think of a little girl with long brown hair and glasses.  A little girl who refused to eat meat, who subsisted for several years on egg noodles and American cheese.  A little girl who, in spite of being a champion sleeper, stayed awake some nights conjuring imaginary worlds in her head or exploring books with the flashlight she had secreted under her covers.  A good little girl who nevertheless tried her parents' patience.

And she is tired now.  Tired from spending more time preparing healthful meals than eating them.  Tired from spending more time convincing other people (small people) to nap than actually napping herself.  Tired from the business of adulthood.

But she is wise, too.  Wise from the lessons she learned as a child, in a youth of asserting herself, of resisting the easy, of pushing back against the right-in-front-of-her.  Strong from practicing adulthood even as a kid.

Knowing what you do now about adulthood, would you choose to go back and relive your childhood?

Image: A Child Sleeping by Alessandro Zangrilli via Wikimedia Commons.  Image is in the public domain.


  1. As you know, I often find myself nostalgic for the seeming simplicity of youth. But when I think about it, I would never go back. Everything seems so pure and idyllic in retrospect, but at the time, I don't things were so. No, there were struggles and confusions and lessons. There was an evolution, slow and exquisite, going on. And we are who we are today - tired, wise, full - because of it. I pine for my childhood and yet I would not want to relive it.

    I think there is something magical about raising kids while remembering bits and pieces of childhood. I think this remembering infuses us with more humor and understanding. And it is humor and understanding that gets us through the compelling chaos of parenthood.

    Great post.

  2. No WAY. Kids are so mean to one another. And I didn't have any skills to handle those cretins.

  3. I don't think I would go was hard especially starting around 5th grade. But wish I could remember more of it....I don't remember much of what is was like before 5th grade, really. A few memories, mostly of how my fear of spiders came about and a few snapshots of places. I am enjoying the youth of my kids and hope to enjoy it far more than I enjoyed my own!

  4. Reminds me of quote a heard on a movie preview for a new Ben Stiller movie: "Youth is wasted on the young and life is wasted on...people." I've often have the same thoughts you do, but as a kid all I can remember is wanting to grow up!

  5. I don't think so. I am "re-living" my childhood through my children. Hopefully doing a little bit better than my parents did (which is a compliment to them). Teaching, exploring, and gaining new perspectives. I am happier in my life now, than I ever was as a child.

    But, I agree. Youth seems to be wasted on the young. They definitely do not have to wake up at 5 am to work out.

  6. I wouldn't go back and relive MY childhood. I'd rather go back and relive someone else's.

  7. I would never go back because it would mean having to live through high school again - the horror! But really, the great gift of adulthood is, for me, knowing who I am more and more every year, and being less and less afraid to do things. I guess it just took age to get to this point.

    But here is more evidence that youth is wasted on the young: when they hit their tween years, they start pretending they're mature and too grown up for some activities that are "babyish" (not my kids, thank goodness) and then they WASTE their last goofy childhood years!

  8. Thanks so much for stopping by my site the other day. I loved your quote about Sting. So great!
    I must agree with you about youth being wasted on the young. I would love to have someone cooking for me with no stress. Once you are wise, you are too tired to enjoy it. Well, maybe not.

  9. I feel like I had a version of this post floating around my head :) Loved it! Because it's so true.
    That being said, there's no way I would want to go back to my childhood. It was wonderful in all it's own ways, but no thank you.

  10. No way. Memory is so selective.Did you ever see "Our Town," and Emily dies and is allowed to go back and live one day over, but it has to be lived exactly the way it was. She picks her 12th b-day, a happy day. But when she goes back she wants to stop and just look at her mother, who looks so young. And talk to her brother, who had since died. But she can only do what she originally did on that day, which was to rush thru breakfast and out of the house w/o really seeing them. It always broke my heart. Sorry for the little rant there...
    On that same note, some days I'd like to be my cats and just eat, play and sleep.

  11. Children want to grow up so fast...adults wish they could be kids again, the infamous circle! I enjoyed this post.

  12. Go back to childhood? Nope, nope, nope. Now I would take 35 again, knowing what I know now. And a nanny.

  13. No, I wouldn't want my childhood to be burdened by adult wisdom...what's the fun in that? The fun is in discovering it yourself!

    I'm just reliving my childhood through my boys -- all four of them!

  14. I'd like to be the ages of my kids but have the understanding of an adult. Does that make sense? Meaning, I'd take FULL advantage of being 5 knowing what I do now! But based on the frustration I often see in Hannah and Luke's eyes, thinking everything is unfair... it's probably not as much fun for them!

    Oh what I wouldn't do to be forced to take a nap though!

  15. I love where I am in life. I would not want to go back. There are many parts of my childhood I choose to forget.

  16. I'm ready for grandkids and my youngest two are only ten months old.

  17. Your post is exactly why I randomly call my mother a half dozen times each year just to say "Thank you, thank you for loving me anyway, thank you for not shipping me off to a school for mouthy girls, thank you for it all. I get it now."


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