Bailey and her friends were the cheerleaders for the 8/9 year old football team this fall. They practiced twice a week and did a great job. It was great fun watching them do their routines. This photo was taken at Bronco stadium on a hot Saturday.
I’ve been thinking a lot about my kids and what they are capable of doing. As I thought about the role of children in society I remembered the work of Lewis Hines. Who is Lewis Hines? Lewis Hines (1874-1940) was a photojournalist/sociologist whose photography of working children was instrumental to the establishment of American child labor laws.
When working children were as common as working adults he was, in his time, a radical do gooder seeking to bring mercy to the plight of children working in factories and on the street corners of America.
It was a noble effort. Who can disagree that having children selling papers on street corners til 8PM is a bad idea? Who can dispute the need for regulation in the glassmaking factories or mines? Especially for working children.
These photographs illustrate a childhood (in America) that is now completely removed from society. The changes that have taken place are amazing.
Child labor laws prompted a brand new concept to mankind. They transformed childhood into something that it had not been from the beginning of time. You might say the notion of childhood was born with these new laws.
Children used to be small adults learning the ropes of life, learning how to work and be productive. Born to work. You’ve heard the idea of farm families having many children to work the farm. The daily labor requirements of life were so intense that adults needed help. This condition existed from the beginning of time until the last 60 years when technology lifted mankind out of the strenuous toil of life.
Think of it. From Adam until the early 1900’s children were working long, hard hours. In the history of humanity only the last few generations haven’t worked. Their childhood has changed into something else.
There are different ways to look at it.
You could argue that it was a horrible injustice to rob these kids of their childhood. Working in the fields and factories deprived them of free time to play and loaf around. Without the luxury of unlimited free time some might say that their sorrowful young lives were tragic.
You could also argue that childhood, the way it’s established now, is a fabricated falsehood of life and a disservice in the development as adults.
Some of my questions:
Should children be responsible for producing? Or are they perfectly acceptable only consuming?
Has the nature of a childs potential changed to the heights of schoolkids, piano players, basketball players and video game experts?
Are their capacities underestimated? What should/can they be expected to do?
Is it a disservice in their development to fabricate a false reality so they can frolic in fantasy? Should they work?
I don’t know the answers to these questions they’re only questions that I ponder. Here’s what I believe:
Growing up is the gradual removal of innocence. The expression “he turned into a man” means that a child lost a piece of his innocence. The speed of that removal varies from person to person. Some lose their innocence quick, others lose it slow.
A sad, disappointed adult is a child who never lost the innocence of a fantasy life. Life is tough and demanding. Children who are guarded from that fact to preserve their innocence are at risk of becoming disappointed adults. Life’s too big to hide from a person forever.
The kids Lewis Hines photographed lost their innocence real quick. Just look at that guy in the image directly above with the mustache. He looks like a professional innocence remover.
It’s a complicated topic: Converting my kids into responsible adults. I think about it often. These photos and thoughts are part of that process for me.
I don’t have it all sorted out but when my kids whine about their workload tell them this: I’m not raising kids. I’m raising adults.