People sometimes ask me how ageism impacts children.
After all, the youngest among us would seem to be the ultimate beneficiaries of a prejudice against the old.
Consider this recent confessional by Katie Roiphe
My 18-month-old recently had his first school interview. Apparently he sailed through it, though how is somewhat mysterious to me. Especially since he calls all fruits “apples” and sentences such as “Mommy. Moon. Get it” are not necessarily indicative of a huge understanding of the workings of the universe. However, no one is too young for the system, and a small obstacle like language cannot be permitted to get in the way of the judging and selecting and general Darwinian sorting to which it is never too soon to accustom yourself in this city. I have been asked to write recommendations for other one-and-a-half-year-olds for this same lovely school, and have thought of, but did not actually write, “He knows a lot about trucks.”
Please consider the state of childhood in culture that leads a young mother to write…
I have been asked to write recommendations for other one-and-a-half-year-olds…
What is this all about? We know the answer. This is all about the adults and their adulthood. The children are just collateral damage.
You might think it would be enough to be unnaturally occupied with your own children’s admissions saga, but you would be wrong: it is also important, in certain circles, to be unnaturally occupied with other people’s admissions sagas. Recently at a dinner party a few blocks from my house, someone said that the wife of a well-known man was lying about where their twin boys got into school. The mother of these twins claimed that they had “chosen” a less prestigious school over another more prestigious school, but someone else “knew for a fact” from a connection in the admissions department of the more prestigious school that they had not got in. This mother, the story went, who had given up working to raise her twins, experienced the school rejection as such a crushing failure that she lied about it. And the person who did the energetic digging and unearthing? I am not sure what her motivation was. Does someone at this dinner party stop to think, “Who have we become?” I think in the corner was a disaffected father, muttering about the class system, but I wasn’t there.
Adulthood rules our world and it does so with an iron fist of performance objectives. Much of my work is devoted to exposing this “cult of adulthood” and trying the create a more healthy balance between childhood, adulthood and elderhood. Each of this life stages has its own strengths and weaknesses and its own sources of grief and joy.
Changing Aging will continue to document and rail against the “adultification” of childhood because this process is doing great harm to people of all ages, classes and regions.