Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Importance of Childhood (or why we outlasted the Neanderthals)

Childhood is a gift - something to be cherished and taken care of. The Bible speaks of children as being gifts from God, and Jesus himself affirmed children in a way that was unheard of for his time, even going as far to say that we have to be like children in order to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

I always feels an immense joy when science confirms something that I already know to be true. Recently, I saw an interview with journalist Chip Walter, the author of Last Ape Standing, a new book about the latest anthropological research on the Neanderthals. When asked by a Wall Street Journal reporter, "Why did human beings outlive the Neanderthals?", he responds like this:

"We, more than any other primate, developed a long childhood. . . . Our personal experience as children is what lays the foundation for the interesting people that we become later. We develop individual talents and later those turn into individual ideas. Then there were more and more homo sapiens as we became more and more successful, because of our larger brains, the ability to communicate and to share our creativity. And ultimately, that’s how you end up with civilzation. . . . And that’s why . . . there are 7.5 billion of us and we’re living in every nook and cranny of the planet. "

Do you hear what he is saying? Not only is childhood a beautiful thing, it is an essential thing. A prolonged childhood - the ability to learn, explore, experience and be mentored by loving caregivers - was (and is) key to the longevity of the human race. 

But many times it seems that childhood is blown off as unimportant in our world. In the West, TVs are used as babysitters, companies market strategically to tweens, and even worse sexualize children in ad campaigns. In other parts of the world, children are sold into various forms of slavery or forced to do hard labour in sweatshops.

My friend, Storyteller from Wonderful in an Easter Kind of Way, writes in this post about a woman who gave up teaching, "because they will pay you to take care of their money, but not to take care of their children." When things get financially tight, the funds for education and services that help children are usually the first to get cut. Even happens in the church, which should definitely know a lot better. 

When we put our children last, we are ultimately putting the whole human race at risk.

Please don't write Chip Walter off just because you may not agree with his worldview. Whether you are a progressive creationist, theistic evolutionist, atheist, agnostic, Young Earth creationist, or of a completely different religion other than Christianity, let his words about childhood sink in. 

Here is the full interview for anyone who wants to watch. The part that I quoted comes in the last two minutes of the interview.

Here you can find another article by Chip Walter specifically about the benefits of childhood.

Let's do whatever it takes to make sure that the children in our nations are allowed to remain children, and give them the love, attention and educational opportunities that they deserve!

Linked to Friday's Nature Table at The Magic Onions


  1. I stumbled upon Pig Tail Pals last year. When I linked over, I thought they were spoofing the Submarine Swimwear thing -- it was SO over the top. It took me a couple of days to get through that atrocity, so now I'm back.

    A good book about the importance of childhood is Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne. The book also talks a lot about the how-to protect our children's childhoods.

    One of the things that he wrote in the introduction went something along the lines that, if we don't stop the madness that has overcome our ideas of children and childhood, in a few years we're going to start seeing the effects in a society being run by the first generation of adults who were robbed of childhood. That's a scary proposition.

    Childhood is not something to be hurried to get onto something important. Childhood is important.

    1. Hi Mama, Pig Tail Pals was one of the first blogs to alert me to how children are being sexualized in advertising. Hence the link.: ) I don't live in the US, so I was a bit out of the loop as to what was going on in advertising. Here in Europe we sexualize other things - like ice cream. No joke, the beer commercials are the most family-oriented things ever, and some of the ice cream commercials are pretty racy.

      Payne's book has been a foundational one for me as well. I have tried to incorporate his ideas about Simplicity into our home as well as into my teaching and blogged about his book after I read it in 2011.

      You're absolutely right. Childhood is something to be savored.

    2. I came to pigtail pals when we were having a serious issue with a family member about Bratz dolls. You might have already read it. If you haven't, here's a link. It was such an amazing experience for me when God handed me something so beautifully in a difficult situation.

      I also came to Pigtail Pals when we dealt with a "Monster High" birthday party. I guess I better get around to blogging that. Gracie wanted to start a letter writing campaign to Mattell. That's my girl xo

      Always enjoy your thoughts (: