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Growing up a little too fast

Charla Belinski
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Is it just me, or does anyone else think we’re pushing our kids into a grown-up world too fast? Maybe just a teensy bit?Four-year-olds play more organized sports than I knew existed; department stores are filled with belly-baring clothing that has second-graders looking like pop stars; PG-13 movies are, apparently, not just for 13-year-olds anymore; and even though myspace.com says you have to be 18 to have your own page, they don’t really mean it. But if there’s one thing Americans are great at, it’s topping even their own world records of poor taste.Take, for instance, the T-Ball National Championships, where 6-year-olds compete for the title, traveling to Florida, where they are subjected to taunting and screaming fits (and that’s just the coaches) and are reduced to tears upon losing. Or parents who push preteens into year-round sports so by the time they’re in high school the student can earn an athletic scholarship, thereby offsetting the cost of college tuition.My personal favorite has to be what I hope is not a new trend. I found out recently that a nightclub near my home is open to 16-year-olds. At first I thought it was a great idea that the owners would open their doors only to teenagers for a special night of music and fun, until I learned it isn’t exclusively for teens. It’s a regular night at the bar except for the fact 16-year-olds are allowed in. Supporters say the owners are vigilant about ensuring no alcohol is served to the minors, and insist it’s simply to expose the teens to the great music that graces the bar’s stage. And I’m sure that’s true. But let me get this straight: Teenagers are allowed to look but not touch? See all the pretty bottles lined up behind the bar? Sit right up to the handsome teakwood and granite topped counter? Enjoy the beautiful women baring too much skin? Observe both legal and illegal drugs being consumed before their very eyes? But they must not partake of it themselves. Go straight home and go to bed like a good teenager should. Yeah, right.What kind of message are we sending to these kids? Great music, my arse. Buy the kid an iPod. Why would we want to allow teenagers into a bar a full five years before they are even legal to enter? Maybe Vegas ought to open its casinos up as well … let the kids play a few rounds of blackjack with monopoly money. Am I missing something here? What’s next, a brothel?We may be going overboard with our expectation that kids need all of this exposure. Still, there are some things I think kids are never too young to learn: manners; respect; trustworthiness; a good work ethic; where babies come from; compassion for others; that failing at something doesn’t make you a failure; that some things, like drugs, are really, really bad for you; a sense of adventure; what you believe about faith and spirituality; family matters; how to save money and give back; how to tell a good joke; chess; how to dial 911; and how to make someone smile. But then again, maybe I’m just a kid at heart. If you’d like to add to the list of things we’re never too young to learn, e-mail Charla at belinskis@comcast.net. Charla Belinski’s column appears every other week in the Post Independent.


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