Time is mankind’s universal remedy — everything fades as it grows older. Although memories of moments that cause heartbreak last lifetimes, a human’s ability to cope with hardship does strengthen with time. Yet, it is also the force that causes the most wondrous things to come to an end; time destroys. Inevitably, all the things that we hold dear to us will fade, and suddenly we are faced with an uncertainty that can’t be overcome alone.

Several parenting websites state that a person’s childhood ends around the age of 12. Let that sink in…12! The average person in the U.S has a lifespan of around 80 years, so why do we expect kids to grow up so quickly when there is so much life to be lived? From a young age, kids are tailored to act and think in a certain way, and schools become hotbeds for conformity. Just like that, kids grow up in a blink of an eye and move away from home. Think about it. Close your eyes and take a second to relive your favorite childhood memory. Doesn’t it feel like just yesterday you were free of all responsibility and could dream without anyone’s expectations clouding your joy? Now, think about a 15-year-old having to go through a similar type of stress that an adult might face because they live in a society that expects teenagers to be mature and understand how to deal with stress on their own. How is that fair? Time really isn’t to blame for a child needing to grow up so fast; children have the rest of their lives to experience the whole world. We should let them stay as kids for as long as they can.

Growing up isn’t a bad thing, but it definitely isn’t something that should be rushed, especially in a person’s teenage years. Kids see and hear things that they don’t understand, these things get etched into their subconscious mind. Then, when they are teenagers, they start to understand what they experienced, and those repressed memories start to manifest in their behavior and can seep out in unhealthy ways. Going through all that and then having to deal with the pressure of school and the inevitable persistence of time and an uncertain future is extremely difficult. The sooner a child grows up, the sooner they leave, but this relationship doesn’t need to be so direct. Childhood is about helping a kid create a support system, but more importantly, helping them find a reliable source of comfort within themselves — that shouldn’t be rushed by anyone.

For most people, the best time of life was childhood, but no matter how much we want to be young again, it won’t happen. However, we can change the way we perceive the term “childhood.” What makes a child so special? Simple. Children aren’t afraid to be themselves. They are filled with a rare type of innocence and wonder that makes the world seem like an ocean of opportunity rather than a swamp of uncertainty. That mindset is what really defines childhood, and who is to say that it can’t be experienced by everyone? If we were all truly happy with who we were and ready to face our mistakes, then the thought of growing up wouldn’t have such a negative connotation. People would be happier because they were allowed to take their time learning about themselves and gaining the confidence to be able to face the competitiveness of the world. So why should our childhood end at age 12? Or 18, when we become an adult? Or even at the age of 45? We all have a chance to feel the joy a child feels, no matter what age we are. We don’t need to grow up by a certain age, we need to take our time experiencing and learning as much as we can about ourselves and our world. Time shouldn’t get to dictate how we view our childhood or at what age someone needs to grow up. Time can create, but ultimately, people should rule over their own lives and leave behind a positive mark.

So how do we create a positive environment where people don’t view growing up as the end of a wondrous childhood? Well, like everything, it starts with children. If we show kids that going to high school, applying for college, and then a job, moving out from home, etc, aren’t signs that they are growing up to leave something behind, but rather growing up to add on another chapter to a beautiful life, the future won’t seem so bleak and uncertain. This mindset can apply to everyone, regardless of age! We should keep a hold onto our childhood, the best times of our lives, and learn to experience each new stage in life with open arms, and take our time doing so. Maybe then, we will live in a world where the unknown isn’t so scary and the youth, who will one day rule the future, are self-assured and ready to make a lasting, positive impact.