Time, Weekends, & Childhood

The protective wall of childhood innocence is being breached

The Psalmist sings of praise and wisdom from an unexpected source: “out of the mouth of children and of babes” (8:2). Occasionally one can find another source: in advertisements. An ad seen this morning in the Washington Metro was headlined “Childhood Passes Faster Than a Weekend.”

Don’t it?

Perhaps I’m a bit nostalgic, as my middle child just graduated college (see thoughts on that here) and the youngest will start in three years. But before I go all Tevye on you and start singing “Sunrise, Sunset,” I offer some thoughts on how swiftly fly the years.

Looking back on the passage of two-thirds of my parenting charges, the one thing I would have done differently is start earlier and be firmer on what I wanted to pass on to them. It’s said that St. Ignatius once remarked, “Just give me a child until six.” Perhaps we modern Catholics don’t believe that. Looking at toddler drag queen story hours, it’s pretty clear today’s sexual groomers do.

Up until now, the single-digit age years have been largely familial: families in theory could make the greatest impression on their children. Economic changes, especially the state’s quest for and parents’ acquiescence in the state’s primacy in “day care,” has made children “public” in ways previous generations never envisioned. I’m not here to litigate the reasons for this. I merely state it as a fact.

Up until now, the modern state has pretended to be “value neutral,” a public square in which moral concerns were supposedly reduced to a minimum in order to pitch a broad public tent. I never found this Rawlsian vision of the public square convincing, and it is certainly not today. “Woke” culture clearly aspires to invest the public square with its morality as the “public” morality, to be transmitted by all public contacts with anyone. It’s there that the protective wall of childhood innocence, once cultivated by the family and its primacy over childrearing, is being breached.

Unless one is homeschooling, the need to double down on shaping your culture is more imperative today than ever.

“Childhood passes faster than a weekend” is perhaps also a warning to the pool of children suffering from parental divorce. “Resilience,” an adult excuse to assuage their guilty consciences, is often employed to justify kids being shuttled on weekends and holidays between parents. If a weekend passes so rapidly, who really is forming those children over a childhood? If anybody has any doubts, read this painful essay about “families” and divorce from First Things.

So, before the clock runs down, let’s chuck the shibboleths of “quality time” and, instead, make time before it passes, before others with an agenda decide to preempt you.


John M. Grondelski (Ph.D., Fordham) was former associate dean of the School of Theology, Seton Hall University, South Orange, New Jersey. All views expressed herein are exclusively his.

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