Imag­ine your life as a mod­ern child. Can you imag­ine it? Prob­a­bly not, because the oper­a­tive word in the sen­tence is ‘modern’.

There is no child­hood any more. I know of few chil­dren who live an ear­ly life of free­dom, hap­pi­ness and good cheer.

Par­ents aren’t choos­ing free­dom for their chil­dren – they are choos­ing a caged life for their infants and chil­dren. Activ­i­ty cen­ters to sit in or lie pas­sive­ly under, bounc­ing jig­gling baby seats which like­wise keep the child pas­sive and con­tained, por­tacribs to sleep in. Top it off with TV and videos and you real­ize that infan­cy and child­hood has vir­tu­al­ly dis­ap­peared from ‘modern’ life.

So are there any chil­dren these days who splash in pud­dles or pick up sticks just for fun? I think it’s unlike­ly. I cer­tain­ly nev­er see those chil­dren in my neigh­bour­hood and I know there are many, many young chil­dren in my neigh­bour­hood. But the major­i­ty are either in insti­tu­tion­al care, in the care of moth­ers who work at home or in the care of indi­vid­u­als who are unaware of the true needs of a child to devel­op in a healthy fashion.

Chil­dren I have cared for are aston­ished when I sug­gest “We’ve had some rain and there are won­der­ful pud­dles out­side, put your boots on, we’re going for a walk” They look at me and say “but we’ll get water in our boots if we splash in pud­dles”!! I just tell them “we’ll dry them out when we get home”.

We then pro­ceed to have a won­der­ful wet and dirty time jump­ing in every pud­dle we can find! Added to it is a won­der­ful bath time in the mid­dle of the day!! (One of the ben­e­fits of being the only child cared for in your own or some­one else’s home). 

A friend of mine — a moth­er and grand­ma of sev­er­al chil­dren, one of whose grand­chil­dren at 5 has already been diag­nosed on the autism spec­trum — told the autis­tic grand­son and his broth­er “OK you have an hour to jump on the bed” They’d nev­er heard the like of it! They looked at her and she said “Yes, go ahead, jump on the bed – but only for 1 hour” and off they bounced, hap­py as clams.

It was she who remind­ed me about pud­dles and sticks and those nasty peo­ple who tell chil­dren not to jump in pud­dles and not to pick up sticks! She thinks like me. It’s like telling a child who likes to dress up “you can only change clothes three times a day”!!!!

So what’s ‘modern’ child­hood like? On aver­age a child will be left with or deliv­ered to a care­giv­er (who may or may not be the same per­son from day to day) any time after 7 a.m. each day (that gives mum or dad time to get to work). The end of the child’s day comes any­where from 5–6 pm.

Now let me check the maths – that amounts to around 10 hours each day in the care of ‘who knows?’ Based on a 5‑day work week the aver­age child is spend­ing 50 hours a week with some­one he or she doesn’t real­ly know and may or may not want to become attached to.

Have you ever seen those strollers that accom­mo­date four tod­dlers? They are used by day­care facil­i­ties to allow the chil­dren to be out and about in the fresh air! OK in prin­ci­ple but not on a reg­u­lar basis. 

Don’t get me start­ed on strollers that don’t face the adult who’s push­ing them. At some stage I’ll get into the British effort for par­ents to talk to their babies more and the ways it can be done.

I fre­quent­ly reflect on my children’s upbring­ing and my deci­sions at the time. In hind­sight there are things I would change. I hope I was able to com­pen­sate for my mis­takes over time.

I believe my children’s adult think­ing reflects the true child­hood they had. Our fam­i­ly focus was on their inter­ests and needs and the sta­bil­i­ty of the fam­i­ly unit as it affect­ed us all. 

Noth­ing can ever be per­fect; life’s not like that. There were many years when I was work­ing at home as well as edu­cat­ing them. My work was indi­vid­u­alised child­care for infants and tod­dlers. My sons were part of the team that helped raised oth­er people’s chil­dren and they also con­tributed to the well being and hap­pi­ness of those chil­dren. Those chil­dren like­wise enriched all our lives for the better.

But my work was such that my sons still had time to pud­dle jump and splash, pick up sticks, catch tad­poles, feed the ducks in the riv­er, “recycle” junk from the riv­er bank, build go-carts, build mod­el air­planes, paint, swim, play ball in the street. I think they had a “real” child­hood just not a ‘modern’ one. Did I men­tion that they were learn­ing all along the way?

I feel sad for the ‘modern’ child. 

Most devel­op­men­tal delays (no learn­ing tak­ing place) are direct­ly attrib­ut­able to the lack of child­hood – mark my words!