Growing up Asian, I’ve seen lots of situations and circumstances where a young child lives under tremendous pressure to succeed and achieve. And it seems the age is getting younger and younger. I know of an eight grader who took his SAT’s this past year. I didn’t start studying for mine until late sophomore year in high school.
There’s a poem by Rita Dove called “Flash Cards” that portrays this pressure at a young age (linked to the animated reading of it).
In math I was the whiz kid, keeper
of oranges and apples. What you don’t understand,
master, my father said; the faster
I answered, the faster they came.
I could see one bud on the teacher’s geranium,
one clear bee sputtering at the wet pane.
The tulip tree always dragged after heavy rain
so I tucked my head as my boots slapped home.
My father put up his feet after work
and relaxed with a highball and The Life of Lincoln.
After supper we drilled and I climbed the dark
before sleep, before a thin voice hissed
numbers as I spun on a wheel. I had to guess.
Ten, I kept saying, I’m only ten.
We don’t see many kids out playing these days. We used to play baseball, break windows to hit a home-run, play soccer, break windows ’cause we couldn’t aim, play with sewer lids, play with marbles, with dirt, with rocks, trees, with anything we could get a hold of. The streets were littered with children running around after 3:30 pm and the sounds of running, shouting, arguing for calls could be heard from the next neighborhood. I’ve visited my childhood neighborhood, there were no evidence of running, shouting, or even broken windows. I was only greeted by the sound of the wind, oddly telling me of its loneliness and how it missed playing with the sounds of play, even being drowned out by them.
I’m not sure if kids do not play outside now because they are busy studying, probably not entirely. I would imagine, the advancing technology in the area of computers and game systems plays a large part. But whatever the reason, I almost pity the younger generation. They are growing up too fast. I wish for them more dirt, more broken windows, more silliness, more outdoor play, and just the joy and innocence of being a kid.