The Purpose of Childhood

What is the purpose of childhood?

It’s an interesting question and, counterintuitively, one that us parents sometimes forget to ask. Sure, we ask questions centered around our purpose as parents — and those are incredibly important to think about — but the kid-centric question is equally important.

From an evolutionary standpoint, human beings have exceptionally long childhoods.  Most species on Planet Earth accelerate to adulthood within a matter of a few short years (or less), but not so for us humans.

Instead, human children remain children for prolonged periods, dependent upon their loving families to nurture them during the baby, toddler, youth, and adolescent years. Our relationship with our children undergoes a profound metamorphosis several times over the course of two decades. We adjust our parenting to meet the growing needs, and independence, of our children.

But again, what is the purpose of this prolonged childhood? Its very length denotes its importance and, yet, we often feel the temptation to race ahead, to accelerate our kids on the path to adulthood. And certainly, one of our roles as parents is to prepare our kids for adulthood. 

But, in our view, this role requires a patient reverence for childhood and an embrace of its slow pace. We believe the purpose of childhood is to play; to create; to experiment and take risks within reason and without judgment; to let curiosity spark learning; to test the boundaries of our children’s will, hearts, and minds.

These purposeful pieces of childhood, we hope, will allow our kids to grow in confidence, in compassion, and in love. Rather than short-changing childhood, we lean into it, trust it, and cherish its length.

Because, someday, our kids will be adults. The strong roots of their extended childhood will enable them stand upright in the face of life’s storms; to be strong, resilient, and adaptable during life’s unpredictable journey; and to shine and contribute confidently to this beautiful world.