“Children Are The Future!”

…until when?

This is an expression I noticed goes in a cycle.

I remember as a kid (age still in single digits) in summer camp, the counselors taught us a song about how “we” (the present kids) are the future.

My 27th birthday is next month. I don’t think I’m the future anymore.

Exactly how long are kids the future?

Legally speaking, childhood lasts until the age of eighteen. But life does not, and it goes without saying people are in their twenties (especially under 25) are considered adults only in the legal definition of the word. One of my former bosses told me I’m a baby after I told him I was 23. Barring premature death, 18-year-olds are still have a long future, but no one is singing about how young adults are the future.

No one idealizes teenagers either. In fact, the teen years are notoriously hated because they’re not adorable cherubs anymore, but they’re still too young to be (legally) kicked out of the house. Nobody gushes about cute teen clothes or posts a thousand pictures of a cute thing their teenager did (that’s a good thing!). So, I’d argue few people consider teenagers the future either. At least, not unless they’re joking the future is doomed, thanks to whatever stupid trend is currently getting attention on the internet.

That leaves kids under the age of 13. That’s a very short future.

I was born in 1994, so I’ll use that as an example. After 2007, I was no longer the future. I still had a (terrible) future, but as far as society was concerned, I was no longer “the future”.

Here’s a hopefully not-too-crazy question: Why is the future always romanticized? Why does nobody care about the present?

Presumably, the thought is the present sucks (and I wholeheartedly agree!), but the future eventually becomes the present. If the future is bright, but the present sucks, and the bright future eventually becomes the sucky present, why do we continually look forward to the future? This cycle never stops, which ultimately means it never gets better.

That was certainly a depressing revelation.

Children are the future in the sense they will grow and age over time. But at 13, 18, 25, 30, they are still the future. I’d argue anyone with at least twenty years left to live is the future. But kids are cute blank slates, so it’s much easier to picture a bright future of them before they reach that future.

Every terrible person in history started out as an innocent baby imagined to have a bright future.

It’s (not really) funny children are considered so important for the sake of the future, yet in the present, they’re treated more as things than people. My existence is the product of two people who went “oops” and didn’t know what else to do. So are their existences. And that’s the story for nearly half of all pregnancies in the United States.

Put the pitchforks down! I didn’t say unplanned parenthood equates to being a bad parent.

My point is one would rationally assume if children are the future, and it’s so important, more thought would be put into having a child than what’s for dinner next week. But until recently, having kids was thought of as more “that’s what people do”, to the point it was considered absurd to not a parent. Not having kids is more acceptable today, but there remains certain groups and people (particularly highly religious, but not always) who believe not becoming a parent equates to failing in life. The most common reason given is it’s selfish not to have them, completely ignoring the only possible unselfish reason for having a child is being forced to. Not to mention it’s completely natural to act in the interest of one’s own life. That’s the point.

The retort to that is usually it’s natural to want kids. Homosexuality is natural too, but that’s condemned to the point of being a crime in some countries. Next!

I strayed far from my original point…

To sum all this up, I agree children are the future. They can’t not be. However, they don’t stop being the future when people stop singing songs about it.

People stop being the future when there no longer is a future – bright or dystopian – to look forward to. Maybe the present sucks because more time is spent fantasizing about what can be done later instead of now.

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