"On Turning Ten" and Childhood Develpment

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Response to Billy Collins: "On Turning Ten"

In Edu 340, Characteristics and Strategies of Childhood Behavior, my class recently discussed stages of childhood development that included mild childhood depression.  Children experience sadness and loneliness when they understand there is a world outside of their comfort "bubble." Recognizing that parents cannot automatically fix or understand every emotion and feeling pushes a child into independence and maturity, but it is a difficult struggle. 

"On Turning Ten" is a detailed description of childhood nostalgia when a young boy "turns the first big number."  He compares his pain to numerous childhood illnesses, including chicken pox, mumps, measles, and stomach aches.  The boy sees his tree house differently when he looks out the window.  It used to be a magical getaway land and his bike used to feel like an escape. Now the light from the window falls solemnly on his childhood toys.  They don't bring him joy anymore.  He knows he must say goodbye to his imaginary friends, and he is also losing the ability to "play."  When he falls down he knows that mom's kisses don't make the pain go away.  He is beginning to feel his own mortality, realizing that those around him are mortal too.  At this stage of life, children understand death.  Grandparents appear fragile; perhaps he has even lost a pet.  Life is becoming "real."  

Adults quickly forget the simplicity of childhood.  Instead, they look back to the good old days in high school or college because they are easier to remember. However, the loneliness the boy is feeling is comparable to a college student moving out of their parent's house for the first time.  It may not seem very dramatic to adults because the separation is not physical, but the emotional separation he feels is a very real and scary time in a child's life. 




Carissa Altizer said:

I forgot to give credit where credit is due. I would not have known about developmental childhood depression if it were not for Dr. Tarnai!

Tarnai, Ph. D., Sir Balazas. "Classroom Management and Behavioral Disorders." Lecture.

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