Childhood's Absent Element
Updated: May 6
Whether or not your childhood was a happy one, one thing is almost completely certain: almost no child is as free as an adult. You can't be entirely by yourself, more often than not you can't make a living, much of your life is dictated by your parents or guardian, and you can't pick who will be in your life and who won't, at least in most cases. Because of that, even if one's childhood was fun overall, it would never have the freedom that a functioning adult can have in many areas of life.
If given a choice to return to the past, to your childhood, as your child self, would you do it? You might skip over many commitments you now have as an adult, but what is likely is that you won't have the freedom as an independent individual and as a citizen. This is why although I had a very enjoyable childhood, with probably no traumas whatsoever, I still wouldn't take the chance to be a kid again. It isn't necessarily because I hated being a child, but because I didn't have the freedom I have today as an adult.
It can be harsh to be a child because many of your life is in the hands of someone else, which means that you don't have the liberty of doing many things you would otherwise could've done. Do you want this popsicle? As long as your parent or guardian denies it, you won't get this treat. The same is with everything financial that you could've otherwise have purchased if you were an adult.
Even as a joyful child, there may still be ongoing conflict between parents/guardians and children about activities they want to do. Of course, even as an adult, you can't always do what you want, but at least you can do so much more than when there is a superior permitting and denying you things. At times, they even demand you to do things you wish to avoid, such as some rituals if you come from a religious background, or visiting other people if they want you to be more social.
Whether or not you had what you wanted in life, much of the choices were not made by you, but by those who were legally responsible for your actions until a certain age. Because of that, I find it quite ironic to see some people wishing to be kids again. I am well aware that being an adult has many hardships of its own, especially on the financial part, but at least adults have a basic human right that children mostly don't have -- the freedom of choice.
Regardless of the impression you might have on my position in the matter, the limitations children usually have are reasonable; they don't have the experience, the self-discipline, and the maturity to function like many adults can. In a book I used to read, a child-monarch of a fictional country declared that children are to replace the daily lives of their parents and vice versa. In other words, children are to work, drive cars, and so on, and the entirety of adults are to go to school, where they will learn from teachers that are children.
As you can tell, this is a very dumb role, because it is not the "natural" place of kids to be in. They can't drive cars, let alone pilot airplanes or be in any kind of position that requires a competent and/or professional adult. Because of that, children are naturally to be limited in a healthy yet not-exaggerated way, if they are to eventually become functioning members of civilization.
In some sense, being a child is like being in a prison of gold -- you might, as a child, live in prosperity and in delight, but you are not free as of the moment, as your prison guards are your parents/guardians, school, the state at times, and so on. Even if you will eventually become less happier as an adult, at least you will have the freedoms you didn't have as a kid. The only exceptions are being imprisoned, being kidnapped, and being hospitalized. Then you will lack the freedom you would otherwise have as a grown up.
If humanity ever reaches a technological state where we can become kids again by reversing our age (I have no idea if this will happen, just a theory) or travel back in time, there will be a dilemma of values that people will have to face: either sacrifice their freedom for pleasantry, or preserve their freedom and deny themselves the nostalgic joy of being a kid again. I can at least say for myself that I am through with being a child, because even though my childhood was a very happy one, I wouldn't trade the freedom I have as an adult for it.
This is why there is a certain oppression in being a kid. Regardless of whether it comes from abuse, love, or both, most if not all children are more or less oppressed by not having all the rights that legal adults have.