It has changed with the increasing parameters of modernity and the exposure of children to so many challenges, life lessons and daily developments.
Every person probably would give you a different answer if asked, “When does the age of innocence in a child cease?” However, I’d bet that if you asked 100 people and then did a median innocence age, the result would be six or seven years old.
Time and experience seem to alter our memories. Since my children range from 50ish to early 30s and my two grandchildren are 28 and 20, I haven’t had much up close exposure for several years.
IT SEEMS that, for me, the age of innocence when I was a tad was probably eight or nine years old.
But, as best as a septuagenarian (sliding rapidly toward being an octo-whatchamacallit) can determine from almost no exposure today to more than a generation (20-year spread) back to my grandchildren’s age of innocence, they knew and understood things about the world that my generation’s childlike times dragged along for at least a couple of years longer.
Small children thankfully are totally unaware of this thing called innocence. (That’s probably why they call it innocence. Duh!) I’m not even sure they’re even aware of emerging from that sweet time. They’re just rolling along enjoying life minute-by-minute and sunrise-by-sunrise. Yes, at that age, the dawning of a new day is one of the most important moments because what they’re going to do today is EXCITING.
Yesteryear barely exists as a mere misty image.
AS THE oldest child in my family and with my dad’s work schedule (“from can to can’t”), responsibility and a hurry-up-and-be-so requirement thrust me into duties that enabled my mother to maintain her household in a manner that coincided with her high expectations. You might say, being the oldest of four boys and given the household chores I was assigned, that I was the “designated girl.”
I hated it. My Life Mate, Julie, loves it.
“Your mother trained you well,” she smiles. “And, I sure am glad.”
But, let’s get back to maintaining the age of innocence.
A belief in Santa Claus is a rite of passage in most American families, and European as well, although the old Christmas character may labor under another alias. Growing up, our family “belief” and Yule practice was, through diversionary tactics, Santa came early enough on Christmas Eve that we could open every gift and all (especially Mom and Dad) sleep late Christmas morning.
I WAS 20 or so, laying out of college to work a year at The Teague Chronicle, and living with my parents. Since Dad’s work kept him going from daylight to late night, it fell my lot on this particular year to play Santa to a doubting little brother. He’d been mouthing with this “I-know-better” grin, “Santa. Huh! Yeah! Right! Who is it really?” Grin. Grin.
Mother took him to the screened back porch under the pretense of some time-consuming chore and I did the Santa job. My instruction was to give a loud (and deep) “Ho, ho, ho!” and beat a hasty exit out the front door, then slip in the back door.
Mother knew little 7-year-old brother would go flying to the living room to see the gifts, yelling, “It’s Santa! He’s real!”
There were all the things little brother had wished for Christmas.
I arrived at the Christmas tree just in time to see a big-eyed little brother diving into his “Santa Claus” gifts. It was one of the more satisfying Christmases I’d ever had.
And, the age of innocence was extended a bit longer for a very bright youngster.
Willis Webb is a retired community newspaper editor-publisher of more than 50 years experience. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.