In his book Simplicity Parenting, Kim John Payne argues that childhood is currently under siege. Media constantly floods children’s eyes and ears with sensationalism. Advertisers prey on kids’ need to belong and their fear of missing out. Clothing manufacturers encourage children to dress beyond their years, emulating adult celebrities and sexualized styles. The solution to this rapidly waning childhood, Payne suggests, is simply to allow children the space to grow.
The pressure to accelerate toward adulthood may not be a new phenomenon. The story of Jairus’s ailing daughter, some scholars theorize, may suggest the girl’s deep anxiety about encroaching womanhood. The girl’s story, after all, bookends that of a woman who for twelve years—exactly the girl’s age—suffered a hemorrhagic condition that left her on the margins of society, unable to even enter the temple. As a religious leader’s daughter, the girl would have understood this loss acutely.
At twelve years old, the girl was on the precipice of womanhood. The hemorrhaging woman’s story represents the gravity of becoming an adult—and a woman in particular. Could the girl’s grave illness have been partly due to her apprehension about this possible future?
Near as she is to adulthood, the girl still needs to be a child. Jairus calls her his “little daughter,” and Jesus calls her “the child” and “little girl.” And, after he woke the girl from her deathlike illness, Jesus directs her loved ones to feed her. In other words, he tells them to take care of her. As a child, she still requires the protective wing of their care.
This is an interesting word for a time when our little ones are exposed to images and concepts beyond their years. Could the solution be this simple? Allow them to be children; feed them, nourish them, and let them grow.
How can we nurture the childhood of the youth around us?
Lord, let us serve a nurturing role for the young ones in our lives. Amen.