We won't grow up!
- Peter Pan
As I glance at this photograph, I am instantly transported to Neverland. But as I continue to stare, I am brought back to the reality of life in rural Nicaragua. I see Juan, a ten-year-old boy who, unlike Peter Pan, hasn't had a choice in whether he "wants to grow up" or not. I see the faces of young children who have seen and dealt with more in their short lives than some people do in a lifetime.
All around the world, kids are becoming caretakers, financial providers, and father/mother figures at a very young age. As I walk through Villa Catalina, I see kids taking care of the household chores, cooking and cleaning while their parents are at work. I see other kids heading off to work with their parents after school so they can help out with the financial burdens. And then I see kids like Juan, who is never without his younger siblings or cousins in tow. I see kids raising kids, kids who never truly get the chance to be a kid.
It is proven over and over that play is integral to kids' development. It should be an inherent right for every child to play (and, in fact, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child says that it is), but it often becomes the first thing to go as children are thrust into the "real-world" and survival mode kicks in. Play involves many different facets, but at its core, it is about being a kid. It is what kids do best. When children have time to play and interact with friends, there are so many emotional, social and physical benefits. Play actually prepares kids for adulthood and teaches vital life skills that cannot be learned in any other settings. It teaches coping mechanisms, builds self-esteem, increases empathy and builds relational skills. It teaches kids to be creative and imaginative. And perhaps, most importantly, it creates joy, allowing kids to experience the happiness in life they deserve.
At the beginning of the story, Peter Pan gives a convincing argument that staying a child forever might just be the answer to the world's problems. By the end, though, Peter Pan is the only one who chooses not to grow up. Wendy, the Lost Boys, Mrs. Darling, all chose to move forward. Adulthood, in itself, isn't bad. As we grow, we are able to experience so much more depth in life. The most valuable lesson I find in Peter Pan is to "let them be little". Kids should have the right to be kids, to learn and grow in childhood, and to play and enjoy life without burden. And when it's time to grow up...then they'll be ready.
Photo by: Edgard Buenas
Take a look behind-the-scenes of our Peter Pan-inspired photo!