07.04.13 Love

Kids Will Be Kids… If We Let Them

Kids Will Be Kids… If We Let Them

BY Jessica Tholmer

What do you think when you hear “child star”? If you are like me, your mind quickly runs through the names of the tragic childhood stars that we have grown up with: Lindsay Lohan, Corey Haim, Macaulay Culkin, Amanda Bynes… and those are simply the ones from my generation. I could spend all day listing off human beings that were robbed of their childhoods early on, only to become tragic adult figures because of it. Whether it is intense drug and alcohol habits, various other addictions, oversexualized behavior at a young age or, unfortunately, death- these kids that were not allowed to be kids are having a hard time growing up.

That’s not to say all former child stars grew up “wrong.” There are plenty of great examples of kids who acted, sang or modeled at a young age and are phenomenal examples of functionality in their adult age. Justin Timberlake, Candace Cameron Bure (I know it seems random, but she is incredible!) and Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen to name a few.

I am aware that these children, and even more so, their parents, are allowing themselves (and at times likely forcing them) into these careers that are a cesspool of addiction and insecurity. Of course it sounds wonderful to have a job on a television show, or on the set of a movie, or to be able to show off your vocal range before you have even hit puberty, but at the same time, if I think about the things I had to put up with as a “normal” child, I cannot even imagine life as a kid on an even grander scale.

The entertainment industry can be a rough and shady one, which comes as no surprise to anyone. There are adults who are supposed to care for the young children- agents, and producers, and basically anyone with a title- who allow, and in King’s experience, encourage, age inappropriate behavior. Sex, drugs and alcohol are not necessities in the business, yet they are extremely commonplace.

King discusses the oversexualized treatment of young, young girls in the modeling industry. Preteens or young teenagers wearing barely any clothing, their parents asked to leave the room just because those are “the rules,” not because anyone realizes that their child may be asked to do something, or wear something, or lay in a certain position that may make her uncomfortable. When girls are treated in such an adult fashion when they are so young, what becomes of them later in life?

I honestly believe that my childhood was cut shorter than it should be but, thanks to the universe always having my back, my personal experience was kind of the perfect storm of “growing up too soon” and having the greatest childhood ever.

My dad left our family when I was a very young child. The last time I saw him, still to this day, was when I was eight years old, and even that was a random guilty visit, I am sure. My mother worked three jobs to support her four children, and though she is the face of a strong woman, she made plenty of choices that were much more “early 20s” and much less “mommy.”

My mother lived out her youth while raising children and overworking, so the balance was never quite right. We ate crappy food, babysat each other, and were evicted from almost every home we lived in. I was not one of those kids who went to schools in the same district the whole time I was growing up; I don’t have people I have known since I was five years old in my life.

I cooked and cleaned at the age of eight years old, something that my mother simply expected me to do. I am seven years older than my youngest brother, and even though I cannot imagine leaving an eight year old with a baby, it happened often in my life. My little brother was more like my baby, one of the multiple reasons it took me so long to even consider having children of my own one day. I raised kids while I was a child.

I loved my early years, though. My memories are chock full of mimicking our favorite television show characters, eating blackberries we picked off our own bushes, staying outside until the sun set, chewing grape Bubble Yum while watching the kids across the way play Little League baseball and of course, letting Homer and Marge Simpson raise me. I loved my childhood, and I would not change it for pretty much anything. I never felt overwhelmed with adult responsibility, and luckily, the strong adult woman who sits before you now is entirely derived from that life.

My mother never let me complain about anything. She would constantly trump my minute irritations with her own personal experiences; she grew up fast, as well. Until this year, in fact, I always assumed my mother “had it worse” than I did. (Turns out, not true.)

Everyone expects so much from me in my life, my mother being the original pioneer of this mindset, and because I am a people pleaser and capable of taking on the world, I meet expectations (in fact, I often exceed them) on a daily basis. If I had been handed everything, I would not be half the woman I am today. I thank the world for giving it to me rough.

That being said, I do not believe it is an ideal lifestyle. I do not believe that children should raise their siblings, or that they should be responsible for making meals for their entire family. What I do believe, however, is that you will never, ever be dealt something that you cannot handle. There is nothing in the world that will fall into your lap that was not meant to be there. I get myself through the rough and tumbles of life by reminding myself that I can truly take on everything.

But, let us help each other and let kids be kids. They deserve it.

Jess has been told she reminds people of Scarlett Johansson, Victoria Beckham, Carrie Bradshaw, Raven Symone, George Costanza (she's serious) and Cece from New Girl, so basically, she's every human ever. Using her multiple personalities, she proudly writes for HelloGiggles.com and breaks mugs and hearts as a manager for Starbucks in the Pacific Northwest, where coffee was like...invented. She believes in song lyrics, hair diffusers, red wine, eating food before liquor, respecting her elders, not washing her hair everyday, big brothers, little brothers, medium brothers, Beyoncé, breaking walls down, her childhood, full fringe, turning the heat on, mismatched socks, being serenaded, tweeting, shots of espresso, a thing called love, red lipstick, crying openly, Barack Obama, and even more, his wife. You can find her pretty much all over the internet, because what's real life anyway?

Comments

  • SusanneNYC

    While I can understand the difficulties that Jess dealt with growing up (I had an extremely hard upbringing myself – my mother died & my father was an alcoholic who abandoned my family), I do not agree with the last paragraph of Jess’ essay. While she may be a strong individual and has overcome obstacles, many people are not as strong. There are horrible circumstances dealt to many that they cannot handle. You only need to look at those who have committed suicide or turned to drugs, alcohol and other self-destructive behavior in response to what happened to them because they do not have the strength, support or coping ability to overcome it.
    Also, the sentence “There is nothing in the world that will fall into your lap that was not meant to be there” I don’t completely agree with either. Yes, we can look at this as an opportunity to grow from what life has handed us, but on the other hand, I can also see this as a bit like blaming the victim; that was happened to them was meant to happen to them. For example, if a child is sexually abused, I do not believe that Jess’ sentence applies. The responsibility for that is on the abuser, not the victim as no child is ever meant to be abused, so we should think about the circumstances when we apply this mindset.

    • Celine

      Obviously unfortunate things can happen to you. But its all a matter of perception. You can either wallow in self pity or be positive and overcome it.

    • SusanneNYC

      Although I understand the point you’re making and it is a valid one, I think there is a misunderstanding in what my comment is about. What I was trying to say is that many times things happen to us that are beyond our control, which are more a matter of circumstance and external forces than it being meant to be. Regarding self pity, not everyone has the emotional or mental capacity to overcome obstacles they face. For many, they aren’t wallowing but struggling to survive, and sadly, not all do. While you or I may be strong individuals and can have a positive outlook on life, not everyone has the strength to do that.

    • Jess Tholmer

      Thank you ladies for your input, both of you!

      SusanneNYC, I definitely understand where you are coming from, and the sexually abused child is a great example to counteract my opinion about “meant to be,” but I think you are viewing that statement in a more romanticized way than I meant it.

      Maybe this is my idealistic nature, but I certainly believe that everything that happens in life can (and should) be dealt with. There is so much tragedy in the world–from sexual abuse to gigantic, unavoidable natural disasters–but it is all, sometimes unfortunately, a part of life. I don’t believe in god, I am not a religious person, but whatever helps you cope with what you have been dealt, I can understand.

      For me personally, I could have curled up and not dealt with my childhood and even young adulthood, and even NOW-hood well, but you’re right: I am a strong person. I was not born this way, it was just a matter of choosing one way or the other. Yes, some people turn to drugs or alcohol or in extremely sad cases, suicide to deal with their hardships, but that is not how it HAS to be. There are outlets: there are support groups, therapists, family and friends to lean on, books to read, journals to write in, prescription drugs to help stabilize you, if that’s a thing you choose. There is nothing that has happened to one person that is completely isolating, even when it feels like it the most. Growing up, I thought no one (besides my siblings) could understand my tough life, but as an adult, I realize that I am not the first person with less-than-stellar parents. I am not the first person to experience death at a young age, or money issues. It is all in how you cope with it, for sure, but it is the choice of the individual.

      There is always something to turn to.

      No, sexual abuse, kidnapping, extreme situations involving children is not “meant to be” in the way that you phrase it, but does it happen? Yes. Truly unfortunately, these things are almost commonplace. I know a lot of people that were sexually abused, and rose above it. I know people that were sexually abused and have not dealt with it well at all. But they can, and I want to believe that they will. There is always something to turn to.

      The world stops for nothing–not a breakup, not a death, not a missing person, not a natural disaster, not a war. It keeps spinning, and we all have to make do with the cards we are dealt. That’s what I meant: we have no other choice but to overcome, or give up. I want to help it so that no one chooses the latter.

    • SusanneNYC

      Hi Jess, thanks for replying to my comment. Your response is fantastic. You touched on the points I made in a clear and thoughtful way, which I appreciate.

    • The Conversation

      Great dialogue, ladies! Keep up the good work.
      We hope the Conversation can continue to inspire such thoughtful dialogues.

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