Some say, let a child enjoy his childhood.
You know, in our many traditional cultures, it was required that boys should become men as quickly as possible.
One good reason was it was important for survival – to help the clan stand up against enemies of greedy neighbouring tribes or the natural environment that respected no-one.
That is why they had these rituals and training in a “haus boi” (house boy) to put “old heads on young shoulders”.
The same occurred when a girl who reaches puberty and enters a “haus meri” (women’s house). She is taught how to take care of herself, as a woman, and what and what not to do when she goes through her cycles.
In Judaism, when a boy reaches the age of 13, he becomes a “bar mitzvah” and should be responsible for his actions.
I think you all know this ceremony. That is when the boy wears a round cap and a special garment over his clothes (called a tallit) and reads a portion from the Torah.
The equivalent for girls was the “bat mitzvah”.
It was through these customs that most of the Hebrew characters in the Old and New Testament times were groomed to take on roles that swayed history for their people.
There are people in the world who have grown up “quickly” due to circumstances – having no parents, or were forced to go to work instead of completing their education because they were the older siblings in the family and had to support the smaller ones.
To have “an old head on young shoulders” means you think and live as a person who is much older than you.
Is that good?
Yes, it is becoming mature quickly with the decisions you make and your general approach in life.
How many parents want children like that – respectable and responsible when still children.
I think it is the wish of many.
But do adults teach children to “have old heads on young shoulders”?
The sad thing is many do not. And even sadder is our many cultures in PNG (which have been effectively doing that for ages) are dying.
If you are a parent (or do become one one day), I hope you teach the small ones to become responsible early in life.
NOTE: More than ten years ago, I wrote a letter to author and senior statesman, Sir Paulias Matane (PNG’s former governor-general), mentioning the same thing in this post, following an article in his newspaper column “Time Traveller”.
Sir Paulias was happy with my letter that he ran it in his column (without mentioning my name, as requested).