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WHEN DOES CHILDHOOD END?
by Serge Kahili King

When a mother bird lays eggs she sits on them until they hatch, and then she feeds the young until they are ready to fly. In some species the male feeds the female until the eggs hatch, and in others the male shares hatching duties and then feeding duties. After taking good care of them up to a certain age Momma and Poppa Bird demonstrate the art of flying and encourage the young to take off. If they don't want to take off they are kicked out of the nest.

In most mammal groups the young are protected and fed and trained until they are old enough and smart enough to feed themselves, and then they are pushed away from the mother's teat and either sent off to fend for themselves or given a place in the hierarchy of the group which allows them to have group protection in return for a contribution of skills and service to the group.

Of all the animals on earth, human beings take the longest to mature. They need to be cared for and protected and trained for many years before they are ready to fend for themselves or to help support the group. In most traditional societies this process can take as long as fourteen years. What's really odd is that in modern society this process either takes many more years than that or it never seems to end. Not only do many people not want to stop being children, many people don't want to stop being parents, either.

It's understandable why many people would not want to stop being children. They are no different than the young birds who are reluctant to leave a nice, cozy nest where all their needs are taken care of. It's tough for a bird, or a mammal, or a human to get out there and take care of itself and find a mate and raise a family. Or even just take care of itself. But humans and other animals are not fully grown until they can do that. Of course, human society provides for a lot of cooperation and a lot of help. For all their faults, human beings are the most helpful creatures on earth. The more willing a person is to help himself or herself the more help he or she will find.

At first glance it is harder to understand why someone would want to maintain control over one's children long past the time when they ought to be taking care of themselves and helping to support their society. The answer is simple, though. It's fear. That's the only reason people try to control other people. There may be many reasons for the fear, but that doesn't make the control a good thing. Such parental control only serves to stunt the growth of the children, whether the "parent" is a person or a group or a government. If you love someone, don't just set them free. Help them learn how to fly first.

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