The Many Marks of Childhood

The Many Marks of Childhood At age 18, the state of California in association with the federal government legally declares an individual to be an adult. He or she can now vote, watch pornography, buy a variety of things like cigarettes and spray paint, and even die for his or her own country. I remember the days approaching my 18th birthday. When we’re younger and smaller, we tend to imagine that there is some magical change that occurs the moment the clock strikes midnight that will suddenly make us ready and mature enough to handle the responsibilities of being a legal adult. Well, in the months and days approaching my special day, I quickly realized that I was going to wake up, and except for the significance that my family, friends and I put on its shoulders, it was going to be just like any other day. The magical transformation that I once imagined was and is still a sloping gradient of change. But as I look back, there are definite marks about being a child. Besides the obvious lack of physical maturity, a lot of what defines a child is psychological. The mind of a child is a vast probe, open and curious. At birth, within the constraints of our genetic makeup, we are capable of becoming anyone. For the first year or two of life outside the womb, our minds are in the most pliable, impressionable, and receptive state they will ever be in. At the neural level this is apparent in the fact that we are all born with massively wired brains that contain many more links than any one individual will ever need. It’s as if all the achievements of the entire human race, acquired over millions of years, are made available to each of us at birth. During the first twelve months of life, a remarkable amount of energy goes toward fueling the development of the child’s brain. During this period, large numbers of neural connections are lost (through lack of use) while others are reinforced and developed (through repeated use…

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