Where have all the children gone?

October 17, 2021

Please excuse my altering and pilfering from the brilliant Peter, Paul and Mary (actually Pete Seeger for the purists) classic about flowers, but I did find the title an interesting intro to this week’s column. In fact, let us consider the loss of our visiting children, and yes, our grandchildren, making many of the households much less exciting and a lot quieter. Those of you who have had the young ones with you for most or even part of the summer season should be really missing them now, several weeks after their departure for points north and west with their parents. Gee, were they great to have around us and around town! So, what is it about the children of our children which is so special? I assure you that there are hundreds of 3-, 4-, and 5-year-olds who are here all year round. I selected those ages because we all agree that those are among the cutest of the cute in terms of children.

Thus, in our personal realities, only the toddlers and little ones from our families really count. Those others, unless you are an early childhood educator, just do not matter as much. However, there are many of them, and they are truly just as interesting and beautiful as the heirs to our Hawkseye and Senators mini-mansions. Children are delightful, and so precious and honest. They refuse to be diplomatic, to say and do what we adults believe they should say and do at a particular moment. Yes, I am still speaking about those little ones, especially those who pretend to be shy when they meet a stranger, merely to observe what the stranger may do at that initial encounter.

Even though your own very young offspring may have left for preschool and kindergarten in places where you cannot imagine your children actually living, some places you cannot even pronounce properly, there are certainly enough little ones right here with whom we can interact safely, as allowed by their parents. In fact, there are so many more children here in the Cape Region than there were, let’s say 10 years ago, we have built and/or expanded our schools for them. We are a bit perplexed, since over the past 20 years we have viewed our surroundings as a retirement community. The builders and developers certainly had advance information on our population growth, realizing that it would not just be the over-60 set moving and settling in; just examine the variety of the new housing opportunities. Many more of those born here are opting to remain here, conceive here, and raise children here. Why not? It is a great place to do all three.

Thus, what we see during the summer months are both the children of our children who are visiting and the children of the children who were children here from “the get-go.” Makes for some interesting projections into the future of our community. In a nutshell, there shall be lots and lots of tots.

Fortunately, someone waved a magic wand, allowing for more child-centered activities during the colder weather. To avoid not mentioning some vendors and overstating certain venues, let it suffice that we are blessed with more opportunities for childlike frolic than in the past as we enjoy our children, both the Beebe born and the out-of-state born. OK, yes, those children who share our genes may be much more enjoyable, but we must be mindful that all the kids are important, and they are here. They have not gone at all, at least not as many as one may think. Perhaps we can view the phenomenon as a replacement – but guess what, the process shall repeat itself sooner than we think, and those little darlings will return for another summer visit. However, during the next visit everyone shall be one year older, so let us hope we really enjoyed the munchkins to the ultimate during the recent visits.

  • Peter E. Carter is a former public school administrator who has served communities in three states as a principal, and district and county superintendent, for 35-plus years. He is a board member for Delaware Botanic Gardens and Cape Henlopen Educational Foundation, and the author of a dual autobiography, “A Black First…the Blackness Continues.”

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