I’m preparing to help with my church’s children’s camp this week and I notice that some of the materials use the word “preteen” to describe the kids that attend, which obligates me to fire off a quick rant.
I think a lot of adults have an obsession with teen culture and adolescence, and thinking of elementary school students as “preteens” betrays their opinion that what’s important about being 12 or under is that you haven’t yet experienced that life-changing rush of hormones, dating, breakup, social-alignment (my Dad calls this “Choose Up Sides and Hate”), and academic pressure that comes with today’s stereotyped teenage experience. Yuck. (This camp’s age group is 3rd through 6th grade, BTW.) Perhaps we should call the teenagers “post-children” or “kids who used to be cute.”
Sure, pubescence is a significant watershed in one’s development, but calling kids “preteens” implies a preference for kids on one side of it, and a devaluing of kids on the other. Kids will grow up whether we want them to or not; no need to rush it.