As someone who reads a great deal of children’s literature, and literature written by young people , I tend to notice a few patterns over and over again. Among these novels there is often an implicit understanding that the world is dangerous for children, and all too often books written by and for young people give children the assumption that they will have to change the world and that adults in general do not have the best interests of children in mind. It is not difficult at all to understand how this might be the case, given the way that adults often work for their own selfish interests, and are not often very patient or cognizant of what would be in the best interests of children. All too often people in general think about themselves, and other people are just in the way between people and what they want.
Nor can we exempt ourselves from this. The relationships between adults and children, of whatever kind, have a certain inequality built into it that must be recognized and is sometimes all too easy for us to forget sometimes. Someone who is older can remember what it is like to be young, and they may fancy themselves far younger than they are, in denial about their increasing age and the demands of maturity and responsibility that go with this. To be sure, these memories are not perfect, and they are often clouded with the haze of either positive or negative nostalgia, but they are memories and something that can be brought to mind from time to time. The young have no such reference point, for they do not know what it is like to be older than they are. They have their imagination, or whatever insight they can glean from books or other media, but they have no memory nor any experience of what it is like to be old, unless they should are old before their time in some sort of tragic health crisis or some sort of violence done against them.
And here again we are faced with the problem of what it means to think about others who we can understand on a level that they cannot understand us in. One of the community service projects I am involved in personally involves working for the best interest of an adorable toddler of about a year in age whose family is involved in a truly crazy situation. In the course of writing reports I ponder what would be the best for this child in the context of her life, all the while her thoughts consist of who is going to pay attention to her or read to her or play with her. And yet the adults around her have much to think of about her best interests, and often I wonder if we do a good enough job at keeping those in mind. I do the best I can, and I am sure that can be said for everyone else, but the situations people find themselves in do not always allow for the best to be good enough.
After all, I remember all too well what it is like to be a child myself through the haze of negative nostalgia. I can remember times where I have wondered why the adults in my life had so little interest in looking out for my best interests, or to the extent to which any of them could fathom my best interests in light of their own backgrounds, their own longings, and their own flaws and weaknesses. And while I would like to think that I have progressed further along the way to being an empathetic sort of person that does not carelessly burden future generations with suffering, I do not always have a sanguine feeling when it comes to my own record. As someone who would shudder to think myself the creature of a squirrel’s nightmares, I would like even less to be the monster in the nightmares of anyone else. I know all too well, and all too often, what it is like to have haunted and tormented sleep, but how to make peace in the world around me sometimes eludes my modest skills of diplomacy and communication. Hopefully it is not already too late in the day to improve such matters.
 See, for example: