A few days ago I posted on Facebook that, “After three hours of mountain biking this morning my legs and back are toast”. One of my good friends commented that I should, “Act my age and grow soft and lazy like the rest of us”. The comment was a humorous compliment considering the fact that I am sixty one years old and I am still able to aggressively ride mountain bicycles with a group of men, some who are half my age or less, and I smugly accepted my friends comment as such. I have been a cycling nut for many years and I ride the way I do by choice. There have been a few crashes over the years such as this one a few years ago, but I still love the sport.

That is more than enough about me. Maybe I’ll share some more about my love for cycling some other time.

The Facebook comment got me to thinking about “acting your age”.  As a loving parent I used the admonition to “act your age” when my son misbehaved. My parents used the same admonition with my brother and myself when we were growing up. It was a reprimand intended to remind us to use the manners and behavior standards that we had been taught. If the admonition was ignored the result was punishment. Our punishments included the loss of television or play time, the withholding of ice cream or candy treats, the occasional grounding and on rare occasions a spanking if justified by defiant and repeated misbehavior. For me “acting my age” has always been a freedom of choice. Now imagine with me the concept of “acting your age” from the perspective of a child whose freedom to do so has been completely and sometimes violently stripped away. This child finds themselves in circumstances they did not choose. They have no freedom of choice. How would you or your child respond to life such as these?

The child soldier who is forced to kill his own family loses the right to “act their age”. If they disobey the resulting punishment is repeated beatings, starvation, or death.

The prostituted child sold into sex slavery and forced to service twenty or more “clients” a day does not have the freedom to “act their age”. When they are used up, diseased, or no longer desirable they are discarded like unwanted trash.

The nine year old child caring for younger siblings because a parent died from HIV-AIDS loses the right to “act their own age”. Can you imagine the responsibility of parenting a child while still a child yourself?

The child living in extreme poverty, unable to attend school due to lack of tuition, and forced to beg on the streets in order to survive where they often end up huffing glue to ease the pains of hunger can no longer “act their age”.

These are just a few examples of orphans and vulnerable children that are denied the privilege of “acting their age”. There are many others. Unless we rescue them from the circumstances that deprive them of the choice to “act their age”, if they survive, they will likely become adults who have more children who will be exposed to the same deprivations and atrocities as their parents and the generational cycle of abuse and neglect will repeat itself.

As a staff member of World Orphans I believe that this cycle can be and must be broken. Join us as we work globally to give orphans and vulnerable children the opportunity and choice to “act their age”.

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