I have a cousin. Her name is Ashley. She's getting into her early tens now, I think around 11. And a few weeks ago, I realized that she was a person.

I realize that sounds kinda demeaning, kinda cold, the kinda thing that makes people's hackles rise, to deny someone's personhood, but its really the only way I can think to phrase it. Up until a certain point, we all treat children a certain way. We coddle them, we humor them, we tell them "maybe tomorrow" and the like. We don't treat them like real people yet, for whatever reason.

So when do they become people? When do we realize that we can no longer treat them the same way we always have? For me, it was at Easter dinner, and I found myself sitting with her, having a rather intelligent discussion about the social atmosphere in junior high school. I was pleased to note that she'd already picked up on the fact that most of it is bullshit, and then I realized "Wow, she's a person now." In exactly those words.

Perhaps we realize that the old tricks won't work. We're forced to treat them like people.

Perhaps we start to care about their opinion. We treat them like people because we want them to like us.

Personally, I think they TAKE their personhood. They become their own person through their own will, when they become an independent entity, no longer looking to mommy and daddy for all the answers. That's what I saw in her, when she was talking about shallow sixth grade girls, obsessed with makeup and their breast sizes. When a child looks around and starts making their own decisions about the way of things, that's when they become a person.

Nowadays, when my cousin asks me a question, I answer it they way I answer everyone else. Bluntly. Honestly. Because she's not a child anymore.

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