It’s a hard life, and you won’t have a normal childhood. Of course, with your mind, and as a Third to boot, you wouldn’t have a particularly normal childhood anyway.
Colonel Graff tries to convince Ender to come to Battle School. He acknowledges that, by attending Battle School, Ender will essentially be giving up his childhood, but adds that he would suffer anyway due to other children being jealous of his talents and making fun of him for being a Third. In the world of Ender’s Game, even children who do not attend Battle School do not seem to get the chance to enjoy their childhood.
I’ll be old when I ever see them again, twelve at the earliest. Why did I say yes? What was I such a fool for? Going to school would have been nothing. Facing Stilson every day. And Peter.
As Ender heads off to Battle School, he thinks of his family and begins to feel sad that he won’t see them for many years. As he reconsiders his decision, he thinks that being bullied by Stilson and facing death threats from his brother would have been worth remaining with his family. Even if Ender had stayed home, however, he would have experienced more suffering than any child should.
He wanted to stop at Petra’s bunk and tell her about his home, about what his birthdays were usually like, just tell her it was his birthday so she’d say something about it being a happy one. But nobody told birthdays. It was childish.
On Ender’s seventh birthday, he receives a new uniform but no one acknowledges his day. Here, he thinks of how, if he had been at home, Valentine would have made him a cake, and he wants to tell his friend Petra about his birthday traditions. However, all of the students in Battle School, despite being children, consider birthdays “childish.” Despite being only seven years old, Ender understands he won’t experience the simple pleasure of his friends wishing him a happy birthday. Such a reality demonstrates how Battle School forces students to grow up too quickly.
I look in the library, I call up books on my desk. Old ones, because they won’t let us have anything new, but I’ve got a pretty good idea what children are, and we’re not children. Children can lose sometimes, and nobody cares. Children aren’t in armies, they aren’t commanders, they don’t rule over forty other kids, it’s more than anybody can take and not get crazy.
Dink explains to Ender why he doesn’t want to be a commander. He has seen what happens to the other children who become commanders, and he knows that the transformation isn’t normal. After reading some old books, Dink begins to understand that children should not be put under the pressure they experience at Battle School. He argues that by forcing children to take on these responsibilities, the teachers make the children mentally unhealthy. Dink seems to be one of the only characters who understands the unfairness and cruelty of their situation.