“She’s so mature for her age!” That’s what I used to hear all the time from my parent’s, and grandparent’s, friends. As an only child and a female raised in the South, I was expected to be polite when meeting people. Talking to adults the same way as I would talk to one of my peers was simply unacceptable. So, the result of being tall for my age, and polite, was the common misconception that I was more mature than other girls my age.
Let me tell you… it went to my head.
After hearing it for a while, I began to believe it wholeheartedly; and, since I was so mature for my age, I thought I could handle acting much older than I was. By the time I was twelve, I was ready to date – or so I thought. Since others thought I was sixteen or seventeen, I wanted to be given the same treatment as a sixteen or seventeen-year-old. It didn’t help that my two cousins closest to my age were about to get their driver’s licenses. I wanted freedom too!
While my parents wouldn’t give in to the idea of me dating at twelve or thirteen, I found that church youth group served as the next best thing. Our youth group was always doing something or going somewhere. So, even though I wasn’t dating, I was engaging in romantic relationships long before I was ready to handle them. While some of my closest friends were enjoying being young and learning skills I wish I had today, I was trying to be older. That was my goal.
To be young was to be weak and have no rights. Being treated like a child was the ultimate disrespect in my mind (spoken like an ‘only’ child – which I am). When adults tried to lovingly, or not so lovingly, explain to me that I did not need a boyfriend and that I was too young to deal with the emotional stress that comes with relationships, I resented their opinions. It was none of their business; and, after all, they said themselves that I was mature for my age.
My teen years were characterized by one relationship after another. By the time I was the age I had dreamed of being for so many years, I was becoming bitter. Dating and being told sweet nothings by a number of guys did not make my life perfect. With each break up, a little piece of my heart was damaged. I’m not only talking about the relationships that ended against my will. Even the relationships that I ended left me scarred.
After I would get myself in over my head emotionally, I would finally obey the nudging of the Holy Spirit and break off the relationship (this basically means I disobeyed the nudging of the Holy Spirit for a long time and then finally gave in when I couldn’t take it anymore); but, I did not just let them go and never think about them again. Each break up broke my heart a little more.
By the time I was eighteen, I walked around with a scowl on my face. My walk with God was suffering and the world didn’t seem as bright as it had before I tried to take my life into my own hands. There was anger inside more towards some who had hurt me; but, more than that, there was anger inside me toward myself. So much of my precious youth had been wasted.
Still, God in His amazing grace brought a tremendous man into my life. Looking back on my teen years and all the times I threw my heart around, I am so thankful to have him and his stability. My purpose for talking about this part of my life is two-fold:
First, when you see a young girl who is tall, polite, and gets along well with people older than herself… don’t be fooled. She’s still a lovely child. She needs guidance to realize that she is growing into a young woman, but is not there yet. Encourage her to enjoy her youth, have her read this post (if you think it would help), and don’t treat her like she is older than she is because she will believe you and she’ll likely act upon it.
My second reason for bringing this up is for the young people that may relate to my story. Maybe you are always being treated like a little adult. Maybe you are being pursued by guys (or in some cases girls) that are much older. Maybe you want to spend all your time dating. I know how you feel.
It seemed like time dragged on and I would never be old enough to date and have that princess feeling. There are a handful of dating experiences that I wouldn’t want to give back; but, there are far more of them that I would gladly remove from my memory if I could.
So, this is what I wish I could tell teens who can’t wait to date: Listen to your parents when they encourage you to wait to become involved in romantic relationships. When you are ready, your parents (and other adults you respect) will encourage you and, as a result, you will probably get married and enjoy a special love story; but, don’t let it be tainted by constantly bruising your heart. Even if you are blessed to have a great spouse after all of the turmoil, the scars will still remain. There are hurts I allowed my heart to go through as a young person that I still struggle with today.
Once you are an adult you will miss those youthful days. I know I do! So, if you are a young person, enjoy it and don’t waste precious time trying to be older. You will probably spend most of your life being older. If you were like me and you did waste a lot of your youth, let God’s grace wash over you. Tomorrow is a new day and there is no need spending your time replaying your mistakes and regrets. He can make you whole and use your gifts and talents now!
When did you begin dating? Looking back, do you think you were ready for the emotional responsibility at that time? Is there anything you would change?