I'm a Big Kid Now

7:30 AM

I heart Sarah. She's one of my besties. And she's pretty cool to boot.
To the cool-people-wannabes ------------

Today I ran around with a bunch of kids. I swung out on the church swings, teasing the little guys about cowboy boots and did you know that there's a brand of cowboy hats called Bailey? I hugged a bunch of little girls. I made a shy girl smile big by chatting with her about the resident outlawed outlaws, the Burrito Bandido and the Black Bandana (we're in the middle of an Old West VBS them, here).

I started out alone, on the swings, just sitting by myself, kicking my purple-argyle-sock-ed feet because my boots fell off, and then a group of the little guys who swear they can't stand me came out specifically to swing -- and oh, I just happened to be there.

I'm onto this, brother. I can read between the lines. Every time you tell me I'm weird and have girl cooties I know deep down in your heart you want me to keep annoying you. The girls are easier on me. They tell me outright how much they love me.

I laugh because I used to be the same way.

Remember when anyone in their teens was awesomer to you than all the teen idols put together? Remember those days when that pretty older girl smiled at you and asked how you were, and how you beamed like anything because she noticed me!!!? Remember when any guy who was over thirteen made your ten-year-old heart an easy target for imaginary Cupid arrows? (Why, Lord?) Remember how second nature it was to adore those older kids in your life?

Somewhere between my adoration and my growth, I ended up that Older Kid. I went from walking in the hallowed shadow of my heroes to casting one myself. Somehow, I hit that mysterious age of seventeen, an age where you'll always be guaranteed a celebrity slot among anyone middle school-aged and younger. All those wasted days of looking for acceptance and popularity -- if you'd have only told me I'd earn it after a certain birthday, I'd have lived a much happier childhood.

It's funny how the perception of younger kids sees only the insurmountable age of their elder acquaintances, earning them instant awesomeness. I used to think, when younger, that older girls seemed cool because they were cool; I never thought to check whether it was the age gap that attributed to them coolness where none could be rightfully found. Their hair -- how did they manage to do it like that? Their personalities -- how did they iron out all the fear and shyness? Their resident awesomeness -- where did one come by such a stunning find?

My line of thinking went something like, "When I grow up, I want to be seventeen."

Seventeen was a million years away. The accompanying aura of amazingness seemed even further. Even if I hit that age, I figured, I'd never be half as cool as the blond, high-heeled, mascara-ed teens flocking out the door to youth group on Sundays -- or the college students leading the group singing -- or the big girls who gave their testimonies and mentored us little girls during special conferences and Bible studies. I'd just be a gray bump on the wall, unnoticed, awkward, useless to society at large.

Surprise, surprise, my seventeenth birthday passed with little internal fanfare. I woke up unchanged, for the most part, though I usually don't scrutinize myself very closely in the morning; it settles a ghastly little pall over my early morning optimism. Still, inexplicably, I find myself in this spot as the Amazing Older Girl whose very look is treasured, whose words shoot up low levels of self-esteem, whose teasing is the best sort of torture to sit under.

Who'd have thunk that a shy little girl would grow up to be greeted with lit up faces by other shy little girls who adore everything about her?

But that goes to show something: There's really nothing that special about older girls, if I'm one. We don't grow an awesomeness gland or anything once we hit fifteen. It's not in the way we do our hair or make-up, or in what shoes we wear, or whether we have a popular circle of friends. It's just perception. And as my daddy says, perception is reality.

In a way, it's funny to be flip-flopped from little kid to big kid status. Now I'm the one who has a magical touch. Now I'm the one who can dish out the whole, "You're so adorable!" one-liner (okay -- I still get that all the time). Now I'm the one on the pedestal. Now I'm the one who doesn't have to sit on the sidelines waiting to be cool enough to join the cliques; I'm above the clique. I can unite forces. I can break ice. I can cross the lines of the cool girls and the normal girls and the quiet girls without coming under fire. I feel almost invincible.

Except for the fact that, you know, I'm not. I'm just me, seventeen-years-old. Nothin' special. Seriously. Nothin' special at all. The secret? I'm a big kid now. And I love every second of it.

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6 impressions

  1. Remember though, you're too short to be seventeen. :)

  2. That was great, Bailey! Very well-written and true to life. ;)

    To be completely honest, I was terrified of teens when I was little. No, I don't mean that I was overwhelmed by their awesomeness, I mean that I was literally in fear of them. You see, there were a few people in the youth group who had serious behavior problems. And for some reason, adults in the church though it was a grrrreat idea for the teens to babysit the younger children during certain church functions just for adults. Teens threw blocks around, complained that their parents wouldn't let them date, drive without supervision, stay out after 10, etc. And one girl told me I had to wait for her to make her soda explode before she would take me to the bathroom.

    Now I wish that there had been more people like you for me to look up to when I was little. There were a few people I put on a pedestal of awesomeness, but all in all, I had a pretty bad perception of teenagers, and dreaded the day that I would become one. (Not that I thought I'd be like them; I knew better than that. I just knew I wouldn't fit in with them, and all the younger kids would hate me, right? xD)

    It wasn't until I was about ten and a half that I began to comprehend the full awesomeness of those older than I, and began to learn that there were plenty of nice teens. I couldn't wait to be like them. With my glasses, braces, and entirely un-fashion-conscious mind, I yearned to one day achieve that kind of self-esteem, grace, and poise. I haven't, obviously, and realize that they never were all I fancied them to be. Thus, my wide-eyed adoration is laughable, yet sometimes I see hints of it in younger girls. I forget that I have that kind of influence, and thanks for reminding me as I learn how to use it correctly. =)

  3. I love it too. And it truly is amazing how God can use you as an example to younger kids once you're the "cool big kid". One of my favorite stories involving myself and a little kid was one week when one of my piano students (a boy of nine years) told me, "Miss Rachel, you really need to get married and move away so I can stop taking piano lessons!". And then the next week (somehow in those seven days in between lessons he discovered I was in a courtship) he asked, "If you and Andrew get married he'll move in with your family, right? You wouldn't actually leave, would you?". ;) So sweet and funny.

    I love my church with all of the little kids and being able to be that "older kid" to them. I'm not sure exactly what age that change happened for me, but I adore it!

    God bless!

  4. I read this post, smiled and nodded at appropriate times, and closed the window feeling encouraged. Little kids look up to me, respect me! A heartening, yet responsibility-laden thought.

    Then the test came.

    Not twenty minutes later, I was in an overflowing minivan crammed between two small children (not my siblings) ages four and six, on our way to the beach. The ocean is a good hour and a half away, and these two children are not the best behaved, so I braced myself for the worst. And it came. We're talking spitballs, bubblegum in the hair, spilled orange juice on the lap, pinches, hair pulling . . .

    At this point, my thoughts were somewhere between this car ride can't be over fast enough and I want to cook these kids alive. (All in the name of *ahem* loving discipline, of course.) And then I remembered your post.

    I can be a role model for these kids. I can show them patience and love, because they look up to me even if it doesn't seem like they do. I can be Christ's ambassador to them.

    Thank you a thousand times over from this exhausted diplomat.

  5. Oh wow, this is so true! I've been working at a day camp this summer, and I experienced this in everything from my group of 11 and 12 year-old girls, to the group of 8 year-old boys who adored me. That is such a cool phenomenon!
    (Aemi and Allison's lurking sister)

  6. And I remember well the days when our daddy was a youth pastor in a First Baptist Church. We got to hang out with the teenagers a lot, and yes, they were all so nice, tall, beautiful and smart, that I wanted to be like them. I couldn't wait to turn seven, because I was sure I would be nice, tall, beautiful and smart, and little kids would adore me. (I was disappointed when I turned seven and was still a little kid.)
    And now, I look at little kids and see adoration in their faces. They want to be just like me---just because I'm a teenager.
    It's a huge responsibility, and it's amazing.


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