I remember the summer that I realized boys were interested in me and that they wanted to be with me. They competed for my attention. And all this happened right around the time that I began developing some curves and had a great tan. I realized that I had power over these boys. I could manipulate them, pit them against one another. And it was fairly easy to do.
Seventeen magazine and Tiger Beat reinforced my belief in the importance of having the attention of boys. Beautiful, popular girls always had boyfriends; and they always seemed to have some sort of drama brewing up around them. Other girls hated them and boys wanted to be with them. Wasn’t that the way it was supposed to be?
I readily gave up my good reputation, my self-respect, my dignity, my self-worth just to have a boyfriend. I cringe when I think about that now. For me, that was 25 years ago. Unfortunately, all too many girls are following that same pattern – at an even younger age. I now have 2 teenage sons and a teenage daughter, and I regularly pray that God would keep girls like I was away from my sons. I tell my sons to stay away from girls because all they do is cause trouble and make you spend all your money. And I should know.
With my 13-year-old daughter it is a different story. Taken away from a young unwed mother at 7 and being a part of the state’s foster care system for the next 4 years, she really needs a lot of guidance in making wise decisions regarding her future. I don’t want her to believe that she needs to have a boyfriend – or even the attention of any boy that is not her brother. I want her to grow in her relationship with Christ and to be sure of who she is before even thinking about having a relationship with a boy. I want her to be focused on setting her own goals and planning out how she intends to get there. Don’t get me wrong; I don’t want my daughter to live a celibate, lonely life. I just want her to know that having a serious relationship with someone will be wonderful when she’s ready for it. I want her to know that she doesn’t have to deal with that right now in her life.
I wish that someone had told me that when I was 13. Deep down I knew that I should have been behaving differently and making better chioces. But it would have made a world of difference to know that someone was supporting me and encouraging me to make right decisions. If someone that I respected in my life had just taken the time to talk with me – if someone had held me accountable – if someone had helped me to understand what living a Christian life was supposed to mean, then maybe, just maybe. . . I’ll never know because those things didn’t happen. No one was giving me wise council. No one was encouraging me to make right choices. No one was telling me that I really needed Christ, not a boyfriend. No one mentioned any of that at home, in Sunday School, in church services, in youth group. It would have been so easy to guide me down the right path, because it was so easy for me to head down the wrong one on my own (with the help of a few teen magazine articles).
Kids need to have a strong support system all the way around them – at home, at church, in youth group, at school even. They need to be taught what is absolutely right and what is absolutely wrong. They need to be taught that the Bible is the ultimate source for all truth. They need to be held accountable. They need to know they are loved and they are important.
I pray that every child who comes under my teaching and guidance (whether my own children or not) will feel loved, supported, encouraged, and directed down a good path. I pray that I can help spark a love for Jesus and a desire to know Him intimately in the hearts of all the children God places in my life. I pray that I can help them to hold fast to what they know is true and right. And, above all, I pray that no child in my midst would ever feel alone.