I have always been told I am mature and grown up for my age. Only recently did I realize what a tragedy that is. As a child, I always loved being told what a mature young lady I was. I felt special, and wise. But this summer I came to understand that childhood is a sacred time, not to be rushed through. I realized that my childhood is nearly gone and I cannot turn back. Sometimes I long for my carefree early years, and am dismayed to find that they have disappeared. I believe childhood is a deeply special time in a person’s life.
Last summer, I spent a few weeks in Europe with a Belgian family. I learned a lot about European culture, the French language, and courage in facing new experiences, but one of the most important lessons of that trip floated past my ear during a dinner conversation. The two teenage daughters of the family were bemoaning their restricted privileges, wishing they could attend parties or taste Belgian beer. Their father said, “Girls should not be going to parties when they have the age of climbing in tress.” His Belgian accent distorted the words a bit, but the message was clear: children rush to grow up, but they ought to slow down and savor childhood while it lasts.
This was an epiphany for me because I had never stopped to question my plan of growing up quickly and embracing adult rights and responsibilities when they came my way. I thought about what was said that night, and realized I truly envy those two girls because when they leave home and enter the adult world, they will know they lived their childhoods to the fullest. I, however, have thought of little but the future and practicing for it. I now recognize that my childhood is slipping away, because in two years I will be living on my own and my childhood will be only a memory. I have already given up trick-or-treating, jumping in leaf piles, catching fireflies, taking walks, playing the piano just for fun, drawing whenever inspiration strikes, writing with sidewalk chalk, playing games, and wandering the world happy and carefree. I have moved on to ardent studying, college preparation, driving, sleep deprivation, and a part-time job. These days I miss my lighthearted, younger self with an intensity I did not expect. At my current age, I grasp what a special time childhood is, because it is a time of unique security, freedom, and joy. Hopefully it is not too late for me to squeeze the last few drops from this stage of my life, and relish the final months before I enter the adult world.
The childhood years are a crucial time of personal development and preparation for the responsibilities of adulthood. But they are also a time for laughing, singing, playing, dancing, and being yourself, without thinking of the future. Childhood is a time to be treasured to the end. This I believe.
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