What Makes You an Adult?

I am still not used to the word “adult.” I’ll occasionally hear people refer to me as an adult and I’ll think, “Huh? Who are they talking about?”

I guess for some people, it is normal to still think of yourself as a kid. I look over the last 5-10 years of my life, however, and realize that in terms of “growing up,” I’ve done a lot.

But does doing grown up stuff really make you an adult? In today’s culture where children grow up all too fast and take on the pressures of adult life too soon, and “maturity” is a dying word, what actually makes someone an adult?

Kids, as young as 12 and 13 these days, are having sex. For many of these kids, peer pressure leads to sex, but sex is also a way to feel mature. Yet, we know that sex at an early age leads to many different symptoms, maturity however, not being one of them.

So if sex doesn’t make you an adult, what about puberty? I think this goes hand-in-hand with young kids having sex. Just because a person’s body is ready to have sex, doesn’t mean they are emotionally, intellectually, or spiritually mature.

Okay, so  what else makes someone an adult? What about the day you get the keys to the car? Oh, there is such a feeling of “being older” and freedom, no doubt. At 16, though, I was anything but an adult. I wanted to be an adult. I maybe even convinced myself that I was an adult, but my actions at 16 proved otherwise.

The state says you are an adult when you turn 18 and others would argue you are an adult,  when you turn 21. But again, how many irresponsible 18-21 year olds do you know? I’ve known a few, myself included.

There is always graduating from college or landing your first “real job” maybe including a salary and benefits. And let’s not discount getting married and perhaps having children. Those things certainly grow you up, but do they make you a grown up?

I still look at my life sometimes, complete with a husband, two children, a house, a dog, and a cat–and think, “Seriously? How did I get here?” I feel as though, someone has made a mistake–there is no way I can be a someone’s wife and two people’s mom…I’m just a kid myself.

Yet, while I might feel like a kid, I know that my actions, my thoughts, and the responsibilities upon me are not those of a child. I can look at my life and recognize that the thing that most seperates me from a child is being selfless.

Children are selfish and they have every reason to be. They know no differently. As I have grown up and matured, I have begun to realize more and more the need to place others before myself and become selfless. Children are selfish. Adults are selfless.

I think responsibility plays a huge role in making someone an adult too. How many times as kids and really teenagers, do we beg our parents to treat us like adults? In response, what do they do? They slap us with more “responsibility.” We quickly regret our decision of asking for adult treatment.

Now, however, I enjoy my responsibilities (ugh, that really makes me sound old) mostly because they invlove taking care of the things that I cherish, like my family, my home, the church, this blog.

I have a long way to go before I’ll feel like a real adult, whatever that means, but I’m thankful that the mark of an adult, in my estimation, is not necessarily their age or their status, but more a reflection of their character and actions.

What do you think makes you an adult? What about other people? Was there one moment when you realized you had grown up?

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9 thoughts on “What Makes You an Adult?”

  1. oh well…that’s a tough one!
    I’m ‘only’ 22, so some people only barely consider me an adult (me included ;-) ) on the other hand, I’ve definitely lived every one of those years making some adult decisions far too early and I guess that’s why everybody seems to think I’m a lot older.
    but to me…I’ve got no clue whether I already qualify as an adult.
    I love your point about selfish and selfless…personally I think that being an adult entails that a person makes ‘adult descions’ (the kind with the big consequences, family, job, money, lifestyle,…) and bears their consequences with maturity. that probably limits the amount of adults on planet earth to about a handful, but hey…let a young chick dream ;-)
    however, just recently I had a moment of thinking…goodness gracious when did I grow up. as the chick ministry leader of my church I’m in the middle of organising a women’s conference at the moment…and in a late night session of budget proposals, programm concepts, decoration samples etc., I looked up and thought: “wow…this is big girl stuff” ;-)

    1. Julia,
      Great point about big decisions with big consequences. Adults make decisions that have more weighted and heavier consequences, either for good or for bad.

      And wow, you are a busy girl and doing so much. Praying for continued perseverance and joy as you go forward doing all that “big girl stuff”!

  2. I’m not sure what makes an adult. It might be one of those things that is defined easier by what you DON’T do. You know what I mean?
    I consider myself a grown up. I moved out on my own at 17, and got pregnant at 18, and had 4 kids before 30. I own my own house, I pay all my bills and I take care of my kids the best I can. I guess that defines a grown up to me, takin care of binness. :)

    1. I like that answer. Being an adult, is very much about what you DON’T do.

      I know that the choices I made have led me to say “no” to many things and “yes” to a smaller few, like my family and my home.

      Great answer Ade. You always impress me too…4 kids before 30? Wow! You’re amazing!

  3. I think that one sign of maturity in the “coming of age” argument is the depth of self-awareness that one has. And not necessarily being emotionally intuitive, but knowing one’s limitations. Being able to understand when to say “no,” and when to say “yes.” And being able to follow through with that response.

    This obviously affects different people differently (people pleasers need to learn the “no,” lazy people need to learn the “yes”), but someone who’s word is reliable is invaluable.

    Great post.

    1. Josh,
      What a great addition to the thought. You listed some really excellent points. I especially love “knowing one’s limits.” Maturity, is very much about knowing what we are capable of and what we are not. As well as knowing that which we should prioritize or that which we can let fall aside.

      Thanks for adding that! Great stuff.

  4. I am 21. I’ve been living on my own going on fully 2 years, previous years I was living with my mother, whom has her many faults and I still love her but for my mental and emotional health I cannot afford to have her in my life. I was a senior in high school and working full time making 8 an hour with a school program, and paying all the bills that I could afford. While she laid around watching tv or playing video games and stayed out of work for a year. Then decided to persue acting. I am the oldest and my brother was always the one who got away with everything. If the house didn’t get cleaned everyday I would get in trouble. (which was basically like a 2 year old temper tantrum. Complete with objects being thrown from the kitchen table to sewing machines) When I was 14 I had to make sure he had somewhere to stay while she went out of town. This whole difference in adulthood and adolescents with me is all over the place. I feel like an adult but then sometimes my reactions to things make me feel childish.

  5. Me personally, I’m only 22 and to be considered an adult is a stretch lol I honestly think that just bc we do adult things in life paying bills, car notes, mortgage etc is just the necessity of being an adult…its more of a maturity and our stature how we see the world from a different perspective which I think makes us adults…yeah some of us can be kids at heart (me especially) but there comes a time when life hits you and you gotta grow up and hit life back. I agree with being younger yet being introduced to the adult life early is a bit stressful for some people bc it’s A LOT to handle… But the real question to ask is, how to know when you’ve considered yourself an adult?

  6. I am going through a difficult time with my 19 year old daughter making poor decisions because “she is an adult”. I have really tried to help her. However, in my opinion, when you are financially able to take care of yourself, then you have the right to call yourself an adult and live with the consequences of your decisions. I am getting ready to pull my financial support which is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. But continuing to provide this shows that I’m in agreement with her and I cannot be. Pray for us both

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