Would I Want to Be Thirteen Again?

I’m undecided, but mostly No.

These guys all turned out okay (can you guess who they are?) but thirteen wasn’t MY best year.

Braces. Hair-do’s that are cringe worthy. I got my first pair of glasses then too. Seeing the picture? Ouch. I was also coming into my own socially and academically. Boys were circling. Some of my good girlfriends at age thirteen were a full foot taller than guys at thirteen – get this, even I, such a short stride now, was pretty tall then.

I was athletic and popular which made up for my lack of academic skills – I was always a cheerleader (even as a thirteen year old, my school had what they called Midget Cheerleaders – I bet that term doesn’t stand today!). I played field hockey and tennis and on the weekends played golf. I was a country club rat in those days – my parents dropped me off while they played golf and those of us teens there would play tennis or golf or swim. It was pretty darn good.

I often wonder if I had a do-over, would I do anything (everything) differently? I’d certainly apply myself more to the books, less boys. I might have benefited from being more serious and less giggly. But I was obliviously happy, honestly not thinking much about the future. My parents were typical of their generation – my dad assumed I’d find a good husband in college so I didn’t get a lot of academic direction from them (not their fault really – it’s how it was).

Fast forward to next week when my sister’s older grand-daughter turns thirteen. The whole family is gathering in Wilmington for a party (so my mother can participate) then she’s off for a month out West to hike and camp.

I look at her generation of thirteen year olds and am in awe. Alice (not her real name but it’s easier to continue the conversation with a name, not just using the word her/she) is the youngest in her class at a private school in the city – all the others have already turned 13, but Alice maintains straight A’s in all her classes, athletic, she participated for several years in competition gymnastics, she’s a fiend reader, loving especially learning trivia, she’s a math and science whiz, has learned computer coding, and she’s an accomplished baker (like her dad who is the family champ pie baker). For two years straight Alice won her school’s National Geographic Geography Bee and went to Albany to compete. Plus, she’s fun and funny and such an all-around great kid – grounded, sure of herself, focused but not maniacally driven and just plain happy (especially now that her parents finally finally gave her an iPhone! – she was the last of her friends to get one).

Obviously great parenting there as well as nature taking its course but it’s astounding that in two generations, we can go from what was normal for me in the 1960s to be just okay at academics to Alice being part of the super-kid generation. Being focused wasn’t even in my vocabulary! Maybe it’s a girl thing and you guys will say you were most definitely focused, even driven, by your own sense of desire to achieve, or by the demands of your parents). I was not. I have many friends in the city whose children were given no choice but to excel – there was no page for failure or mediocrity. We did not hold our own children up to those standards and they all turned out fine – some more intrinsically driven than others – but overall, happy and feeling life is good.

I’m trying to decide what on earth to give Alice for her 13th. Time’s a fleeting and I’ve come up with nothing – no real good ideas. I’m leaning to some specialty baking items at Sur la Table since she relaxes after a long day at school by baking. I’ll keep you posted.

How many of you would take a do-over? As much as I think I could do better second time around, I’ll stay pat at 68, complain a bit, but be happy with what I have.

Happy Hump Day!

25 thoughts on “Would I Want to Be Thirteen Again?

  1. I’d go back in a heartbeat but only with the knowledge I have now of what I didn’t do well first time around. I was painfully shy and introverted because of a lisp I had so I was afraid of being laughed at. I never went to a dance or a prom. I kept to myself a lot until I got to college and met the woman who is now my wife. She brought me out of my shell. It wasn’t only the social aspect of high school I missed – it was as if I didn’t really attend. I was that invisible.

  2. If she loves to bake take a look at the King Arthur website. There are on line classes in addition to classes held in VT. I believe they sometimes offer classes around the country but am not sure if they still do. Of course, they have terrific products both ingredients and equipment.
    A piece of jewelry is a good fall back present.

    1. They have done some fabulous classes at the King Arthur Flour studio. Alice made sticky buns and I think her sister made croissants. They loved the classes. I’d love to take one or two myself.

      My mother is giving jewelry and so too is my sister. I’m the fun Aunt, so I like to give fun and different gifts.

      1. I’m always at a loss when it comes to gifts for that age, let alone fun and different ones. Would she like a puppy?

        1. A puppy. Now there’s an idea that would make me Number One Enemy real fast. My sister, both her daughters, and both her granddaughters are not animal lovers, and particularly not dog lovers. They owned one dog when my nieces were maybe 8 and 10 years old and they lived in Princeton. No one paid any attention to the dog because they really didn’t want him in the first place, he was home alone a lot, one day he shredded to bits a sofa, the next day bit the mailman, and that was the last day anyone on that side of the family owned a pet. They are afraid to come here with Dawg. It’s odd how relatives can be so polar opposite about love of dogs. You could give ME a puppy!

  3. I’m the generation of your children and had very strict parents with regard to academics. No B grades were acceptable. There was always the pressure of college looming over me, my father and grandfather went to MIT and it was expected I’d attend. They are both research scientists and that field was also expected of me. My first year at MIT was an utter failure because I was unprepared for anything outside of academics. I had no sense of myself, no idea what I could be other than what I was told to be. I dropped out of MIT before my sophomore year and went to University of Texas Cockrell School of Engineering and got an undergraduate degree in Petroleum Engineering and later got my law degree at nights – my specialty is suing oil companies! My parents were about to disown me for dropping out of MIT but now that they see how much I like my life, they understand. I do not plan to expect so much of my children (who are 3 and 5).

  4. i don’t have a story to tell so i’ll guess at the celebs in the photos.
    Jennifer Anniston
    George Clooney
    Jennifer Lopez

    1. You know I’m not sure myself. I just Googled celebs as teens. Yes, the first on the L is Jennifer Aniston. Then yes George Clooney. Not sure if that’s Jennifer Lopez. Looks a bit like Drew Barrymore to me. And I have no clue who the guy is on the R. I guess I’ll have to go back to the original Google find and see if they name the celebs.

      UPDATE: I looked. You are two for four. Girl in middle is neither Jennifer Lopez nor Drew Barrymore. I’d never have guessed the guy on the right so good luck.

      1. You knew that from looking at him or because that’s who YOU really are?? 🙂 I can see it now that I know but I wouldn’t have without a hint. He may be an alleged celeb but there’s no way to allege how rich he is.

  5. Thanks a lot, Martha Stewart : )
    I found him on one of those “celebz as kidz” websites, but, besides Aniston and Clooney, I didn’t know who the other chick was. I’ll give old Ryn credit, he started as a nothing weatherman and with the help of his sugar daddy Merv Griffin, is now a power player worth millions.

    1. Except for her stint in the pokey and losing half her net worth when MSO sold off so much of her empire, I’d be pretty happy being Martha Stewart. One day if you ever come east, you have to do a drive by of her Bedford acreage. I mean, there is perfection and then there is MS perfection. I’d live happily ever after as one of her horses in a barn that is fit for royalty.

      Ryan Seacrest seems a pretty happy guy but I know nothing about his personal life. Married? family?

      1. oh good lord, EOSr. he’s a big zero in an industry segment awash in zeroes. i cannot math the bazillion dead brain cells resulting from entering his name in a Google search.

        1. I did not know that chris. Later today, when the rains come, I’ll torture myself and Google Seacrest. For now, the sun is out and out I go too.

  6. If I could do it all over, I’d work harder in high school and college … not to change the trajectory of my career or my life (I’ve been fortunate and have no excuse to grouse), but to enjoy the learning opportunities that were right there in front of me, but that I chose to ignore. I was one of those kids who could get above-average grades with below-average effort … and that was just fine with me, thank you very much! Zero willingness to expend one ounce of extra effort or take a risk on a class I may have to struggle in. I found a glide path and had no motivation to deviate from it. Intellectual curiosity? … Never heard of it. My loss.

    1. I think you hit the nail on the head. I too wish I had that intellectual curiosity back then because my teachers were some of the best who loved classroom conversation. I did however have to work hard for my grades. Nothing academic came easily to me. I’d get A’s in French and English AP classes and C-D’s in math or science. That left me with report cards with teachers telling me to try harder. I guess if we both have intellectual curiosity now, it’s better than not at all!!!

  7. I regret I didn’t go to law school. Not that I regret the business school route but I think I would have had more fun studying law. Actually, a woman I knew long ago never graduated from college but ‘read law’ in VT and had a very successful career. Abraham Lincoln did that and look where he ended up.

    Curiosity takes many shapes. Who’s to say whether it’s intellectual or not. Formal education is not the only measure. We all know brilliant people who took a different route. Likewise, we know very well educated – on paper anyway-,jerks.

      1. The short answer is that apprentice yourself to a member of the bar and work in his office for several years before taking the VT bar exam. You do not have to attend law school or get a law degree to be admitted to the bar this way. I don’t know what other states offer this route to becoming a lawyer. As far as I know, VT still does.
        CF probably knows more than I on this subject.

        1. That’s great unless you need to be a very specific kind of lawyer, like a trial lawyer. I’m not sure I’d want to know that Tom Smith was defending me for murder and never went to law school. Gulp. I’m sure NY would never have such a terrific plan. I’m going to research it though.

          Huh, who knew? Admission without law school. In California, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Wyoming an applicant who has not attended law school may take the bar exam after study under a judge or practicing attorney for an extended period of time. This method is known as “reading law” or “reading the law”.

    1. You are right indeed, Swanton … “curiosity” need not be preceded by “intellectual” to be important … not at all.

      That said, while you may wish you’d gone to law school, I personally know a good number of people who went to law school and subsequently wished they hadn’t! Perhaps it was a mid-70s thing? (My vintage.) As far as I can tell from my cohort there, the satisfaction of learning the law was smashed by the grueling reality of billable hours, aka “production” — something you, as an MBA, may have taken as business-as-usual, but they (back then) considered a profoundly shocking jolt.

        1. My son got his law degree not to practice law too – he’s a sports agent and specialized in sport/entertainment law, doesn’t use it in his daily negotiations but it is helpful.

          I was the nerdy girl who was also the ugly duckling. I got straight A’s, won awards for my writing but was invisible to my popular classmates. My parents were poor so my outfits were homemade and I didn’t have braces like everyone else. I wasn’t bullied. I was ignored. That was okay for me because I enjoyed living in my own little world. Like Peter, I came into my own in college when I met a guy who saw more in me than I saw in myself. 🙂

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