My best friend's son just turned 10. His birthday had me thinking how fast the years pass. One minute a bouncing baby boy is welcomed into the world. The next, he's in fifth grade.
Something tells me he doesn't fit in a baby carrier anymore.
A mere 30 years ago, I also turned 10 in fifth grade in New Palestine, Ind. I may sound like a grumpy old lady, but life seemed a lot simpler then. Technically, it was. I was 10. There were no adult responsibilities like paying bills or finding jobs. My biggest responsibility was going to school and getting good grades.
Maybe I should look into revisiting that idea.
At 10, I was still playing Barbies, somewhat secretly, and Ghost in the Graveyard. After school I climbed trees and built forts in the woods. I was a pre-teen, what they call 'tweens today, and just starting to build my self-esteem as a young, soon-to-be woman.
That's not always fun, puberty. Of course I had several years to go before that even happened.
I remember the pressures of wanting to mature and develop. I read Judy Blume's "Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret" religiously.
Thank you for that, Judy.
Although published in 1970, "Are You There, God?" was still relevant to girls like me in 1982. Blume wrote about all things girls heading into puberty fret over - first bras, first periods and first crushes on boys. In the fifth grade, I was totally smitten with a boy in my class named Kris. I thought he was so cute with dark hair, brown eyes and a nice smile. I had no idea of how I would ever talk to him.
Funny, I have the same concerns now.
I was not like the other girls in my class who seemed to blossom with ease. And I don't mean intellectually. I looked a lot like a little boy until I was out of the eighth grade. I remember a fifth-grade male classmate, who ironically liked me, nicknamed me the Energizer Bunny. He said I need a little energizing.
Hint hint, wink wink.
I certainly needed a bra of the training variety. I may have even considered stuffing it. I did those "I must, I must ..." exercises from "Are You There, God?" to increase my bust. Punky Brewster was doing it, so why wouldn't I try?
They don't really work.
Times were simple for me in 1982, but I'm not sure I would want to go back. I felt inadequate.
The other girls were changing and I seemed to be stuck in a time warp. While everyone else was getting taller and curvy, I looked more like Half Pint from "Little House on the Prairie." I was literally nicknamed after her on my softball team because of my boyish good looks and propensity to wear braided pigtails in right field. I think I won the trophy for best attitude that year.
Because we all know in youth league softball, attitude is everything.
Around 10, I started to realize that although I may not have breasts, I was funny. I could make people laugh. And I was good in school, especially reading and writing. So I had that going for me. Sometimes girls at that age don't see the importance of those attributes. Physical qualities start to overshadow personalities.
If I could speak to my 10-year-old self, I would tell her not to worry. Someday she would be going to her junior and senior proms with her high school sweetheart who had a crush on her since they were kids on the school bus. She would be voted on to student council all four years of high school. And play college tennis on a scholarship earned with good grades. Ten-year-old April probably wouldn't believe it.
But it's true.
I would tell little Half Pint she would someday be a stand-up comic and newspaper columnist writing about her life in the mountains of Colorado. She would have awesome parents and amazingly supportive girlfriends to help her through good times and bad. And she would finally get that passport she always wanted to see the world.
Or at least Mexico.
For parents with a daughter like me - or maybe a daughter opposite of me, reaching puberty before all the other girls in her class - I would tell her all things pass with time. That situations, and people, can change. And not everything in life is based on looks.
Even if, at 10, it sure feels like it.
- "April in Glenwood" appears every Wednesday. April E. Clark is channeling her inner Irish potato farmer and emceeing Saturday's Potato Day parade in Carbondale. Long live the spud. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.