When I was 12, I was still climbing trees, swinging on tire swings and playing with Barbie dolls.
Yes, I was probably the last kid in my class to really grow up, literally and figuratively.
I kept my childish body far into my teen years and, because we lived in a rural area, I chose my entertainment based on my own preferences, rather than peer pressure. Toys were fun. I wasn’t as sure about boys back then.
It wasn’t always easy being different. In fact, it was rarely easy.
I was a nerd following in the footsteps of an even nerdier brother. When I got to high school, I felt vaguely menaced by my peers and found the restrooms to be particularly frightening. This was back in the days when a song about smoking in the boys room was a big hit. And the bathrooms at my overcrowded high school were thick with smoke.
Looking back on those early teen years, I can not imagine a world more different than the one in which some kids are raised today.
Each week, I read arrest reports for and about children. They are as young as 11 and 12 and some of them are charged with serious crimes.
At the age when I was wondering what it might be like to kiss a boy, a 13-year-old Crestview girl was joyriding around all night with her boyfriend in a stolen car. The middle school student was charged with two felonies, because, in addition to stealing a car, she told authorities she contemplated and attempted to steal another.
A boy that same age was seriously wounded last week when he was shot at his bus stop.
They are both babies, in my eyes, whose lives are changed forever.
It’s easy to blame the parents, but I believe there are good parents whose children do bad things.
I had good parents and I like to think I am one, too. But that doesn’t mean my kids will never break the law, that they won’t find themselves in a mess of their own making.
The world is a dangerous place for teens, filled with questions, questionable people and powerful influences. And as parents, it’s our job to raise them to deal with all of these, whether we are looking over their shoulders or not.
Will it ever be easy?
Maybe not, but I have to believe that with each passing year the challenge becomes more manageable.
Managing Editor Wendy Victora can be reached at 315-4478 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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