It may not be the most fun age to be; after all, pretty much everyone is your boss, or rather, the “boss of you.” But it’s a time when responsibilities are few, and there is no such thing yet, as unrealized potential.
Looking back, I think I could have been a much happier kid. Give me a do-over, and here is what I would change:
1. Not Be Such a Goody Two-Shoes
Always being a good little kid is not always fun. Yes, we had corporal punishment then, but damn, some of those naughty kids made it look worthwhile.
2. Spend Less Time on Homework
It really didn’t matter then, but my parents told me it did so I believed them.
3. Not Believe Everything My Parents Tell Me
Telling me that if I didn’t do my homework my life would never amount to anything was just the tip of the fear-mongering behavior management that served as parenting. We will, however, leave that box closed for now won’t we, Pandora?
4. Learn to Skate
Many children who grow up with icy, snowy winters learn to skate or ski. Some only learn to slip and fall. I have, however, ventured out there with my own kids. There really is something to that “bigger they are, harder they fall” thing. Only, I think it should be changed to, “the bigger they are, the more serious the concussion.”
5. Learn to Sew
My mother could do with a bolt of fabric what Maria von Trapp could do with curtains. We ended up all matchy-matchy, but it served the purpose. Now that I am adult, with arms and legs far out of proportion with my body (picture a four-legged spider), I wish that I could sew clothing for myself that fits my gangly limbs. People must think that everything I own has three-quarter sleeves and that all my bottoms are capris.
6. Get My Younger Brother to Believe Even More Weird Stuff
I wasn’t the most streetwise kid, but my younger brother was as gullible as a first-time online dater. I had him believing that money he found was mine because I could tell him whose picture was on it. He believed me when I said that I was his guardian angel and one word from me could have him burning in the fires of eternal damnation. Fun times.
7. Learn to Speak My Parents’ Native Language
Being the seventh of eight kids, I was very lucky that my parents thought to put me in a French school, and that the rules were more lax about it then too. Being bilingual has definitely had its advantages. However, if they had spoken Flemish to us, instead of reserving it for when they did not want us to understand, I would have had a third language. A girl can’t have too many advantages.
8. Overcome My Shyness
I hate to think about all the things I probably missed because shyness held me back. Unfortunately, it’s genetic. My kids sometimes lack the confidence to be outgoing, too. We’re working on it.
9. Accept That I Am Not Adopted
I used to imagine that my real parents would come and get me one day. This whole scenario about how they were royalty who had somehow lost me played out often in my mind. I was convinced that I didn’t look anything like either one of my parents. Now that I’m older, and look a lot like my mother did at this age, I could take that hindsight back with me on my do-over and fantasize about something else.
10. Eat A Lot More of What I Can’t Eat Now
Up until the age of about 18, I had a metabolism like a hummingbird on speed. I honestly believed that this situation would never come to an end. After all, I was actually teased for my thinness, and sometimes called “Stilts” by the boys. There came a time when I was trying to intentionally gain weight. Then everything changed.
My hindsight-intact do-over would allow me to know exactly when the turning point would be. I like to think that I would still eat the healthy foods, but I could also get away with all of the chocolate cake and chips I could stomach. Then again, as I recall, trying to turn off the habit of eating in order to gain weight was really tough.
11. Ask More Questions
Maybe it was, in part, the shyness, or maybe it was the idea that not knowing something seemed like a weakness in my family, but I wish now that I had asked more questions in order to learn about the world outside my own little childhood life.
Perhaps reflecting on what I would change if I had a do-over can help me with a different type of change. Life is constantly in a state of flux, and change is not always easy to accept. Knowing that with each passing day, my wisdom grows, as it has since I was a child, now gives me the confidence to venture fearlessly around each new bend in the road ahead.