Twelve didn’t seem monumental. Yet it is. The amount of changes kids experience during the last year of preteen glory is mind-blowing.
When I think back to my own twelfth year, my transformation was extreme and fundamental. Granted, my children live in a different time and are a different gender, but they will probably feel similar thrills and pangs about this year in hindsight too.
I’m not so far removed that I don’t remember what it was like to be young, confused, and convinced I’d never learn how to shave properly.
The first half of the year, I attended seventh grade at…was it a middle school, a seventh grade center, or a junior high back then? The summer came and went. I spent the second half adjusting to eighth grade at a real junior high. I felt so grown up.
Who I was going into my twelfth year was very different from who I was when it was over:
In the beginning of the year, I played the flute. Toward the end, I French-kissed a boy for the first time. Couldn’t get a pleasant sound out of either one.
In the beginning, kids called me Casper, because I was pale and kind and sweet. In the end, they called me Lucy, because I looked like the cartoon character from Peanuts and often acted like her, too.
In the beginning, I wore a feather in my hair until the principal banned roach clips in school. In the end, I was chewing on cinnamon toothpicks until the principal banned them for causing hallucinations. That’s when I learned students weren’t supposed to be happy.
In the beginning of seventh grade, I wore parachute pants and shoulder pads. In the end, I wore blue eyeshadow. And wondered why I was alone.
In the beginning of my twelfth year, I had no breasts and drank milkshakes with raw eggs while doing “Increase My Bust” exercises. At the end of my twelfth year, I had no breasts and drank milkshakes with raw eggs while doing “Increase My Bust” exercises.
In the beginning, I felt scared to be in the house by myself. In the end, I was babysitting the kids across the street and paying them two percent of my salary to get lost.
In the beginning, I loved Golden Earring and Lionel Richie. In the end, Duran Duran and U2 consumed me.
In the beginning, I rode my bike everywhere. In the end, I was tagging along with Becky’s older sister, who taught us how to make dresses out of garbage bags.
In the beginning, I was watching On Golden Pond with the whole family. In the end, I was sneaking into 48 Hours with Cathy.
In the beginning of my twelfth year, I was smoking Yves St. Laurent menthol cigarettes. At the end of my twelfth year, I’d moved on to Camels and fancied myself a badass.
In the beginning, I wanted my dad to go away. By the end, he had.
In the beginning, I wasn’t allowed to spend the night at friends’ houses. In the end, I was sticking bras in freezers overnight with the best of ’em.
In the beginning, I wasn’t thinking a single profound thought. At the end, I was filling up an entire diary.
In the beginning, I listened to my parents’ radio stations. In the end, I discovered alternative music.
In the beginning of my twelfth year, friends faded from memory as soon as I left school. By the end of my twelfth year, I’d met those who would play a major role in the rest of my life.
As I guide my children through their own transformations, it helps to remember back thirty years and remember how much I, myself, changed.
This article was originally published on