When Did 13-Year-Olds Start Looking Like Supermodels?

by Stacy Graebner
Originally Published: 
Kaponia Aliaksei / Shutterstock

You know you’re getting old when you regard your children’s generation with a mixture of fear and admiration.

My kids are preteens, and I spend a good part of my day marveling at their confidence and accomplishments and the other part of my day panicking about their confidence and accomplishments. One minute, I’m reminding them to wear underwear, and the next minute, I’m watching them whip together a PowerPoint presentation for school in under 42 seconds. This means I’m officially at that parenting stage where I have old-person thoughts about how life has changed since I was their age.

Here are just a few geriatric observations I’ve made recently (And yes, please pass the prunes. Thanks!):

1. When did 13-year-olds start looking like supermodels? Scrolling through my Facebook feed in early September, I thought it was Fashion Week instead of “back-to-school” week. Why are Kate Upton and Gisele Bündchen standing at our bus stop? Oh, wait. It’s just a few middle-schoolers getting ready to tackle the red carpet on their way to eighth-grade science class.

Thanks to Proactiv, early intervention orthodontia and swanky night clubs clothing stores like Hollister and Abercrombie that are devoted entirely to teens, the ugly duckling phase is becoming a thing of a past. Of course, displaced awkwardness needs to go somewhere, so where does it land? Yes, on fortysomething moms who are shopping with these uber-cool middle schoolers at the night club—I mean, the mall. That’s OK. Intense periods of awkwardness and exclusion build character. Right, Gisele? [sobs quietly]

2. This could be the most active group of inactive kids in the history of the world. Apparently, this generation is plagued by obesity and poor levels of fitness, but don’t tell that to the 11-year-old who almost ran me over in a 5K. In fact, quite a few kids I meet seem to be part human, part overbred, jacked-up greyhound. Not only do many of them play a sport year round, they often play multiple sports each season. There are kids who are running six-minute miles at 9 years old. There are 12-year-olds who are doing CrossFit and Parisi Speed School. Tiny gymnasts are working out six hours a day. When I was 10 years old, my idea of cardio was playing Kick the Can for 30 minutes, and the mere thought of driving a 5K left me feeling exhausted and in need of a tall glass of Kool-Aid and a hug from my mom.

Kudos, tiny, superhuman couch potatoes.

3. Why is it that they “like” everything online, but dislike most things in real life? On Instagram, they like that beach, they like that tree, they like that rainbow, and they like that football field. In real life? The beach is too sandy, that tree is annoying, they don’t see any rainbow, and they never said I liked football.

4. How come preteens who are in the same room ignore each other, but when they are away from each other they obsessively try to connect with each other? Put a bunch of kids together in the same room with iPhones and you could hear a pin drop (but don’t drop a pin, because somebody will surely step on it while glued to their phone). They will sit next to each other on their phones in separate worlds indefinitely. Once they are separated and in the comfort of their own homes, though, they will do everything in their power to connect with each other—via text, headsets and, of course, FaceTime. “I know I didn’t make eye contact with you at your house 20 minutes ago, but dude, I need to see you now! I need to see your eyes. Please pick up, please pick up, please pick up. Whereareyou?Whereareyou?Whereareyou?!”

5. Shouldn’t sleepovers involving preteens really be called “Sleepunders”? Because the amount of sleep achieved by anyone at these events is usually under five hours? Conversely, shouldn’t preteen underwear really be called “overworn”? (No explanation necessary.)

6. Preteens have the eating habits of 4-year-olds but the beverage consumption habits of 40-year-olds. I find it fascinating that a huge segment of this generation could be described as “picky eaters” well into their teen years. It’s almost as if tastebuds have evolved to reject anything that does not trick the brain into thinking it’s a processed chicken nugget. On the other hand, their beverage tastes are more sophisticated than ever. A 12-year-old ordering a “grande iced skinny mocha-choco-latte half-caf with no whip” seems perfectly normal these days.

7. Why is it that they seem to have a very short attention span except when focusing on the very thing that is causing the short attention span? Read a book? For 15 minutes? Outrageous! However, Minecraft and Clash of Clans cannot be fully appreciated unless one is completely engaged for a solid 120 minutes. According to my son, this is a scientific fact. I would ask him to look it up, but he doesn’t have the patience.

8. On social media, kids abbreviate everything. So why have they transformed “vs.” into a verb that is now commonly used with a straight face? Kids can be heard asking each other, “Who is your team versing tonight?” Even states that this is stupid. OK, maybe not, but it should (at least until it decides to add it to its entries, along with “bae” and “twerk”). Haha! Hmu, ilysm, K.

9. Why is it that preteens will take 3,456 photos of themselves in one week, yet when you ask them to pose for a family or holiday photo, they will run like that 11-year-old who kicked my butt in a 5K? I’ve officially given up trying to get a usable family Christmas card photo, so this year I will simply make a montage of their Instagram photos. I’m just trying to decide between the one of my son in front of the porta-potty and the one of him with three marshmallows stuffed in his mouth. TBH, they are both adorbs.

Despite these dramatic changes, parenting older kids can be a lot of fun. When people ask what it’s like, I say, “It’s like having a brief, non-communicative lunch of chicken nuggets at Starbucks with Gisele Bündchen after versing Tom Brady in a 10K.”

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