Caroline is 16 years old and is from Long Island, NY. She likes to listen to music, write, and hang out with her friends in her spare time. She is interested in following a major in English or Psychology.
Sigh…the preteen years – the period where we straddle our childhood world and the foreign world of teenagers. The point of time after we realize the world is not an innocent place, but before we start rebelling against our parents. The transition from a child to a teenager is never easy, even when you think you’re prepared for it, like I did.
For me, moving into the teenage years was directly related to moving schools. I left the elementary school I had been attending for five years, and had to settle into a larger high school, which held grades 7 through 12. In one year, I went from being one of the oldest students in the school to one of the youngest. I felt tiny and powerless compared to the seniors that were storming around the school, acting like they owned the place. I was determined to stand out in the crowd – in a good way – but I didn’t always go about it the right way.
The Three Mistakes I Made As a Preteen
3. Not Listening:
To my parents and to my teachers. I had a science teacher when I was 12 who could have been a great mentor – if it weren’t for the rowdy students in my class. Between stopping paper airplanes and texting, my teacher hardly got a spare moment to teach. And instead of helping her by staying in my seat and being quiet, I contributed to the chaos because I didn’t want to look like a teacher’s pet. And my parents were always giving me advice – “Study for that math test tomorrow,” “You should make some index cards,” “If Sam betrayed you like that, she doesn’t sound like such a great friend,” – that I would shrug off, but 99% of the time, they were right. (They were not right about reusable plastic lunch boxes being the “in” thing to have, though!)
2. Not Being Myself:
In my attempt to stand out, I strayed from what I would normally do. For example, when I was in 7th grade, the trend (at least in my school) to wear was So Low’s, those tight yoga pants that came in a bunch of colors and had a fold-down waist. I couldn’t afford those, so I bought a knock-off pair of pants…even though I never wore sweatpants to school. I wore those knock-offs about twice the entire year. They were a waste of money, and I’ve learned over subsequent years that my usual outfit of jeans and a T-shirt is fine, because it’s comfortable to me.
1. Not Making Enough Mistakes:
I wanted to stand out in the high school and I wanted to be memorable, but I was afraid I would act stupid or do something awkward and be remembered for that. So instead of trying new things, I shrank back. Instead of eating lunch with new groups of friendly-looking people, I walked past their tables without a second glance. Instead of volunteering to sing a song I knew pretty well in front of my chorus class, I stayed in my seat. By not trying new things, I didn’t figure out who I was and what I liked to do until much later in high school. I didn’t make enough mistakes to learn from.
The preteen years can be some of the most awkward, because you are trying to find your place in the world and you don’t quite know who you are yet. But they can also be some of the most enlightening, if you stay true to yourself and take every opportunity to try new things. If you’re a parent of a preteen, encourage your child to join after-school clubs or organizations to meet new friends and find out what he or she is interested in.