If you had the chance, would you be a kid again?
Everyone thinks about it at some point. It could be while you’re standing in front of the mirror, noticing the gray in your hair or just your lack of hair. It could be when you pass children zooming down the street on scooters as you head to a long day at work.
Maybe the thought hits when you see one of those painfully bad family movies in which a parent and child switch bodies. That plot is recycled so often in Hollywood that I’m sure another body-switch movie is currently in production. Probably with vampires.
Now that my kids are heading back to school, the thought of turning back the clock is fresh in my mind. I’ve seen some discussion of it on the Internet, too, and I was a little surprised to see so many people who didn’t want a childhood do-over.
Turning down the chance to instantly shave 20, 30, 40 or more years off your age? It’s a tempting offer in a world loaded with anti-aging diets, medicines, vitamins, creams and serums. Our obsession with youthfulness shows in the way cosmetic surgery has grown and the way Cher looks much younger than age 66 – and oddly human-like.
I, for one, would like to be a kid again. I had a happy childhood in the ’80s, despite suffering through money-saving at-home haircuts that created some choppy looks in my pre-teen school photos. My parents also were extremely late adopters of that crazy new fad of cable television and saw no value in video games. I’m scarred for life.
Still, I’d like to be a kid again. But only if at about age 12, when adolescent awkwardness poured over me like a crashing wave, I could fast-forward to around age 20. The awkwardness didn’t magically stopp then, but at least I had the maturity to put it in a better, “it’s not the end of the world” context.
When you’re a kid, it can feel like the end of it all when you don’t do well on a test, or your team loses, or you’re rejected by a potential girlfriend or boyfriend. In my case, I usually just guessed that the girls were out of my league because I was too shy to ask anyone out.
Imagine what would happen if she rejected me, I thought. That kind of public humiliation would require some kind of offshoot of the witness relocation program that served rejected teens.
I do have some great memories of my teenage years. But I also remember the day-to-day anxiety of trying to fit in, having enough friends and being popular -- or at least not unpopular. We were all trying to be mature, but really didn’t know how to do that. We feared that we wouldn’t do well in school, that we wouldn’t do well in life and that our future could be doomed by an enormous pimple that even extra-strength Clearasil couldn’t handle.
Just about everything is blown out of proportion when you’re an adolescent. I saw it when I was a summer camp counselor for the YMCA during my college years, and I see it emerging in my oldest son, who will soon turn 10. Molehills quickly become mountains.
But there’s a reason for that. Many studies, including one by the National Institute of Mental Health, show that the adolescent brain is still developing and the frontal lobes are not fully connected. And what are some of the functions of the frontal lobes?
Impulse control and management of intense emotions. Also, the ability to see that a pencil-thin face-outline beard might look silly and that riding a bike off a roof and filming it for YouTube might not end well.
So, on second thought, maybe I’ll stick with where I am now in life. When I want to recapture my youth, I’ll just watch my kids grow up, encourage them as much as possible and hope for the best.
And, of course, root, root, root for their frontal lobes to develop.
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