Do you know what it was like to be 13?

My oldest granddaughter is now 13.  A teenager. Beginning what is supposedly an angst-filled and uncertain time for humans.

I have no clue what it was like to be thirteen years old. My family sent out a Christmas letter. They’ve been collected into a notebook which I use whenever I want to know what I was doing at a certain age. Checking the records, I see I was a Star Scout, diligently working on merit badges. Once I read this in the Christmas letter archives, the memories come back and I remember the Scout meetings and the camping trips and family trip to a lake near Rhinelander, Wisconsin where we tried (without success) to catch Pike and Muskies.

I know my granddaughter’s primary focus is ballet lessons. She’s been in Girl Scouts. She likes the scariest rides at Disney World and other theme parks. Goodness knows I, as her grandfather, don’t know how to handle ballet lessons or perform on stage. So, no wisdom from me on being a teen.

Not that she’d ask.

She’s a vegan even though her sister and parents aren’t. My wife and I wonder where that came from; perhaps she heard about it from another kid at school and the approach to eating made sense.

I can’t help with that.

I know she can be very stubborn, very focused on what she wants to do. I can identify with that. Seriously, I was a horrible teenager mainly because I had no respect for authority and didn’t like being told what to do or what not to do.

My daughter won’t let me say anything about what I felt at thirteen. I don’t blame her. Yet, I worry, because being an outlier can be a lonely road. If we saw each other more often (she lives in MD and I live in GA), I could listen and hope listening is all she wanted.

So, she’s slowly turning into an adult, a time when parents are often skeptical about the value of too much contact with grandparents. My parents often thought my grandparents were a bad influence. That meant that I thought my grandparents were a good influence.

I was very independent as a teen. I think my granddaughter will be, too. I’m both happy and concerned about that. Her IQ will get her into trouble that I hope she’ll figure out how to get out of.

Grandpa’s sort of a rebel. Best that I don’t let her know.


Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of the contemporary fantasy novel “The Sun Singer.”