Kansas Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - November 22, 2019

"The rule of age 10"

Husband Art and I celebrated daughter Katie's 27th birthday early during a recent visit. She thanked us for our gifts, and said, almost in passing, "27 isn't very special."

I smiled as I recalled how her 10th birthday WAS special. She was so excited to be turning double-digits, emphasizing she'd be double-digits until she turned 100. Her cousin Larisa is the same age and I wrote about their 10-year-old enthusiasm in my column, "Oh to be 10 again!"

But maybe there is more of a basis for that 10-year-old enthusiasm than turning double digits. Social-science writer Bruce Grierson's article "The Kid in You" in Psychology Today, began with a quote from Bill "The Science Guy" Nye:

Everyone who works at NASA or Google or Space X got excited about science before he or she was 10 years old. This is well documented. If it isn't 10, it's 11 or 12. But it ain't 17, I'll tell you that much.

Grierson said a pattern emerged while he was doing research on his book - "U-Turn: What If You Woke Up One Morning and Realized You Were Living the Wrong Life?" What people are interested in at age 10 just might be what they should be doing as adults.

Among the hundreds of stories of midlife career changes I sifted through, the "Rule of Age 10" came up over and again. These were lives of "aha moments" decades delayed. And of better-late-than-never course corrections, back in the direction of those early enthusiasms, following coordinates established before what we ought to do (according to parents and teachers and other well-meaning adults) began to smother what we loved and who we were.

What Grierson said made me think. Since he was young, Art has loved taking things apart and putting them back together, with a particular emphasis on electrical items. Before kindergarten, he was playing with strings, pretending they were wires. He never wavered on his course to become an electrical engineer.

His father began driving horse-drawn wagons at age 12. By high school, he was driving trucks. In World War II, he was made a machinist supervisor in a defense manufacturing plant. When the war was over, the company wanted him to stay, but Tom left immediately to return to driving a truck.

Before age 10, daughter Mariya was an avid reader and movie aficionado. Today, she teaches a Fiction into Film course and Muggle Studies (from "Harry Potter") at the university. She just might keep local movie houses in business too.

When she was that age, Katie was fascinated with Egyptology and other cultures. Now, she's getting her master's in Educational Thought and Sociocultural Studies.

Brother Dave, while helping Dad with farm chores, found ingenious ways to make money, including making boot scrapers out of wood and bottle caps. He studied starting a chinchilla farm to the same ends. Today, he is an accountant with multiple real-estate investments. Just a few days ago, he said he'd never retire.

Sister Gaila and I were active in 4-H and loved to play school. Now, she's a school librarian and I'm a university professor.

In 5th grade, I began learning Spanish and wrote poetry, including "Murtle the Thing That Looks Like a Turtle," perhaps inspired by Dr. Seuss's "Yertle the Turtle." I'm now fluent in Spanish and have a passing knowledge of German and French. I have worked as a reporter and teach it as a subject. Writing has been my passion for a long time, although that poetry thing was best left behind.

When young, both Art and I loved to sit and listen to our elders talk about their lives and those who came before. Today, we are both very active in family history.

Art's cousin Kris always loved horses and wanted to become a veterinarian, but her dad coaxed her into a career in teaching as being more practical. But later in life, she moved out of the city and purchased horses.

Friend Deb said at an early age she was cutting things out of magazines and making pictures. "... Any art projects at school, I would want to make more at home." Deb has spent her life doing creative arts and recently observed, "So maybe my art gene was showing up then? ..."

Friend Bryce said as a kid he was busy cutting out pictures of new cars and organizing them into notebooks by brand. Playing the piano and riding horses and bikes were also passions. He recently commented, "... The bicycles have stuck. I'm too practical to own horses and new cars."

But when he was only 4, he had slipped and hit his head. The doctor explained every step as he was sewing Bryce up.

"I decided that day I would like to do that," said Bryce, who has now been a doctor for decades.

Our friend David Littrell began playing the cello in the sixth grade. He went on to play professionally, was a university distinguished professor in music and today in "retirement" teaches cello students and is leading a symphony.

So maybe Grierson had found something when he said:

... Age 10 is a developmental sweet spot. You're old enough to know what lights you up, yet not so old that adults have extinguished that fire by dumping more practical and "realistic" options on it. In other words, age 10 contains, in a sense, our source code.

His conclusion is:

The term "inner child" got kicked to the curb sometime around the turn of the millennium, but folks, grab a shovel. It's time to resurrect that inner child. Because the stifled voice of the kid in you - specifically, the 10-year-old kid in you - has never needed to be heard more.

Clockwise starting at top-left: Mariya dressed as Harry Potter's Professor McGonagall at the far upper-left with part of her Kansas State University class; Katie with her "pyramid" birthday cake reflecting her interest in Egypt; Gloria in her K-State university office dressed as Professor McGonagall for a Halloween party; Mariya in her Captain Marvel outfit; Art's father Tom trucking the U.S. mail in the early 1950s; Tom when he was driving a truck for the A & P grocery store chain in the late 1920s.

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