It happens so fast. One minute it’s all dolls and dress up and occasional uncomfortable questions about where babies come from, and the next it’s YouTube channels and “do I have a uni-brow?” and very specific conversations about periods. Am I the only one who wasn’t ready for a tween?
I’m serious, it’s like she snapped her fingers and went from zero to sixty.
We coasted through the early elementary years without a care in the world, and now we’re staring down the barrel of middle school and I have to admit that I feel 100% out of my league. The stakes are higher, the questions more informed and occasionally tinged with more sass than we recognize. It’s a brave new world, and I’m shaking in my boots.
(This photo is not of me and my daughter, but there is a reason that when I image-searched “puberty” it looks like the poster for a horror film.)
Here we come, adolescence! HEAVEN HELP US!
I doubt I am alone when I say that I am experiencing a slight amount of utter terror when it comes to approaching the tween years with my daughter. It probably doesn’t help that I am looking at having a 2-year-old and a 12-year-old at the same time, but that’s another topic for another time. My tween is budding in all sorts of ways, and it’s… scary. Do you want to know why I can say that and not feel bad? Because I too was a budding tween girl once, and I was a literal MONSTER. The stuff of mothering nightmares. So, I speak from a little experience. A little experience I don’t super want to witness from the other side. And don’t get me wrong – we’re not in monster territory yet. We’re still happily teetering on the line between little girl and in between.
I suppose this is how every stage of parenting feels, isn’t it? I just got good at the last one! And now it’s time to move on?! Alas, here we are, in a land ripe with new smells, big feelings, and increasingly complex social dynamics, and we the parents are back at square one. But here’s where we start. With the approach. With humility and as much grace as we can muster.
What I’ve determined in these opening months is that this whole stage of life for my burgeoning tween girl is going to require epic, monumental amounts of one thing: patience.
And not just with the tween in question – with the parents, as well! She is entering this stage fresh and new, unsure and equally as terrified as we are. She is right smack in the middle of smells, feelings, and dynamics she’s not used to (duplicate that for every other 5th grader, then multiply by OH EM GEE there’s so many of them, let’s make a donation to the teacher fund), and that can for sure be a jarring experience. It’s a bonkers time, you guys. The least we can do is be patient, even while our sweet little cherubs morph momentarily into devil spawn.
I’m mostly kidding, obviously. The things to remember are these (at least as far as I can tell-today):
This is a difficult time. It’s so much transition, both from within and from external forces. It’s a wonder any of us made it to adulthood. I’m trying to think back and wonder: what would have been helpful for me to hear at this age? Can I be that voice for her?
Our kids are still our kids. Deep breath. They are taking on different shapes and forms and attitudes than the lifestyles to which we’ve become accustomed, perhaps, but they’re still ours. Every smelly little one of them.
We probably won’t handle everything right either, and we’ve been to middle school before! But alas, we’ll raise our voices, lose our tempers, give bad advice and be embarrassingly uncool about something or another, eventually. We must embrace our patience mantra and apply it not only to our kiddos, but to ourselves as well.
As Glennon Doyle wisely reminded me via Insta-Story on a particularly rough morning, it is not my job to protect my child from pain. It’s not. It’s my job to show up, to be present, to sit in uncomfortable/big/hurt feelings and show her how to process, how to deal. How to survive.
And so, my dear tween parents, or to-be tween parents, I give you this parting wisdom: be patient. Show up. Be who you needed when you were younger. And try your darnedest not to join them in the crazy, swirling emotions of tweenhood. We must be the stable forces, the steady hands; not fixing it for them, but remaining present for their inevitable floundering before they soar into their own as beautiful, functional, rational human beings on the other side. I’ll have champagne chilled and waiting for that day. Perhaps for both of us.