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Tween Friendships: We Only Have the Illusion of Control

I’m learning the hard way that having a twelve-year-old is not for the weak of heart.

One day she’s still my little girl who gets out the LEGOs or watches an episode of Kim Possible (she’s a cheerleader AND a crime fighter!) and the next she’s immersed in angst-ridden pop music about the cute guy and wonders why I won’t let her see the Twilight movies yet.

It’s normal, I know.

I think I’m doing pretty well with my transition from being the mother of an elementary school child to being the mom of a budding teenager.  Helping her to manage her expectations about evolving friendships?  That’s a tougher nut.

She’s a logical kid.  It makes no sense to her that that some people say and do hurtful or dismissive things just for effect.  Why does a person ignore you in one setting but acts like your BFF in another?  On the few occasions when she opens up, she wonders, “But if someone knows something isn’t true, why do they say it?” or “I know [insert name here] is whispering loudly enough so I’ll hear it.  Why do they do that?”

When others are critical or indifferent for no apparent reason, it’s hard to explain that at this point in her life, that’s just the nature of things.   And I’m not naive.  She’s 12.  I’m sure there are times when she’s also guilty of that kind of behavior.   And we’ve talked about that.  That doesn’t change the hurt feelings or the confusion.  The fact that I have no explanation other than “That’s just how things are at this age” makes her even more annoyed.

I could take more control, I suppose — Stay away from those kids!  Just hang out with us!  If only it was that easy.  It was when we were the ones in charge of the toddler play-dates, but those days are long gone.

The small amount of control we think we have over who and what influences our children is just an illusion.  Even as adults (except for my husband, who I’m starting to think just might actually be Vulcan), we sometimes can’t help being drawn in by those whose attention or seeming friendship isn’t always in our best interests.  We only learn the hard way how to figure out which people are our real friends.  I just wish we could spare our kids that slice of life.

Recently, after a brief discussion on all this, my daughter asked, with a look of pained frustration, “Mom, when does this end?”

Not soon enough for either one of us, baby.  Not soon enough.

Read more from me at my blog PunditMom and in my Amazon best-selling book, Mothers of Intention: How Women and Social Media are Revolutionzing Politics in America.

Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

More of me at PunditMom’s Spin Cycle:

Hold Me. I Have a Tween

Raising a Snob: College or No College for Your Child?

Stupidest Mom in America

Image via Joanne Bamberger.  All rights reserved.

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