I foolishly thought parenthood would go something like this: sweet baby grows up all precious and adorable until about the age of 13 when they become moody, super awkward, and slightly weird until about 19 when they begin to make their way back to you, newly precious for having realized that you were right you were all along.
Only parenthood doesn’t work that way, does it? There’s the pesky matter of the tween years that stick their nose in between the parent-loving phase of childhood and parent-loathing phase of the teen years.
As the only parent of a tween in my group of mom friends, I know much remains misunderstood about how I manage and support my 11-year-old son. While it’s no secret that the tween years can be challenging, what folks might not know is just how challenging.
1. Tweens are angry.
I’m not exactly sure why or how it happens, but sometime around the age of 8 or 9, your tween will go to bed a perfectly lovely individual and wake up the next morning seriously angry. And it’s a mood that lasts somewhere in the neighborhood of a decade, I’ve been told. Suddenly, life’s unfair, you don’t know anything, and you just don’t understand. Helpful mom tip: Nod a lot. Tell them you understand (not that they care).
2. Tweens expect you to know.
As smart as your tween thinks he is, he’ll still need help, even if he refuses to ask for it. Helpful mom tip: Offer your assistance in spite of obvious resistance. Your tween will eventually give in and end up better for it. If you’re lucky, you’ll get a thank you.
3. Tweens are non-verbal.
Tweens talk to their friends like crazy, but talk to you? No way! In fact, most tweens don’t talk to anyone over the age of 16 out of general distrust. Helpful mom hint: Keep talking to your tween even if it’s a one-sided conversation. It’s important that your tween know that you’re available to talk when they’re ready.
4. Tweens are secret softies.
Underneath that cool-tween exterior lies the same sweet child who still needs all the love, affection, praise, and attention you always provided — only now on his terms. Helpful mom hint: Give without expecting too much in return, at least for a little while. In time your tween will give it all back in their own special way.
5. Tweens are stuck.
Being a tween is hard work. Caught between child and teen, their changing bodies and minds make it difficult to reconcile personal feelings about growing up. Helpful mom hint: Offer your child opportunities to celebrate their budding maturity while encouraging the safety and security of childhood comforts when they need them most.
6. Tweens get it.
Wicked smart and sudden masters of innuendo, your tween will surprise you with how much they understand in the way of adult humor. I’ve kept my tween pretty sheltered and his father and I are constantly shooting each other looks of “Oh my gosh, he understood that!” Helpful mom hint: Drink wine.
7. Tweens are super sensitive.
Parents of tweens know that even the most innocuous comments can have lasting and devastating effects on a sensitive tween. Helpful mom hint: Tread lightly. So lightly. Seriously parents, tread lightly.
8. Tweens are tired.
If you think your tween has become lazier than ever, there’s scientific proof he has. Your tween’s body is working overtime growing and developing in ways that wear a young person out. Helpful mom hint: Let it go and let them sleep. Science is on their side.
9. Tweens are master negotiators.
Barons of bargaining and champions of compromise, your tween is out to barter for their best interest or exhaust you trying. Helpful mom hint: Put up a fight when you don’t really care just so you can let them win sometimes. Oh, and of course, put up a fight when it you *do* really care and make sure you come out on top.
10. Tweens care.
Tweens care way too much about everything. From what they, you, and everyone you know are wearing to what other people thinking, your tween has something to say about it. Helpful mom tip: Don’t take it personally, one upon a time you cared way too much, too.