Once upon a time I had a loving son. He was sweet. He smiled a lot. He looked at me with eyes so full of love and adoration that I couldn’t help but fall to pieces. We were a team. We were magic. And then he turned 10.
It didn’t happen overnight, but my buddy, my son who loved me best of all, began to change. Before I knew it, I wasn’t the smartest person in his life anymore. I wasn’t the prettiest, the funniest, or the person he most wanted to spend time with. I was just Mom — that annoying woman who expected way too much. And it stung.
But the sting was more than just heartbreak; it was disappointment in the person he was choosing to become. He was impatient, too smart for his own good, and often downright rude. And I took it personally. I took it personally for a very long time even though parenting experts and friends told me not to. I cried about it, wrote about it, punished him for it, and not-so-secretly hoped one day the abominable attitude would just somehow go away. And I had every reason to believe it would. My son was a good boy, exhibiting moments of character greatness that shone in all the right ways, until bad attitude crept back in to stir up trouble the moment he’d let his guard down.
“Honey, they all go through it,” an older and wiser mom declared, “You’ll get through this. You both will. For now, all you need to do is survive.” Survive. Huh.
So if didn’t matter if I did things “right”? It didn’t matter if I made mistakes along the way? No! All I needed to do was survive this stage of my tween’s development while he survived my survival of this stage of his development. Survive. I could do that. Surviving was continuing to live in spite of hardship. Heck, I was doing that. Surviving was doing whatever necessary to find a measure of peace, love, and perhaps even humor in that which seems impossible. To hell with raging guilt, crippling self-doubt, and overwhelming fear! If I was to survive t(w)een attitude, I was going to do it on my terms.
Take a look at my personal eight-pronged approach designed to offset adolescent annoyance. I’m not saying my methods are right. I’m not saying they’re for everyone, but I am saying they work — at least for me:
1. Drink because you can.
When I choose to unwind with a glass or two of wine at the end of a trying day, somehow the tween troubles become a whole lot more manageable. I care so much, so deeply, so often, that a gentle buzz is all I need to escape the weight of the heavy sighs, obnoxious shoulder shrugs, rolled eyeballs, and sharp tween tongue. Love me, loathe me, pour me another.
2. Run far, far away.
Psst! Your tween can’t sass you if they can’t find you! While I’ve never actually run away, I have holed myself up in a bathroom with a bubble bath and an entire season of Gilmore Girls. Commit to regular moments of peace for yourself because heaven knows you’re going to need them.
3. Hush now, little one.
Kiddo, what’s that you say? This sucks? You need 5 bucks? You like big butts? Thank you, noise-canceling headphones! You guys, it’s amazing how frustrated you don’t get when you turn the tween down.
4. Covert commiseration.
You know how sometimes your tween says something so annoying, so rude, and so unlike the incredible person hiding under all the yuckiness? You need to be able to vent your frustrations to a partner or friend in real time if you are ever to survive. Develop a secret code phrase or gesture you can use when you need to let off a little steam. Suggestions include impromptu twerking and/or mentions of sand tiger sharks, hamsters, or other animals that eat their young.
5. Give ’em away, give ’em away, give ’em away now.
Ship your tween off to a weekend at Grandma’s, cool Uncle Mike’s, or a best friend’s house. Sometimes a little distance is all it takes to ease tensions and makes things right again.
6. Game on.
I know it’s wildly immature, but tween attitude becomes a lot more fun when you make a game out of it. You can go the passive-aggressive route and secretly remove one item from your tween’s bedroom — one sock here, one missing phone charger there — for every behavior infraction only to delight in their dramatic breakdown. Or, you forfeit the mind games and go with attitude Bingo instead! Fill your Bingo matrices with tween behaviors and phrases, such as, “Whatever!,” “Fine!,” door slams, and eye-rolls. Bingo!
7. Throw food at it.
You know your tween’s body is working overtime, all growing up and stuff, so consider food your first line of defense against terrible tween attitude. Greet grumpy with goldfish crackers. Serve a Slim Jim to that sass. Try it out and you’ll see — food boosts their mood!
8. Crazy love.
When all else fails, smother your tween with a ridiculous helping of tender loving care. And I’m talking more love and affection than their attitude deserves. Just love ’em til you can’t love no more. Do it because you want to. Do it because they secretly want you to. Do it because it works better than steps 1-7 combined.
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