For many parents, the term “teenager” is one that sends instant waves of fear through our bodies. For me personally, before becoming a parent, and even in the early days when my children were still babies, those years ending with the word “teen” seemed far away but also seemed scary mostly because I remembered my teenage years and what I put my parents through (I have since earned forgiveness). Little did I know, there was an even scarier stage of development to parent through and that, my friends, is what is known as the “tween stage.”
Kids between the ages of nine and 12 have earned the nickname “tweens” because they are between children and teenagers. This stage is not for the faint of heart, but we are going to get through it. And the good news is that I am no longer scared of the teenage years. In fact, bring them on!
Here’s the thing about these incredibly formative years that have been dubbed “tween:” It is very normal for children to move from being super dependent on their parents to wanting more independence. The struggle for me however, is where to draw the line. Underneath all the maturity taking place and the big physical changes, my ten-year-old daughter is just that…ten years old! And some of the things she wants to do are above her age range, and as her parent, it is my job to keep things age appropriate. But I still want to keep the peace and that is difficult to do.
There’s nothing in this world I wouldn’t do to ensure my child’s happiness…but not at the cost of her safety.
Case in point: She has asked to be dropped off at a neighborhood with a group of friends for Halloween to go trick or treating. No parents. We are ten-years-old and in fifth grade. I already knew I would be saying a hard no to this but I did not want her immediate disappointment and fighting at that time so I defaulted to, “Let me talk it over with your dad and I will let you know.”
Why was I not big and bad enough to give her the hard no and deal with her whining and pleading then and there?
Because no parent wants to let their child down even if we know we are doing it for the right reasons. I had a conversation with her a day later and tried to explain my reasoning, how I loved her too much to let her go and that if anything ever happened to her, I would never forgive myself, etc., and that we would revisit this when she was in middle school. But I know it will not resonate with her until she is an adult with children of her own, which is ironic because that is exactly what my parents said to me when I was a child — I know you can all relate!
These children are caught in the middle ground between childhood and adolescence.
I know how hard all these hormones and feelings must be to navigate for them because I remember how hard it was for me at those ages. But now, I appreciate how difficult it must have been for my parents to help me through this stage of childhood as it is near impossible for me some days. There are days I have thrown up my hands and have nothing left inside to give my “tween” because she has pushed me to my limits. The attitude, the rolling of the eyes, the sheer defiance of things I ask her to do, especially coming home from teaching eighty students all day — sometimes it’s just too much. But then, on those very days I have to step back and remember that she is experiencing all the feelings and emotions of being still very much a child caught be”tween” two worlds. And I also try to give myself some grace and tell myself I will do better tomorrow. I know this a stage in raising my daughter and that I will get through it. I know there isn’t a single parent who doesn’t doubt themselves daily. Every stage of raising children comes with new challenges and hurdles; for me, having a “tween” has been the hardest!