In retrospect, parenting a baby/toddler is fairly easy. Yeah, you have to keep the little thing alive and teach her to be nice – and all on little to no sleep – but really, your work is straightforward. Then she gets a little older and you have make sure she is on the right path as far as education and social customs are concerned. But again, fairly easy.
Then you get to the tween stage and everything changes.
Suddenly, you can see that the decisions you make have the possibility of a real impact on her teen years. And you remember the decisions you made as a teen – without parental input – making a big impact on your adult life. And you get scared. Terrified really. How do you help your tween on the right path? How concerned should you be about the friends she is picking during this period? How much do you push good grades and studying? What do you do about boys? Is she really going to be graduating high school that soon? Driving that soon? Getting a job that soon? And I still have to keep her alive too?!
Moods, Developing Independence
Oh boy, the mood swings. I wrote an entire post about this one (On the cusp of becoming a walking ball of hormones). It is not unusual to hear stomping feet and slamming doors at our house. I don’t think this will necessarily translate to the teen years, however. Our daughter is in that weird place where she wants to develop new levels of independence and is being allowed more and more freedom, but is still relatively locked down. I’m sure it is stressful. This is also the age where you have to deal with an entire new side of “keeping up with the Jones’s.” Rules and restrictions vary widely from kid to kid and family to family. Some of her friends have stayed home alone, some haven’t. Some can watch R rated movies, some can’t. It is really all over the place. In our case, our daughter spent many years as an only child and is allowed a bit more freedom and access to “grown-up” things than some of her peers.
Fashion, Hair, Beauty
This one is all over the place. My daughter has very particular requirements for her fashion. I don’t buy anything for her unless she is right there beside me or I’m 100% sure there won’t be a problem taking it back. We haven’t had any arguments yet about what is appropriate – my daughter has very long legs that make buying shorts interesting, but not a huge concern – but she is starting to express an interest in certain brands and celebrity models. This also translates over into beauty products. She doesn’t try to put makeup on daily, but does like to rock a blue eye with glossy lips on the weekends. I’m not anti-makeup for her (and very pro-makeup for me), so I bought her a couple of cheap palettes to experiment with. She covers herself in perfume and scented lotions every morning. There have been multiple times when I have said something like, “Oh take that off, I can’t breathe,” so we have had to talk about the right way to apply all of this stuff. And then comes the hair. My daughter has beautiful long blonde hair that she has been growing out for quite a while. She is very particular about how it is styled every morning and rarely leaves it down for school. Many a morning we have a panicked search for a particular bobby pin or hair tie. I only imagine this will get worse.
Boys are a big one. It is the one that parents worry about most, I think. Tween years are fairly interesting as far as boys are concerned. My daughter and all of her friends are interested in boys – celebrity boys. When they are giggling from her room, you can hear them discuss who is the cutest and who looks good without a t-shirt on (like they have any clue). There is a split however, over whether this translates to the boys sitting across from them in school. Some of her friends have reached the boy-crazy stage and have little boyfriends. My daughter and several others in her friends group haven’t yet.
Trying to parent yourself instead of your kid
This one may be a problem particular to me. I tend to approach my daughter like I am talking to myself at that age. Well, she isn’t me. She isn’t even close to me. Trying to appeal to her this way leaves us both confused, as the other person “just doesn’t get it.” I have to often take a step back and remember not to hold her to my this-is-what-an-eleven-year-old-should-be standards. She has a strong personality that I have to remember to let shine and I try not to pawn my anxiety off on her.
Friends – so important, but so problematic. Our daughter has a nice group of friends of great girls, but already I see some problems popping up. It is easy to see the beginning of possible teenage problems starting in tweens, so how much do I need to pay attention to these things? I would never want to judge a little girl because of some issues she is experiencing at the moment, but at the same time, I know that the people she hangs around with will be a huge influence on my little girl. Where is the balance there? So far, we have stuck to a philosophy of paying close attention and opening discussion. If I see something going on or hear about my daughter doing something I’d rather she didn’t, we talk about those issues. I make sure not to immediately dole out punishment if it is a better teaching moment instead. We recently had a problem come up where our daughter participated in something at school with a close friend. The friend was reacting to some problems at home and our daughter was following suit. This was a great opportunity to talk about the problems the friend was going through, how she could help the friend in positive ways, and what wasn’t appropriate behavior for her. I think it worked out well in the end. It is a delicate line to walk though.