HA! I hope you didn’t come here to actually get tips on how to make parenting tweens and teens easy because every day I wake up and make an attempt at this very thing, I am more convinced that this is the hardest f*cking thing I’ve ever done. I’m sorry. I know that was cruel. But the truth is that I, like you, often find myself seeking out some magical tip in the words and faces of my fellow moms to help me survive the rollercoaster that is the American Teenager but I have come up rather empty handed.
It’s hard. It just is. As were the sleepless nights, the irrational toddler tantrums, potty training, and the homework battles (wait, I still have those…). I’ve yet to find my favorite age. Nonetheless, there have been elements of each stage that I’ve enjoyed very much and the tween years are no exception. I like that I can have real conversations with my son about politics and world events. I like that when he does chores it is actually helpful. I like that I haven’t had to pick out his clothes in a very long time. I like that we can spend time sitting side by side reading books, each lost in our own literary worlds while still connecting with each other. Also, I really like that he no longer barges in on me in the bathroom.
As with all things, the good stuff comes with its fair share of challenges. And, no, I don’t have a quick and easy solution for you, but I am happy to share a few things that have helped me along so far…
1) Humility. Oh, how those teenagers humble us. We know nothing, they know everything. They make these wacky choices that leave us stunned and wondering if they’ve ever listened to a word we’ve ever said. It hard, but it’s good too. It’s good to realize that at this point in the parenting journey, it is no longer about us. My son is in the process of becoming the man he will be and the choices he makes are not about me or even necessarily a reflection on me. I’ve always known that my children are their own unique and independent beings, but they have also always been a huge part of me. The tween years offer a chance to recalibrate and really begin to see your child as a person fully unto themselves.
2) Understand biological imperatives. They must separate. It is their job to test out their wings, pushing us away as they do so. I’d be awesome if this could be done with less door slamming and eye rolling but that’s about as likely as me getting the horse I wished for on every single birthday candle from the time I was 5 until 15 (or 35. whatever).
3) A good sense of humor. An appreciation for irony helps, too. I know my mom’s laughing right now – hard.
4) Perspective. Some days can be so overwhelming. As the expression goes…bigger kids, bigger problems. But, they are still kids. Though they are developing certain qualities that will carry through until adulthood, who they are in this moment will not necessarily define them for the rest of their lives. People are constantly evolving. Our kids will do the same long after they’ve left their teen years behind. I’ve done some dumb stuff in my life and I’m so glad that those who know me and love me judge me based on my best days and not my worst.
5) Trust. Trust your child. And when you can’t, place your trust in a higher power, in simple faith, in goodness, in your parenting partner and the other people in your child’s life who are steering them to a good path, and if all else fails, trust that this day/week/month will come to an end and a new day will come with a fresh opportunity to start again. Also, forgive.
If this list sounds exhausting, it’s because it is. Motherhood has always challenged me to be the best version of myself and this has never been truer than in the tween/teen years. Sometimes I am just so tired.
It’s worth it though. They give us these glimpses of hope to hold on to and sustain us. Like when I get home from work and my son looks me in the eye and says with full sincerity, “How was your day today? What did you do?” – and he does this, day after day, knowing full well that I work in insurance and my answer will never be remotely interesting.
Yeah, I think we’re going to be okay.