I’m not always a patient person. I’m even known to refer to myself as “socially challenged”. Other people are prone to avoid provoking me because my response is generally not tempered by my manners. Lately, my young son has not only provoked me more than most grown men would attempt; he’s also done it with a regularity that had me questioning which one of us was going to survive these tween years.
Then it dawned on me. He’s only 10. We’re both going to be fine as soon as I stop looking at him like someone whose goal is to challenge my authority and start looking at him like the child that he is, who is only trying to navigate his way to the teen years.
I remember being 10. I remember feeling like there was nowhere I was going to fit in. I actually even remember thinking that I must be an alien that was dropped off with my family. Naturally, my older sister was more than helpful in promoting this idea to me. These days I think of that period of my life as my journey to No Man’s Land. It was a scary place where no one fits in; yet they all think they are alone. I’ve had some realizations about my son on this journey down Memory Lane in No Man’s Land.
Tweens are putting away childish things. The tween years are the gap between being a young child with childish worries and being a teenager who needs to be cool. When Hunter turned 10, I cried a bit as I thought of the fact that this was his first birthday with double digits. It took me until recently to realize that being 10 is harder on him than it is on me. It’s a time for him to start walking away from the toy box towards the front door.
Tweens aren’t cool. We all know the teen years are all about identity and fitting in. They can be pretty miserable. The tween years are even worse in some ways. The tween isn’t old enough to be “cool”, but they’re trying to find their way there. They’re trying their hand at grown up concepts like sarcasm while not completely understanding social boundaries. A tween’s comfort level with his or her own body is changing as their body grows faster than they can adapt to. In other words, tweens often say things that might be inappropriate and develop a whole new level of clumsiness.
Tweens will test your patience. No, your child has not turned into a complete and total brat. But, he or she doesn’t understand all of the social boundaries that come with things like sarcasm and humor. To understand how your tween is trying to develop their social skills, imagine him or her trying to literally walk around in your shoes. They would be awkward and likely to fall every now and then. Guess whose job it is to catch them? Don’t take it personally. In fact, now is the time to be ready to console your tween after they make some social blunder and completely embarrass themselves. Try not to get mad. Instead, be ready to share some of your own awkward moments with your tween so he or she knows they aren’t alone and that this time will eventually pass.
Be ready for extremes. It might seem during this time that your child doesn’t need you anymore. As my tween comes into his own sense of independence, I tend to feel lost and useless. It’s hard not to notice that my attention doesn’t seem to be as valuable to him as it once was. When I get a reminder of how important I really am in his life, it’s usually in the form of comforting him when his independence turns into a hormonal surge or social blunder. My tween tends to go his own way, seemingly content to leave his mother behind. And yet the reality is that I’m more like the National Guard. I have to keep my skills sharp and be available at a moment’s notice to handle whatever catastrophe might be presented.
Make it a point to praise. Just about the time I wonder who this child is with the smart mouth, messy room and mood swings, my tween does something that reminds me of his childhood sweetness and his eagerness to please. Just last night, when I hid my tears of frustration in the shower, my son was busy vacuuming the living room. I didn’t ask him to. He just did it. The tween years have been rough on us both so far. But, he still does some of the sweet things that are the earmark of what kind of a person he is. In my frustration, I sometimes forget to praise him for the little things he does. This incident reminded me of that. After all, it shouldn’t take such a big amount of effort for a son to get praise from his mother.
If I, or any other mother have any plans on surviving this tween attitude, we have to learn to change our perspective. Our kids are trying to figure out just what the social boundaries are while they’re being introduced to new hormones. As much as we may want to pull our hair out, it’s really the tween that needs a break.
References: Personal and professional experience