I will probably get some criticism for this post, and that’s okay. Parenting isn’t always pretty and I’m not here to pretend like it is. But one day, my daughter will read this and say “Yeah, I was sort of a jerk.” Just like I do every time my own mother rehashes her experiences with me.
I should also preface this by saying that 1) I am not child psychologist; and 2) I deeply love my daughter. Maybe those two things were assumed, but I felt the need to say them anyway…
I don’t know what age technically indicates the start of the “tween” years, but regardless, I am absolutely in the thick of raising one right now. And it is usually not a pleasant experience for either of us. I could say it’s not easy, but that’s parenting in general. Parenting a tween, on the other hand, is someone’s sadistic and twisted definition of karma. My mother would be inclined to agree.
I have read a few different pieces by people who call the tween and teen struggles a total crock of shit. Not accurate or relatable to their experiences whatsoever. That may be the case, I don’t live with them. But in my experience, both with my own daughter and from what I’ve seen with my friends and their kids, it is absolutely as awful and exhausting as it’s painted to be. So total anecdata here and I’m okay with that.
Sure, it might all be dependent on the child in question’s personality. Some kids are just naturally easygoing and kind and thoughtful and respectful. Hormones be damned. But some kids aren’t. Though I have found that even the most mild-mannered of Delanie’s friends are going through a fairly difficult phase right now with their parents. They’re great at school and with other adults, but with their own parents? It’s like a 180 degree shift in mood. The claws come out.
And then there’s my kid, who is like me in so many ways, yet drastically unlike me in others. She is an independent, thick-skinned, confident little thing and as we navigate the world of middle school, I am rather grateful of that. I was not that child. I was a sensitive, people-pleaser who just wanted to fit in and for people to like her. Delanie gives absolutely zero shits if people don’t like her as she is. She isn’t changing one ounce of herself to conform to societal norms or to peer pressure. But with a child like this comes a special level of stubbornness and resentment and selfishness that I wasn’t exactly prepared for.
Delanie thinks she is absolutely the coolest and most important person on the planet. I’m glad that she’s confident, but I get the privilege of teaching her that she is not, in fact, the center of the universe while still encouraging her self-confidence. It’s a fine line I’m walking here and you know you wish you were me.
She seems to think that her social calendar is the one that the entire family should live by. Her activities and gatherings are paramount to any other. And maybe this is partially my fault, because I have rarely conflicted with her about any of this. If I can make it work without any major sacrifices or detriment to the family, I do it. She is also the oldest kid, so her schedule is naturally going to be a little busier than those of her siblings. But heaven forbid (or insert equivolent atheist phrase here) that there IS a scheduling conflict. Or that I am too tired to take her to a skating party from 6-8 on a weeknight/school night. Her world crumbles.
Also, personal responsibility is a constant battle. She is capable of doing it. She does a great job managing homework and making her social arrangements. But housework? Putting her laundry in the basket? Finding her own damn shoes or hairbrush? She seems to think those are my responsibility. Again, I’ve dug my own hole a little there because up until October, I was a stay at home mom and was able to take care of all of the housework myself. And picking up everyone’s dirty laundry was just a part of my day. But now, I’m working full time and everyone needs to pull their weight. Thems the breaks, kid. So stop ranting and huffing and puffing when I ask that you do one of your FEW chores.
The pattern? She cares about things that benefit HER. Anything that could even remotely make anyone else’s life easier is beneath her.
A selfish tween… the horror! I know it’s par of the course. I have been told that I was the same when I was her age, which I totally believe. And I’m not surprised by any of it, even though I lament over the loss of my sweet and polite 5 year old and try to find all the ways to appreciate the volatile and mouthy 11 1/2 year old who that little girl has grown into.
And I do appreciate her. In a lot of ways. She is paving the way on my parenting journey. Getting through these tough times with her will hopefully equip me with some tools to add to my bag of tricks as I parent her sister and brother through these difficult years.
She is creative and hilarious and sharp-witted. Sometimes I’m not sure how I got so lucky to have a kid who serves as my own personal entertainment on a daily basis. Who, upon seeing a slender teenage boy dressed in skinny jeans and a black hoodie with side-swept hair walking along a busy road, says “Look mom! It’s an emo in its natural habitat!”
She is confident and sure of herself, possibly knowing more about who she is at not-even-12 years old than I do at 32. She shouts out of our moving car window to strangers, simply to say “Have a nice day!” or “Did you know that I’m a panda?” She makes an effort to embarrass ME, maybe to prove that there isn’t a chance in hell that I could ever embarrass her.
She is studious and self-motivated when it comes to her schoolwork, which spares me the battle that so many other parents have to fight. The teachers at her middle school frequently texts and send e-mails about assignments and projects (I assume to make the parents of less responsible kids aware) and when I ask her about them, I am promptly told “I did that a while ago.”
So while she is usually insistent on driving me around the bend, she makes my life better in more ways than I can list.
And those are what make the rest much easier to bear.
A note to future Delanie (since she’s likely to read this eventually):
Yes, you were awesome, but you were also a jerk. I’m sure you’re still awesome, but I sincerely hope that you’re not still a jerk. At least not beyond being a sarcastic smartass, because that is probably a given and your dad and I really only have ourselves to blame.
Love you always,