Big changes are happening in our home. Like, things-will-never-be-quite-the-same happening.
My biggest bear is growing up.
Stick with me on this here, I’ve not completely lost the plot. I do get that all babies and children are in a continual state of growing up. But she is, well, you know, really growing up.
It hit me when I picked her and her two friends up from Brownies not so long ago. They chatted away and sang together, and as I listened to them I thought my heart was going to burst. And then they started giggling uncontrollably, teasing each other. About boys. Each girl vehemently protesting such an idea. BOYS!?
According to the Urban Dictionary a Tween girl is:
” aged about 9-14…Too old for toys, but too young for boys. Very easy to market to, will usually follow any fashion trend set for them, will most likely go through the phase of ‘finding themselves’ as they ‘grow up’.
As I read this I was looking for my daughters’ name somewhere because it could well have been written just about her. She has absolutely zero interest in any toys. No more adorable small world littering her floor. She reads. And crafts. And writes. And reads some more.
The other evening, far later than she’d normally be awake, I heard her call out my name in a shaky voice. I went to her. She couldn’t sleep and I could see the panic rising in her. I lay next to her on her bed. With nine years experience under my belt, I had this. With a knowing smile I asked if she’d like me to sing her to sleep. It’s my trump card. She looked mortified and rolled her eyes. “Mmmm, no thanks mum”.
Oh. So long trump card..
My daughter is no longer a young child but has yet to reach adolescence. She’s stuck in between.
Here are a couple of things about being a momma of a TWEEN:
#1: It will take you completely by surprise.
What is this TWEEN phenomenon anyway? Weren’t they supposed to play with My Little Pony and be have a world totally absorbed by jumping in muddy puddles until the clock struck midnight to herald in their thirteenth birthday??
I was a youth worker for 10 years, I know a thing or two about hormonal girls and teenage angst. But I thought I had just a little more time, maybe even a couple of years before the hormones started to flow. I myself remember being in year 6 and wondering if my body would ever start to change like my school friends’ had. I got my answer once I was in high school. I’m learning in a very real way that all girls grow up at different times and the hormones will come knocking whether you’re ready for them or not.
#2: You will get the baby photos out.
Suddenly you’ll be overcome with nostalgia. You will close your eyes and try and place yourself back in that moment of holding your baby and breathing in their newborn smell. Although hugely overwhelming at the time, the baby years seemed so much simpler. With a baby you didn’t have stand firm with the chief of all (stubborn) negotiators, you didn’t have to wipe away the tears caused by the words of other children and you certainly didn’t have to talk to them about B-O-Y-S. You gaze at the photos and then turn your attention to the older child sitting on the sofa (likely clutching some kind of electronic device). How did we get here so quickly?
#3: The mummy guilt will hit with vengeance.
Could I have prepared her better for this? If I had seen it coming myself I would have warned her. If the baby books told me that the teeny tiny wrinkly being that I was learning how to use nappies on would be wrestling with overwhelming emotions and a changing body at 9 I would have tried to prepare her. I would have held her tight and reassured her that it can be normal to experience elation and anguish in the same breath. I would have told her that although she has a responsibility over her behaviour, there would be times when she would feel like throwing things out the window. Preferably not her little sister.
It’s whole new ball game. Previous parenting rules don’t apply apparently. I feel like a novice all over again. It’s a steep learning curve though and I’ll tell you for nothing that singing Britney’s classic “I’m not a girl not yet a woman” to said child is likely to not be well received. Lesson learnt.
#4: The goal posts will probably change.
We’ve got pretty high standards for our little bears and a zero tolerance to back chat. Stomping and slamming gets time-out. But what happens when your little one is in a whirlwind of emotions? Come on ladies, we’ve all had those hormonal days when you might be able to curb it at work or at the supermarket when the whole world seems to be trying to hack you off. You get home to your safe refuge, the place where you can truly be yourself. And after holding in the PMS rage, the teeniest thing tips you over the edge. Your other half makes a sarcastic dig. Your darling child feels the need to call your name every 3 seconds while you’re on the phone. Clothes have been left on the floor, again. SOMEONE didn’t flush the toilet. The red fog descends and woe betide anyone within a mile radius of your rage. And we don’t all react the same way. There are the sulkers, the shouters, the criers and the throwers. None are particularly pleasant to be around. All are pretty embarrassing in hindsight.
Confession: I was particularly hormonal (and slightly OCD) one December and getting highly agitated that the newly purchased Christmas tree was asymmetrical. The more frustrated I got that the tree was uneven, the more the PMS bubbled away below the surface. I tried to control it, I really did. Until I found a really bare patch with no branches. In a moment of possible insanity and definite hormonal meltdown I grabbed the wonky tree and pushed it over. It was not my finest hour.
Now. Before TWEENdom swooped in on our household, if one of my children had behaved like that (they didn’t witness this rather pathetic outburst by the way, it was well before their time on this Earth) I might have cancelled Christmas. It would have been completely unacceptable behaviour therefore I wouldn’t have accepted it.
So what’s the difference between a hormonal woman having a meltdown in the safety or her own home and a confused/raging/scared child releasing the floodgate of those emotions in their safe haven? I’m not suggesting we, as parents, lower our expectations of appropriate and respectful behaviour, I’m just putting it out there that maybe a little understanding might help everyone. They don’t exactly enjoy their mood swings either.
You’re not failing your child if you carefully choose your battles. No one wants to be in constant conflict.
#5: You will fall even more in love with your child.
Don’t get me wrong. I lock horns with my biggest bear. A lot. She’s as headstrong as I am and sometimes we’ll both end a battle in tears. When you’re in the thick of a boundary-testing situation, the idea of boarding school becomes a enticing concept. I have to keep making the choice to step back and try to understand her. To see what things look like with her eyes. I have a beautifully eloquent, deeply sensitive and loving daughter. I keep thinking I can’t possibly love her more and she keeps proving me wrong. As she gets older, for every moment she exasperates me there are ten where she blows me away and want to cover her face in kisses. Of course, I don’t. She’s way too old for that, remember?
Disclaimer: This post was written with my biggest bear’s full knowledge and permission. She has read it and is happy with what I am sharing. I promised not to talk about boobies so I was allowed to talk about hormonal strops.
Mrs C x
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