Raising a tween

My daughter and I usually get along. This is a huge deal as a parent of an almost 13 year old, a girl who entered 7th grade this past September. A lot of parents of kids this age are experiencing this odd transformation of their child, discovering that a complete ogre has taken over their usually sweet tween’s body, and is now answering every question with a series of grunts – if they are lucky enough to be acknowledged at all by their ogre-ish pre-teen.

Granted, I’m not immune to the moodiness that takes over my daughter’s body every so often (read: on schedule, like clockwork. Oy.), but I am actually enjoying her more now than I ever have before. For one, she talks to me more. It’s strange, I would have thought it’d be different once she hit middle school. But I find that not only is she opening her mouth and more words are pouring out of it than ever before, she is actually sharing more personal parts of her life with me – including thoughts and feelings. She doesn’t have to, and I try my best not to pry. And perhaps that is why she shares so honestly the things she chooses to tell me. I’m sure there is so much more going on inside of her that she decides to keep locked away. But just the fact that she shares any part of her personal self with me is an honor I don’t take lightly.

We are able to discuss difficult topics much more comfortably now. When she was younger, I remember thinking, “how in the world am I ever going to be able to discuss sex/drugs/puberty/boys, etc with her?”  The answer? The topics tend to present themselves. There is nothing more awkward than bringing up difficult topics out of the blue. It’s not only awkward, but it is the best way to get your teen to run away screaming. But, oftentimes, the perfect time just presents itself, all wrapped up in a big red bow. But as the parent, you have to be paying very close attention to those times when bringing something up might be best received – like when they’re studying it in school, when they mention stuff they’ve witnessed, seen something on TV, or heard something on the radio. My daughter and I have had some wonderful conversations involving every difficult topic there is thanks to some awesome timing and situations.

She also is funnier than all get out. This girl has perfected the art of sarcasm. And I couldn’t be more proud. She is able to give a voice to objects that can’t speak for themselves so well that I have a hard time believing that my cat really isn’t speaking to me in a high-pitched voice as I get him his food. And in the privacy of our car, she will make fun of anyone that becomes fair game just by doing something stupid on the road, having us in hysterics while she voices their idiocy at the drop of a hat. I tell you, it does wonders for road rage.

And the girl is helpful. If I am making dinner, many times she just starts clearing off the kitchen table so that we can sit and eat without my crap all over the place. She will sit and help me fold laundry without complaint. Of course, she is just as messy as the rest of us. And it’s a rare occasion that she will do something without being asked (just like any kid). But if I need her to do something, it gets done with minimal grumbling.

Of course, there is a give and take to raising a tween/teen. There are times when her emotions are out of control, and she needs some venting time. And when this happens, she might say things that you wouldn’t want repeated in mixed company. In other words, a few cuss words might slip out. And when it is just us, and she is upset and needs to get it out, there is no penalty for how she puts it out there. And when my adolescent is on the edge of still sharing her life and not sharing anything at all, I will be the last one to stop her from sharing just because it isn’t socially acceptable.

But then there are the times when she is completely unreasonable. Yes, my daughter and I get along most of the time. So I think that’s what makes it so shocking when we DON’T get along. Like this morning when I was juggling a million things on our way out the door. I asked her to carry something, and she refused, saying that her hands were already full. I was juggling my purse, a camera bag, my lunch, a cup of coffee, and a bowl of water to toss over our frozen windows on the car. She was carrying….a notebook. And when I angrily pointed this out, she rolled her eyes and walked away towards the car, leaving me to precariously balance everything on my own. And when I got in the car and reamed her out for being so thoughtless, she reacted in the most frustrating way imaginable.

She shrugged her shoulders. And then she gave me no reaction back whatsoever.

AAAARGH!!!!

How are you doing with your own middle school student?

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