Have you met the tweens?
Everybody warns you about the terrible twos, when your precious little angel turns into a body-slamming, non-stop whining little monster whom you love and adore regardless. It’s just a season that’s part of growing out of toddlerhood, and because it’s only a season, they tell you to hold tight — as awful as these moments are, they will fly right by. And it’s true. The terrible twos come and go, and before you know it, your littles are hitting double digits, and then they become teenagers, and we all know how that can be.
What I don’t understand is why nobody warned us about tweenagers.
If you aren’t familiar — yet — tweenagers are a special sort of creature. They’re young enough that their childlike charm and big eyes are the best covers for that 9-going-on-19 attitude that feels like it hit you out of nowhere. My tween challenges me routinely, every time laundry day comes around.
She starts off by asking to make the folding and hanging of her wardrobe a joint venture, but no sooner do I start helping than I see her sit back and leave it all to me. Oh no, miss, I don’t think so. But when I ask her about it, slowly but surely, the attitude comes to the surface of her sweet little facade: Mom, just let me finish this video. But mom, why can’t you just hang those up? Mom, you just don’t like doing laundry. That’s why you make me do it.
Do I want to lose my mind and yell, “do it because I said so!” Well, of course. But I’m not going to. Has she been absolutely pushing all my buttons? Yes. Should she do her chores without sass because I asked her to? Most definitely. But she won’t.
We’ll go through this once a day every week from now until who knows when. Because this is what she does. This is what all tweens do. They push boundaries to see which ones they can skirt and which they can’t. At the same time, I can guarantee that my grandmother rolling her eyes from the far beyond about the amount of negotiation that goes on between my daughter and I — but you know what? That’s how we do it in our home.
I make a conscious decision to take on her tweenaged attitude head-on in a firm-but-fair negotiation, because ignoring it will only cause her to match my energy and leave us not talking to each other. Or better yet, exchanging snappy, passive-aggressive banter that’ll end in built-up resentment. How do I know this? Because it’s what my mother did with me.
It drives me up a damn wall to hear her sass back, but at the same time, I remember doing the same thing at her age. She’s testing to see how far she can push before I cave in. Or snap. But I choose to do neither. I walk away and go out into the sunshine or take the pup for a walk. Essentially, anything to give me a moment to cool off.
I want to guide her with patience and understanding. Because eventually, she’ll stop pushing back. Yeah, I know, it probably won't go just like that, a magical resolution out of nowhere. But hopefully, she’ll eventually realize that she spends more energy fighting me than she would just doing what I asked the first time. I know, I know. It might not work out that way, but I’ve lived the alternative firsthand, and I don’t have that kind of energy.
Tweenagers testing boundaries is the bane of every mother’s existence. Whether it’s about chores, screen time, or that outfit you begged them not to wear to school. But it’s going to happen whether you want it to or not. They’re coming into their independence day by day, and testing your patience is just part of that journey. So take a deep breath and hang in there. Scream into a pillow or give your mom a call to tell her all about what her grandchild just said. Trust me, she’ll get a kick out of it.
So, I guess this is the age our moms didn’t warn us about because they were too busy shaking their heads in disbelief as we pulled the same shenanigans. Yes, ladies, if the tweenaged years were a meme, it would be the one about how when I opened my mouth, my mother just came out. Except this time, I’m changing the dialogue in hopes of more peace, less attitude… and to keep me from going prematurely gray.