Love in the Tween Years

Nothing strikes fear in a parent’s heart like these words from your 11-year-old, “Mom, I’m in love.” When you have twins that come

home and say it, it is a recipe for a crazy stew of hormones.

I can’t say this is foreign territory. I was always boy-crazy. I was told this from as early as I can remember. I remember the boy I liked in second grade. I remember my third grade crush. I remember the boy I liked in fourth grade and I certainly remember my sixth grade boyfriend. I use the term “boyfriend” loosely since it consisted of the boy “asking me out”, me saying, “Yes” and us not going anywhere. So, why then was I surprised when Isabella and Tommy who are in sixth grade, came home talking about cute boys and cute girls?

My stance on this whole boy/girl stuff is that they are too young. It makes my head hurt a lot to think of having to deal with these issues so early. I told you about my third grade crush and I’ll tell you that is the reason I am handling this the way I am. He brought

me a locket, told me he liked me and asked me out. I ran home excited to tell my mom. She looked mortified, told me to tell him I was not allowed to go out with boys and give the locket back. I was devastated. I went to school, told him I liked him and put the locket in my

desk. I liked him so much and I loved that locket. That was the last time until I was in junior high that I told my mom when a boy bought me something or when I was going out with someone.  In fourth grade when a different boy asked me out, I said yes and when he gave me a frog, I kept quiet and hid it in the garage. I do not want my kids to feel like their feelings aren’t valid or that they can’t tell me things.

When Nico came to me in sixth grade for advice, I made sure to listen to him and tell him what I thought. It was the standard, “Be nice to girls that talk to you. It probably took a lot of courage for them to have the nerve to.” “Girls never forget a boy who is mean to them but they also never forget a boy who is nice to them.”

Tommy and Belle came home from their first day of middle school and I couldn’t wait to hear how it went.

“I love middle school! I love my teachers and I could open my locker every time!” Belle said.

“I like a girl,” Tommy said. “Should I ask her out?”

“It’s the first day of school. Why don’t you wait a little bit?” I answered having a feeling I was going to be boarding the crazy hormone train.

Long story (trust me, it was a long five days) short, Tommy asked her out and she said yes. And just like that, I am back in 6th grade because one thing has not changed. “Going out” still doesn’t mean going out anywhere. This is Tommy’s first girlfriend. Technically

second if you count the little girl in 1st grade that called him and made his “tummy all warm and funny.” Because he really likes this girl, he is afraid he is going to “mess it up” so he has taken to asking me what to say to her. Here is an example of a recent conversation:

“Mom, she texted, ‘Hey’. What should I say back?” he asked.

“Say, ‘What’s up’ or ‘Hey’ back,” I answered. He was busy typing away for a minute or so.

“She asked me what I’m doing. What should I say?”

“Well, what are you doing, Tommy?” I asked not really believing he couldn’t figure that one out himself.

“I’m texting her, Mom,” he said rolling his eyes as if I didn’t know anything.

“Tell her you are doing your homework and then do it please,” I answered thinking I was pretty clever with telling him without nagging to do his homework. He was busy typing again.

After minute went by, Tommy asked, “She hasn’t answered. Should I ask her a question? What should I ask her?”

“Ask her if she has homework.”

“She doesn’t. What should I say now?”

“Ask her if she likes middle school or if she likes her teachers,” I answer.

“Oh, that’s good,” he replied and strangely, I felt proud. Apparently, I am a great 6th grade conversationalist.

At this point, Belle pokes her nose in. “Tommy, Mom isn’t her boyfriend. You are. You should talk yourself.”

“I know but mom was once in 6th grade. She knows what to say.” Again, I was strangely proud.

On a side note to this little story I want to say that even though they are only 11, I really do believe that how they feel, how they handle or how we teach them to handle situations like this shapes how they will behave in the future or what choices they make. This whole thing led to a discussion on how it is better to be nice to everybody, girls and boys and you might start to feel stronger for one person over the others and that will naturally lead to going out with them. That is usually why it happens when you are older because it takes

time for those feelings to happen.

Like I said, I was boy-crazy and I have heard people say that if you let them have boyfriends and girlfriends at such a young age, that will lead them to be promiscuous and I strongly disagree. Any guy that I might have dated before Leo will agree with me that it doesn’t. My mom, besides the locket episode, never made me feel like my feelings weren’t real. She let me talk and talk about the boys that I liked all the while teaching me that I was worth more than what some boy thought of me. I had a healthy self-esteem thanks to her. From an early age, I learned to respect my body and not give myself to a boy I liked just because he said he liked me, too. I pray that I can instill that in my kids.

For Belle, if the self-esteem discussion doesn’t work, she has seen Teen Mom (not on purpose) and said, “Mom, I know that if that happens to me, you would still love me but you would be so mad and then when the guy leaves, it will be harder to find another one because they will have to love me and the baby so I am not going to do that until I have a husband.” Whether that is true or not, I think

we are good for now. I talk to the boys about respecting girls and themselves enough to wait until they are in love and ready to make grown-up decisions. The discussions I have with Nico are different from the ones I have with Tommy. Both boys know that I want them to wait until they get married, however, realistically, I need to have discussions with Nico that stress waiting but also talk about the consequences of not. If that doesn’t work, I’ll just do what I’ll just continue to scare them with images of STD’s.

Yes, I am that parent. 😉

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