You’d think I’d be better at being the mom of a tween. After all, I’ve already been one with my now-teen daughter–who is, thanks for asking–still speaking to me. But with her younger sister, I feel like I’m starting all over again.
Since the learning curve on this particular mom gig doesn’t look like it’s ever going to entirely straighten out, here’s what I’m finding to be true these days–and what might be true for you, too, if you’re the mom of a daughter who dwells in the strange and wonderful world of tweendom.
1. You’ve heard something like this come out of her mouth at some point: “I hate feelings. First, you’re a girl. Then you have all these feelings. It all gets really messy. The only thing that got me through the day was that I knew I looked really cute.”
2. If anyone needs you, you’ll be in the car. Driving her somewhere, or dropping her off somewhere, or waiting to pick her up somewhere.
3. If anyone needs your daughter, and she’s not at school or at one of the places you’ve driven her to, she’s probably in her room.
4. You blame the hormones. It’s the hormones. It’s definitely the hormones.
5. You get it: middle-school cool is a powerful force. But wanting to fit in does not make your daughter any less of an independent, confident, unique individual who is secure in her own self-worth. It just means that if her lunch “tote” isn’t acceptable, it’ll never see the light of day. (Or, as the case may be, the fluorescent lights of the cafeteria.)
6. Your daughter amazes, perplexes, awes, frustrates, delights, maddens, inspires, and charms you. Often all in the same 24 hours.
7. White tank tops and black hair ties are items you buy in bulk.
8. There are all the bobby pins that have ever been produced in the history of the world. There are all the bobby pins you’ve bought in the history of your family. There are all the bobby pins under the couch cushions and on the floor of the car and in the laundry. And then there are all the bobby pins you will ever actually be able to find on any given morning. Which is possibly two.
9. When you ask her if she has any math homework, you’ll really, really want the answer to be “no.”
10. Whatever your daughter is reading, it’s quite possibly part of a trilogy that takes place in a futuristic dystopian society.
11. #OOTD is a thing. (“Outfit of the day,” apparently.)
12. You’ve got some ideas for tween versions of those children’s books you used to read to her when she was little. Alexandra Is 12, So Every Day Is a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, maybe, or Are You My Mother—And Can You Pretend You’re Not When We’re Out in Public? See also Love You Forever (Even Though I’m Not Entirely Certain How Much I Actually Like You Right Now).
13. You just don’t ask when your daughter spends 45 minutes choosing an outfit and comes out of her room wearing jeggings and a t-shirt.
14. When she was a baby, you remember thinking you’d catch up on your sleep some day when she was older. Now you recognize that this is not that day. (See #4.)
15. You have accepted that life runs more smoothly if “it” is clean. Whatever “it” is.
16. What you can safely say on a school morning amounts to a pretty short list: 1)yes, I like your hair like that; 2)yes, I like that outfit; 3) yes, I can give you some money.
17. On the other hand, what you might not want to say, according my friend Cristina–-wife, mom, educator, and veteran tween-girl mom–could include the following “depending on the day, time, age, position of the sun, moon, stars, and whether or not you’ve washed the right clothes or fixed the right meal”:
- How was your day?
- Did you study for your test?
- What did you have to do for extra credit?
- How was practice?
- What did you do with [insert any friend’s name] while you were at her house, while you were in your bedroom, while you were outside, etc.
- Will you please unload the clean dishes, switch the laundry, load the dishes, put your trash in the trash can, not leave an empty box in the pantry, put your dirty dishes in the dishwasher (especially when it’s wide open), clean the bathroom, etc…
18. You see someone across a room and think, “Who is that gorgeous, tall girl?” And then you realize she is your gorgeous, tall girl.
19. You’re quickly figuring out that sometimes “fine” means “fine.” And sometimes it doesn’t.
20. You’re beyond grateful that ice cream therapy works.
21. Your phone has become a mirror. As in, “Can I borrow your phone so I can take a picture of the back of my hair to make sure it looks okay?”
22. Your tween says something and leaves the room. You and another family member look at each other in silent reference to whatever it was your tween just said. From the other room, she yells, “I can hear you two looking at each other about me!”
23. You’re learning that about 90 percent of tween girl drama is not something you need to get involved in or, even worse, worry yourself sick over. For the most part, it smooths itself out if you just ride it out. (You understand, of course, that taking dark chocolate along for that ride helps a lot.)
24. You’ve been told that you are “the best mother in the world” on account of late-night laundry service to wash The Only Pair Of Jeans That Will Work With Tomorrow’s Outfit. You speed-dial your attorney and ask him to prepare some sort of binding document in which your daughter swears to the validity of this designation. Because you well understand that you are The Best Mom In the World…until you are The Worst Mom In the World.
25. You can’t believe how fascinating and beautiful and smart and talented and interesting your daughter is, any more than you can imagine life without her.
Elizabeth Spencer is mom to one tween and one teen daughter. She’s been married for 20 years to a very patient husband who copes nicely as the lone male in a house full of girls. Elizabeth avoids working on her 100-year-old farmhouse by blogging about life as an imperfect mother at Guilty Chocoholic Mama and by spending time on Facebook and on Twitter.
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