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My oldest daughter recently turned eleven and started middle school. Therefore, we are jumping headfirst into “tweendom” and I’ve been doing more than my fair share of looking back.
Honestly, I have entered this phase of parenthood guardedly because I have heard so many cautionary tales about tweens. I’ve gotten warnings about the impending hormonal meltdowns, mean girls, bullying, and the bad behavior on social media that many tween parents have experienced. I frequently hear comments such as “Oh, you’re in for it now!”
However, I’m more of a “glass half full” kind of gal and, quite frankly, I am tired of all the negativity. As we tread the waters of these tween years, I’m beginning realize that it’s really not all that bad. As I recall days and phases of the past, I am actually kind of happy to be where we are. In fact, I think I would take my tween over a toddler any day. Here’s why:
She can express her feelings.- We’ve all experienced that screaming toddler who has very few words and wondered “Is she hungry? Tired? Maybe just frustrated?” Well, with tweens, there is no guessing game. They may have a hormonal meltdown complete with tears and slamming doors, but you can rest assured that you will know exactly what he/she is feeling!
She can have a conversation. – When I asked my toddler about her day at preschool, I usually got a very vague answer about who she played with on the playground or what they had for snack. Now when I ask, she can tell me what she learned, what homework she has, and who she sat with at the lunch table. We can also talk about current events, or books she’s reading, or Selena Gomez’s much too revealing VMA awards show wardrobe. It’s actually pretty cool!
She is so much more more independent. – I remember wrestling my toddlers into clothes and then worrying about what the teachers would think of her ridiculous outfit because it was the only thing she would wear. I also remember begging her to eat just one more bite and, oh my, the potty training. Now, she wakes up when her alarm clock goes off. (I always double check!) Then, she gets herself dressed, fixes herself some breakfast, and, this year even packs her own lunch. She can also tie her own shoes and hasn’t asked me to look at her poop in years!
She can tell time. – Toddlers move at their own pace because they don’t understand the concept of time and schedules. In fact, my six year old still does this. My tween on the other hand, knows when the tardy bell rings at school and she knows when her gymnastics class starts. She doesn’t want to be late to hang out with her friends so she is much more motivated to get there on time and understands the consequences of being late.
She does her own homework. -O.K. Maybe toddlers don’t have actual homework, but I remember trying to help my girls learn their ABC’s & 123’s. It was tedious and frustrating. Now, my sixth grader is encouraged to do her homework “independently” and, truthfully, she is probably going to bring home some math problems that I couldn’t help with even if she asked!
She can read. – I couldn’t even begin to tell you how many times I read Brown Bear or Green Eggs & Ham. Although I loved the cuddle time, the repetition was maddening. Now, she can read what she chooses on her Nook all by herself as many times as she wants!
She doesn’t need naps anymore. – I know naps can be nice, but they can also be a pain. When my daughters were little, my schedule revolved around their sleep schedules. We had to be home for naps and bedtime. Now, of course, they don’t nap and their bedtimes can be flexible Plus, my tween sleeps in every chance she gets!
We get some time apart. – Since I am a stay at home mom, I rarely got time away from my kids when they were toddlers. Although I loved them dearly (still do!), sometimes we just both needed a break, but it was hard to get one. Now, she’s in school most of the day. When she is home, she can entertain herself and doesn’t feel the need to be physically attached to me all the time.
She is becoming who she is going to be. – The biggest goal for most toddlers is keeping their pants dry or making it through a playdate without altercation. My tween, however, is beginning to develop real life goals. She is thinking about what she really wants to be when she grows up. She is working to get good grades. She is learning how to make friendships last. She is developing her own set of beliefs. It is so exciting to be getting a glimpse of who she is really going to be “when she grows up.”
We get perspective. – Every stage of childhood and parenting is special in some way. When my daughter was a toddler, I loved the cuddling and cuteness. However, I spent my days dealing with messes and calming tantrums. I often wondered if we would ever get through that stage. Sure, the tween and teen years will have their ups and downs. I know there will be rough patches. But, now I can say, “Look how far we’ve come!” We made it through breastfeeding and potty training. We made it through separation anxiety (hers and mine). We worked together to deal with that bully in fourth grade. We both survived her first overnight trip. We’ve had “the talk” and can communicate openly. We’ve made it through a lot already. So I say, bring on the tween years. We’ll make it through those, too, and they will be great!
Originally posted on Lisa’s blog.
Photo courtesy of Joanlandinosays.com.