Not sure if your baby girl—the one who used to toddle laughingly to you, smack her lips in appreciation of whatever you fed her, and lie in your arms listening to stories—has crossed the threshold from angelic little girl to devilish tween? Well, we’ve lived the hellish tween years with our daughter for long before she actually became a tween (we like to think of it as a special kind of precociousness), and here are some signs that the hormones are mobilizing in full force. You might want to prepare by packing a flashlight, transistor radio and 10 years’ worth of granola bars in the trunk of your car.
1. She tells you that she liked you better when you were 39. (You’ve just turned 40.)
2. She tells you that you would look like a teenager, if it weren’t for your face. (Sadly, you’re kind of flattered.)
3. She argues with you like an actual lawyer. I don’t mean in the way that many mothers faux-bemusedly say, “My child is going to grow up to be a lawyer, because she’s always arguing!” while they secretly hope that their child will grow up to be a lawyer. I’m talking about arguing over things like sibling fights and bedtime, in the slow, verbose, very considered way of a legit lawyer who’s got the tenacity of a bulldog. Think ambitious 20-something stuck in the DA’s office in the Bronx, a la Bonfire of the Vanities. Someday, you’ll appreciate her steadfast thoroughness, but right now you want to claw your eyes out. That’s the kind of lawyer your preteen sounds like.
4. She frequently calls you “the worst” and “a horrible mother,” usually prompted by you asking her to put on her shoes or brush her hair.
5. She tells you that other moms are nicer, presumably because they don’t ask their daughters to get dressed or brush their hair.
6. While you’re visiting friends for the weekend, you ask her to get dressed and brush her hair. This infuriates her to the point where she starts throwing your things on the ground, then takes your bra and throws it in the hallway for your hosts to find later.
7. She finds the book you’ve ordered about parenting a tween and screams: “You’re worried about me? You’re WORRIED about me?”
8. She yells at you for not seeing her do a “high” kick with a soccer ball because you snuck off from watching her practice—not her game, her practice—for five minutes to use the toilet (you’re 40, after all). When you apologize, she reiterates how you are the worst and storms off, leaving you to sheepishly wave at all the gaping parents and apologize for your kid’s asshole-ish behavior.
9. When she’s not pissed off at you for telling her to brush her hair or put on her shoes, she’s actually your favorite person to hang out with, because she’s incredibly insightful, unabashedly creative, unequivocally sympathetic (this extends even to you on the good days) and absolutely hilarious. And, she’s your baby. You are getting clearer glimpses of the woman she will someday become, and you are thrilled at this discovery.
10. But, she cries almost every day, because her hormones are revving up, the relentless bastards. And she can’t quite articulate things like a full-blown teen can, because she’s still part baby. You see that she’s shy about dipping her figurative toe in the water of adulthood, and if you had another 8 or 10 years of education, you’d realize this is all just the uncertainty of growing up, manifesting itself in her interactions with you, her Mom, the one who truly knows the secrets of her heart. Being the complete nincompoop that you are about all things child-rearing, though, you opt to simply hold her tight, kiss her goodnight and agree that together, you’ll try to make tomorrow better. (And realize that, since she’s 9, you’re looking at about 9 years times 365 tomorrows.)
Here’s to having a tween daughter. Live it, love it, and know that it ends. We’ll miss it someday, right?