My 12-year-old daughter wanted to paint her bedroom black. Instead of screaming “Hell, no!” I offered grey as a compromise. Fortunately that color was different enough from her “baby-ish” lavender walls, and she readily agreed.
My little girl is gone, and now I have a tween, which is awesome—even though tweens can suck. But they suck for good reason.
1. Tweens stink because they are busy caring about more important (to them) activities.
My daughter is what I would politely call “hygiene-challenged.” She doesn’t give a rat’s ass whether or not her hair is clean (it’s not) or her armpits reek (they do). She’s more interested in reading books, writing stories, and creating videos. She’s not trying to impress the boys at school because she thinks her favorite fictional characters are way cooler.
2. Tweens are embarrassed by you, but they still crave your attention and approval.
My daughter is mortified by much of what I do—when I wave to her across the school yard, when I wear crazy hats to pick her up, when I blast music in the car. But when I tell her how creative and imaginative she is as she describes her latest (really strange, frankly) story, she tells me, “See, that’s why you’re the most awesome mom ever.”
3. Tweens challenge authority because they are becoming more independent.
My daughter hates school, procrastinates doing homework, and thinks science is pointless (“When am I ever going to care about a cell nucleus?!”). She fights us on every single assignment, but she still manages to earn good grades. She is also witty, sarcastic, and possesses a sense of humor years beyond her age. She defines her own interests.
4. Tweens can be annoying because they are finding their voices (at the top of their lungs).
My daughter speaks every word at maximum volume. She plays her punk rock music so loudly the walls shake. She’s found non-mainstream tunes that speak to her soul and give her a boost when she needs it. And she is discovering new ways to express herself.
5. Tweens push boundaries because they need bigger ones to grow.
My daughter regularly questions rules and negotiates new ones. She experiments with swearing (but she always follows the guidelines) and prefaces her profanity with, “Excuse me because I’m going to swear.” (I’m so fucking proud.)
6. Tweens do weird shit because they wear their hearts on their sleeves while they are figuring out who they are.
My daughter regularly draws cat whiskers on her face (thanks Dan and Phil) and random sketches on her feet with permanent marker. She doesn’t care what other people think; it just makes her happy. Next week, some other (odd) new trend will delight her.
7. Tweens don’t want to be babied because they are ready to care for others.
My daughter rolls her eyes when my husband and I reminisce about how adorable she was playing with her dolls. Then she sells those same dolls and donates the money to the animal shelter.
8. Tweens act like they don’t want you around, but they still soak up your time and love.
My daughter spends most of her free time in her room. She barricades herself in there immediately after school, emerging only for snacks and mandatory family time. But she stills wants to watch her favorite TV show with me, and she loves discussing books with my husband.
Raising a tween presents brand-new challenges and mystifying hurdles on a daily basis. My husband and I constantly scramble to find the best approach to take with our daughter and not set off a tween bomb.
Tweens can be stubborn and dramatic, loud and obnoxious, but who they are at the core has not changed. They are furiously defining their limits and personalities. They are becoming independent, unique individuals (who might be foreign to us). Do they drive us crazy sometimes? Yes. Do they test every nerve in our bodies once in a while? Oh, hell yes.
But you know what? They’re amazing. Everything about them—even the crappy stuff.