When my oldest started his 5th grade year of school, I figured I had a few solid years left of him being a sweet boy. I’d ease into the tween and teen years the way I’d eased into a new job or learned to remove my diva cup without feeling like I was going to pass out.
One does not simply change from being a charismatic child who wants to play checkers with you, asking you to watch him do tricks on his bike, and asking you to help him hang a bulletin board in his room with a few pictures of you on it.
Their face won’t change from smooth and peachy to blotchy as acne blossoms in between long chin hairs overnight.
One minute you have a sweet child who will test your patience, but will come back to you.
Then you wake up one morning and see a version of them that literally wasn’t there the day before.
I’m sorry to tell you, Mama, but there’s no going back from this. If you have a tween in your house you’ll know it because of:
1. The sass.
No one knows how to do sass like a child bursting into young adulthood. They aren’t a kid any longer and they know it. They aren’t adults, but they don’t know it. They will make it their job to show you they know what’s up all the damn time. It looks like shoulder shrugs, eye rolls, mutters, and shutting down as soon as you ask them how their day was.
2. The mess.
I thought my kids were messy as toddlers, but I had no idea what would happen as soon as they hit puberty. I found a cup of half-eaten yogurt in my son’s room that was supporting a colony of ants. My daughter can fuck up a clean bathroom with her makeup and hair shit in a hot second. Sometimes they feel there’s no need to flush the toilet, top sheets are non-existent on their unmade beds, and somehow there’s toothpaste on the ceiling more often than not.
3. The smells.
These are the years your kids get ripe real quick. Thing is, it’s new for them. They aren’t used to smelling like rotting onions after gym class or practice. The habit of showering regularly and using deodorant on a regular basis is foreign to them.
If they play sports, the smells coming from your car will keep you from making eye contact with the neighbors as you drive them to their next event so you don’t have to stop, roll down the window, and talk.
4. The retainer on the kitchen table.
… Or the coffee table, or the back of the toilet. If you have a kid with a retainer and you’re paying out of your butthole to fix their teeth, they don’t care.
Also, everything they’ve learned about germs has suddenly flown out the window (hence the retainer on the back of the loo).
5. The whining.
Tweens look capable of taking out the trash, but crumble at the mere mention of doing anything. They want to be treated like adults but don’t hesitate to throw a tantrum if you take their phone away in order to get them to do something.
6. The closed bedroom door.
You child will go from wanting to go out for ice cream with you, to needing more alone time than anyone else in the world. They’d rather be in their room with the curtains drawn than see or talk to you any day.
The first day it happens you’ll think, this is kind of nice. I have more time for myself. Give it a minute, though. Before long you’ll be knocking on the other side of that dark room with tears in your eyes wanting to hear everything they did that day.
7. The grocery bill.
Not only do growing kids eat like there’s no tomorrow, this is when they begin to want to have a say in what you buy. Mine hate that I buy the generic brand. They get very upset as soon as all the “good” food is gone, yet they are the ones who eat it as soon as I walk in the door with the bags.
Oh, and they’ll wait until you’re home from shopping to tell you they are out of deodorant or toothpaste.
8. The clothing.
Tweens these days like to rotate a few T-shirts, sweatshirts, and sweatpants. That’s it. It’s a chore to get them to put them in the laundry so they can be washed because apparently, they can’t smell their own stench.
You know there’s a tween in the house when you feel like you’ve been bulldozed with a smelly, back-talker who swears you are now their taxi driver.
I’ve had three and all I can say is, solidarity, Mama. Solidarity. Because if you’ve reached the point of having a tween, you know that like all phases, this too shall pass.
Just be sure to keep extra deodorant on hand until it does.