A Letter To My Tweens

by Whitney Fleming
Originally Published: 

Dear Tween Daughters:

Life with you three has been a bit of a roller coaster lately. To put it bluntly, you are making me manic. One moment my heart soars when you grab my hand on the way into the grocery store, the next you crush it by pushing my arm away. Sometimes I am reminded of how small you are when you snuggle up to me on the couch to tell me about your day, while in a flash I watch you run out the door with your friends, looking like a gaggle of women about to go clubbing.

I realize some of the rumors about tween girls aren’t true. It’s not all bad, although I didn’t anticipate the tears that would flow when I asked if you could change your clothes to go out to dinner one night. Or the eye rolls that would accompany requests to clean your room. Or how the word “fine” does not, in fact, mean fine anymore, and instead has more of a middle-finger like tone.

It’s not that I’m unsympathetic. I was a tween girl once too. They didn’t call us tweens back then when dinosaurs roamed the earth, but I remember the feeling of wishing to be treated like a grown-up while still having my mommy take care of me. I get it.

But this can’t go on. There are three of you, which means the odds of at least one of you being “in a mood” is far greater than what any single mother can endure. I’m only human.

Because I know that puberty is racing at you like a freight train and menopause is most likely tapping on my shoulder, I thought we best set some expectations for the next few years so we all make it out to the other side.

Accept that I will embarrass you. I will do the Running Man at a school function and wear my ’70s Afro wig at Halloween. I will sing the Teen Beach Movie lyrics you made me suffer through in the car with your friends, and I will make you take first-day-of-school pictures until you get your doctorate. You can embrace it or hide from it, but it will happen. You come from a long line of embarrassing parents. Trust me, you will survive.

And we will need to talk about embarrassing stuff. Even though you don’t ask, I know you are hungry for information about love, sex and impending body changes. It may be uncomfortable and awkward, but we will get through it because I want you to have accurate information to make good decisions. It takes courage to try new things, but even more to know when you are not ready for something. I need you to be courageous.

I won’t minimize your feelings. While it is hard for me to grasp the reality that my asking you to take a shower could incite an emotional outburst, I know the suffering is real. I will try to take you seriously, regardless of how ridiculous I think you are behaving. I will listen instead of giving you my opinion. And I will choose my battles wisely, so when it’s important, you will know it.

In our house, digital privacy is earned. You all have a good head on your shoulders, but the Internet, cell phones and even the television can be dangerous places. We need to go there together.

But I get that you need your personal space. It’s hard for me to comprehend that I am not the center of your world anymore, but I understand you need time and space to figure life out. I’ll try not to take your new independence personally. Just don’t slam the door, and we’ll be just fine.

I will (try) not to interfere. Your friendships are changing, and you are putting yourself out there more. I love that, but when you hurt, I hurt. When you suffer, my heart aches. It is difficult to quash the Mama Bear instinct to confront anything that threatens my young. However, I will try to not get in the middle of your problems because I know you need to learn to do that on your own. I will always be there for you, though, even when I let you fall before raising you back up.

You will not always like me. It is hard when you are not given the same permission, the same privileges, the same access as other kids your age. It may not seem like it, but it is also hard to be the parent who says no when everyone else seems to be saying yes. As a tween, you are playing checkers with your life—you’re making moves and choices in the moment. I’m playing chess, where I know each decision can change the trajectory of your life. You may not like me today, but I hope you’ll respect me and my decisions later.

I will think the best of you, because we all deserve grace, and you’re not the only one facing hormonal changes.

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