Having two tweens in our house has triggered a lot of the same emotions I experienced while dating—insecurities, dramatic interactions, and concerns about where the relationship is headed. A lot of the questions are the same too: What did I do wrong? What did he do wrong? Why am I acting like this? Why is he acting like this? And, of course, the biggest one of all: Will this relationship survive?
Of course, with dating, if things aren’t going well you can end the relationship and move on to somebody else. This doesn’t work with tweens. Trust me, I’ve tried. They always come back, usually with muddy cleats and in search of a snack. Here are just a few more ways that living with a tween is eerily similar to dating:
1. No matter what you do, no matter how great things are going, there is still always that undercurrent of fear that they “just aren’t that into you.”
2. You misread cues: They say “I need space,” so naturally, you bake them cookies.
3. You stay up late worrying: Why isn’t he talking to me? Was it something I said?
4. You get to know their friends just so you can find out what they are up to.
5. You finally start paying attention to those relationship articles flooding your newsfeed: “Are you living with a narcissist?” “How to tell if he likes you,” and “10 ways to get his attention when he doesn’t know you exist.”
6. You are constantly taking them out and buying them things. You wonder if they are just using you to acquire material possessions. You fear you are nothing but a sugar mama.
7. You are hurt when they want to spend time with their friends instead of you, but you try to act cool about it. You don’t always succeed.
8. When things get difficult in the relationship, you often get the sense that they are trying to tell you, “It’s not you…it’s me.” Only, the tweens really mean it: “No seriously, it’s me…in fact, it’s always about me. Let’s not forget—everything is about me.”
9. You check your phone incessantly, hoping to hear from them. You conjure up all sorts of crazy possibilities for why they haven’t called or messaged yet.
10. You look back at old photos and remember how great things used to be.
11. When things aren’t going well, your friends comfort you by saying things like, “Don’t worry, it’s just a phase. Someday he’ll come back to you,” and “He loves you. He just doesn’t know how to show it yet.”
And although tweens may have you doubting the strength of your relationship at times, they have a subtle way of reassuring you that they’re still in it for the long haul. They are masters of the leave-behind. With dating, this was a sweater or umbrella casually “forgotten” at a partner’s home, ensuring you would see them again. Similarly, tweens let us know that despite their frustration and occasional annoyance with us, they still want us to be part of their lives.
One look around the house, and it’s abundantly clear: the dirty hoodies and underwear on the bedroom floor (adorable!), the endless cups next to the sink (so sweet!), the homework assignment lovingly left on the kitchen counter (too cute!). Clearly, they still need us and love us. Aww.
Dinner Saturday night with a wallet-gouging shopping spree and overpriced movie on me? I thought you would never ask.