The Key To Surviving Life With Tweens: Pick Your Battles

by Elizabeth Broadbent
There Are Bigger Battles To Fight With My Tween: Woman and child with hand on head
Scary Mommy and Patrick Sheandell O'Carroll/Getty

I have a tween. I mistakenly thought that because he was homeschooled, he wouldn’t act like a little snot, backtalk, or do all the weird things that tweens do. I was, of course, completely wrong, and you can laugh at me. When the tweenishness started, I picked at everything. But I’m learning slowly. There are bigger battles. I need to be strategic. I’m like a general. I don’t need to win the battle. I need to win the war: to raise a happy, healthy, whole human.

Many things do not factor into this.

My tween’s overall life choices are not affected by his decision to wear the same shirt three days in a row, especially since he hasn’t hit the smelly phase yet. When he does hit the smelly phase, we will so have that conversation. Then it’s on him to choose to be the smelly kid or not. I’m thinking he’ll pick option Odor Free Child with some gentle parental reminders (probably constituting, “Dude, you soooooo wore that shirt yesterday.”). But whatever. Wearing the same Star Wars shirt for three days won’t hurt his future job prospects. Bigger battles, people.

Speaking of clothes: if my kid wants to be cold, or claims he’s not cold, or steadfastly refuses to dress for the weather because he’s too cool for temperature regulation, WTFever. This is a decision he makes for himself. It does not affect me, except when I say, “I told you that you’d be cold in shorts, kid.” (substituting “asshat” for “kid” in my mind, because don’t you lie, you do that shit too). He’s the one who shivers, or perhaps doesn’t shiver, because maybe he really isn’t cold. Whatever.

There are also bigger battles to fight than the tween turn-around-and-huff. You know the move. You tell them to do something. They don’t want to do it. They don’t want to show blatant disrespect because they’re too cowardly or respectful or lazy, but they don’t want to let you off the hook either, so they wait until they turn their back before they huff at you loudly. You can either go righteously ballistic or ignore, ignore, ignore. Is it really worth flipping out over an exhalation?

I’ll answer that for you. No. No, it is not. You’ll just waste your breath over their breath and people will cry and yell and stomp and it’ll be a big dramatic thing and all over someone breathing. People, please. The teen years are coming when we’ll thank sweet baby Jesus in the manger all we got is a huff.

It’s also not worth flipping over the flopping. Their are bigger battles than flopping. Parents of tweens know what I mean by the groaning and flopping: you ask your kid to do something; they don’t want to do it, so they do at as dramatically as possible by groaning and flopping their limbs in exaggerated, weird gestures resembling an inept mime or a drunken frat boy.

And yes, it drives you ballistic. Yes, it makes you bonkers. Yes, it makes you want to chew your left arm off like a possum in a goddamn trap, but you will ask your tween to do things three times before they actually get off their ass and do them, and this will happen every single time you make a request, and that is the nature of tweens. Dude, bigger battles. If I lost my cool every time I asked my son to feed the dogs three times before he actually did it, I would be a giant green dude in a Marvel movie. Mama Hulk Smash. Nope. Not worth fighting about. Accept it. I’ve got bigger battles in this world.

And hey, all you people in the comment section who claim my kid is uniquely disrespectful because your kid does what you ask the first goddamn time: well, bully for you. STFU and sit the fuck down, Karen. No one asked about your perfect angel child who probably smells like flowers and sunshine and probably doesn’t flop or huff. Just you wait.

Tweens also whine. They whine a lot. They can whine like a hangry two-year-old trapped in an umbrella stroller stalled in the candy aisle. Bigger battles, people. Bigger battles. Ignore it. They will whine for a later bedtime. They will whine that it’s not their turn to let the dog out. They will whine that they didn’t do it, that they shouldn’t have to do it and that you should’ve done it instead. They will also whine that it isn’t their fault and it’s never their fault and you always blame it on them because you hate them, you all hate them, why do you all hate them? If you can imagine it, your tween will whine about it. Whatevs. You could spend your time telling your kid not to whine, or you could ignore them and tell them to get off their sweet butts and make you another cup of coffee. Ask three times and they’ll huff and flop but they’ll do it. Remind yourself: bigger battles.

And when they do all these things, steal one of their signature moves. Sigh.

Then roll your damn eyes.