The Mean Years

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I laughed with some mommy friends about the tween years, better known to many as the “mean” years.  Some of us laughed, some of us were pretty upset. In my house we have had some pretty challenging, miserable moments and I thought the worst was yet to come.

Then, I decided to learn to become bilingual and start speaking my daughter’s language.  Of course my teenager wasn’t going to tutor me or give me any tips on speaking her lingo, nor was she interested in helping me at all.  But I had to find some ways to turn frustrating afternoons, dinners, and weekends into better experiences for the whole family.

I’m not blaming my tween, actually I think if we changed our point of view more often, their lives would be easier and ours would be a whole lot better.

I used to take it personally when I picked up a grumpy kid from school with no smile on her face and no interest in engaging in conversation.  I used to get pissed and feel like a chauffeur when my kids spent the majority of the car ride on their iTouch.  I was also bummed when family weekends became all about friends and sleepovers with NO interest at all in hanging with me.  There were many days when I would say to David, “Who is this girl? What happened to my kid?” Hoping whoever took over her body would get the hell out of my house!!!

As soon as I started to accept the fact that tween = attitude, I was a lot less disappointed.  Not to say that disrespect is acceptable, but I think grumpy is par for the course. Now, I know that when my kid had a bad day, stress at school, didn’t get enough sleep, didn’t eat well (trust me that’s most days) – that translates to needing some quiet time in the car and maybe even a loss of words and inability to explain what has been going on in her very complicated teenage life.  The more questions I would ask, the less I got, and the more short and irritated she would become. Read this great article on Teen Stress.

Now I get it, tweens have a whole lot going on and not enough mental ability to sort through it all and have an adult conversation about it. Now, time on the iTouch means a peaceful ride for me, no warm greeting for me means a bad day and I wait until she’s ready to bring her issues up.  I always greet my kids with love, ask how they are, but I don’t pry and I stopped taking it personally when they don’t or actually CANNOT engage.

Some of the ways I get my kids to engage is by asking questions that require more than a one-word answer. Like “What did you think of your test today?” instead of “How was your test?”  Sometimes I’ll ask, “Do you need anything?” instead of “What’s up with you?”

I used to let my feelings get hurt when my daughter started to not want to hang out as much.  Now I think about how important play dates were for me as a kid and how much more fun everything was when you shared it with your friend.

Funny enough with my daughters, the less I ask, the more I get.  It’s crazy, and tricky.  Just as a tween can turn me off, I can do the same to her.  As soon as I started expecting less and understanding more, we began to communicate better.  It seems that just my presence is enough sometimes and no words are needed.  I’m ok with that now.  I honestly believe kids don’t always know how to talk about what’s up with them so I try, I wait, and I just keep being there in a loving available way. Lately I give her more slack on rough days instead of being harder on her because she’s a drag to be around.

We’ve all been there.  Compassion has shed a lot of light on my family for me. I think every kid wants our interest and connections they just don’t always know how to do get it.

I’m reading a great book called “Teenage as a Second Language” by Barbara R. Greenberg, PhD and Jennifer A. Powell-Lunder, PsyD.

Also, this article on saying ‘no’ even even if it makes you an uncool mom is a great read.

Good luck!

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