As one phase of motherhood is coming to an end, another one is beginning. I still remember his huge brown eyes looking up at me and smiling when we would play peek –a –boo., and he would belly laugh when he was a baby. I remember how he went through separation anxiety when someone else would hold him and how he told me he was going to marry me…
Somewhere along the line, that baby grew up into a little boy and that little boy has grown up into an eleven year old pre-teen. When once there was a time when he would beg me to help out; now it seems I need to ask three or four times before he claims to hear me…
He used to love to give me hugs and kisses before going into school, but now we need to give hugs and kisses before school when no one can see us. He still wants to sit and cuddle on the couch during family movie time, but just not in front of his friends.
I admit, at first, it made me sad that he seemed to pull away from me more. He was my first baby, and the thought of him not needing me anymore frightened me. I knew about babies and young children. I was comfortable with young children, and the thought of him slowly going down the path of becoming a teenager was something I almost couldn’t comprehend.
Now, the reality of him journeying towards his teenage years is not a decade away but right on the horizon, I realize how lucky and privileged I am to have had those early years with him. I am choosing to look forward to all the great memories our family will have with him as we enter into this new and unchartered territory together.
He is able to help me carry luggage and understand my crazy jokes now. He can talk to me and discuss one of the many novels he has read. I can see the progress he has made playing soccer since he was four years old. I am able to witness first-hand the compassion and empathy he feels for his friends and those around him. In his short life, he has lived in four countries and visited eleven. Our family has been able to experience so much with him, and I know there are so many more exciting things we will be able to experience with him.
It is a little scary for me to enter into these pre-teen and teenage years along with him. And I know after he goes through them, my daughter will be right behind him.
I feel, as a mom, I am caught somewhere between parenting a baby and a young man who is trying to find himself.
The realization that I have fewer years with him living under my roof now than I have already had with him is setting in. I think he is feeling a type of confusion too: wanting his mom around, but not in the same way as before. I always thought when my children grew up, it would get easier. It doesn’t get easier…it gets different. My children need me but in different ways than when they were small. When they were small it was easier to figure out what they needed: feeding, changing, holding, etc. and I was physically exhausted. Now, they still need me, but in subtler ways,
which are mentally exhausting, and I am learning to take my son’s lead.
I am learning that I need to take a backseat sometimes and let him go. I am learning to respect what he wants like his need to have his hair longer than I would prefer. And, I try very hard to listen intently when he describes the latest saga in the video games he loves.
Sometimes, I feel like I am walking on a tightrope. If I lean too far to the right, I am not happy, and too far to the left, he isn’t happy. It takes such mental stamina to balance on that tightrope.
It does get annoying sometimes, though, with his phase of remembering every single word I say and being able to twist it in a way to benefit him. I think that goes along with the territory of arguing that he is always right and everything can be blamed on someone else. We all went through that phase in our lives when we were trying to figure ourselves out. This time is a rite of passage, and I know it is just that…a phase. I know on the other side of this phase will be an adult. One whom I hope will have had the proper guidance to be a happy and well-adjusted adult.
It is interesting how quickly our children absorb what they have been taught in their short lives. I can already see glimpses of what he will be like as an adult.
There are so many exciting adventures and memories ahead of us on this unknown journey of parenting a pre-teen boy. For the first time in my life, I don’t have a “lesson plan” for parenting. I am learning (slowly) how to go day by day and understand what he needs from me at the time.
I read somewhere that you know you have done a good job parenting your children when you have worked yourself right out of your job. Although I am not ready for that yet, I do understand what it means. I want him to grow to be a happy independent adult. I want him to experience happiness and success in his life along with the failures. But, maybe I also want just a little bit of him to still need me in his life when he grows up. I know there is plenty of time until that happens, and until then, I am going to continue to walk the tightrope of parenting a pre-teen boy. As my Dad says, time is fleeting, and I want to try to enjoy these years as much as I can. And, also, I am going to call my parents and thank them profusely for putting up with me during my pre-teen years!!
Do you have a pre-teen? How did you feel as your children entered into the pre-teen years? Was there anything you did to make the transition easier for both of you?
This is an original post to world Moms Network by Meredith. You can read about her life as an expat in The Netherlands on her blog, and her life as an expat in Nigeria at www.wefoundhappiness.blogspot.com/
Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons
I hate to put it this way, but there really is no better way to say it – There are days when it feels like my son is the embodiment of all the bad karma I’m getting for every nasty thing I did to my parents when I was growing up.
There, I said it. Now that it’s finally off my chest, I feel a little better. Just a little, though, because it kind of feels like I just called my baby boy a little devil, which he is on some days. And I am just being honest here.
Please tell me that I’m not the only one who has ever thought and felt this way, lest I be completely consumed by mommy guilt.
I don’t know what happened. One day, my cute little boy turned eight, and dealing with him suddenly started to feel like arguing with my 8-year old self!
The eye-rolling, the sarcasm, the frowny face complete with bunched up eyebrows – they were all there! And dear me, it looks like they’re here to stay. If this stage in his life is an indication that he will grow up to be exactly like me, then this boy’s dad and I are in for a roller coaster in the coming years.
I feel like he’s harder to deal with than I was, though. Maybe it’s because he’s a boy and there are times when I have trouble relating to him. Or maybe it’s really just harder when you’re on this side of the argument.
Oh my gosh, what a test of patience this is turning out to be.
How do I deal, world moms? How do I deal?
I suppose that when he gets really hard to manage, I should think about how I would want to be dealt with in the same situation, and go ahead and do that. Uncharacteristic and weird as it may be for me, it just might work.
I’ve been reading up on the tween years, which my boy is officially entering into on his next birthday, and it looks like his mood swings have only just begun. Online advice also tells me to give him the space that he needs to grow and adjust, because he also doesn’t quite understand his emotions yet. Do you agree with this?
Ironically, I lost my cool with him again just this morning, and in retrospect I know I should have just stopped myself, taken a deep breath, and walked away. But no, I let my own emotions get in the way.
As someone who is very hands-on, and who spends every single day with my son, I think it’s going to be a challenge for me to stand back and just let him be. Today’s incident proves just that. But hey, if it will make things better then of course I am more than ready to try.
If only I could find a shop that sells a limitless amount of patience, then I’d be armed and ready to take on more anger, more crying, and even more hyperactive moments of joy.
But I know, and my husband has reminded me of this several times, that the only place I can find this kind of patience and understanding is within my own heart. For this, I have nothing but my unending mommy love to count on. Over the years mommy love has proven to be enough, and I hope that it continues to BE enough. At the end of the day, I love the little guy, through the good and bad times.
Guess it’s time to temporarily deactivate my Hulk Mom mode. A new little monster is in the house. Literally. Good luck to me!
Tell me mommies, how do you deal with the mood swings and emotional roller coasters you go through with your kids? Does anyone else here feel like you’re arguing with yourself when you try to reason with your child?
I remember when we brought my son home, he had the squishiest face, the most delicious chin, the chubbiest thighs and the most beautiful brown eyes that had every looked at me. He was the most precious thing I had ever held, touched or seen.
I remember his “clingy” phase of not wanting anyone else but me. I was so exhausted, but he was so happy to just have me with him. I remember his first days of preschool and the crying fits he had when I left and repeated to him over and over, “Mommy always comes back.” It broke my heart to leave him, but I also knew that it was part of him growing up and that it was time.
It’s funny when you hear that phrase…It’s time. It always means that change is coming… (more…)
The Wicked Witch of the West
Eight years ago I had my first child, a daughter. Like most new parents, I got all sorts of advice and did a great deal of information gathering; particularly on those uncharted, early stages of infancy and babyhood.
I knew it was possible my child would have colic, GERD, and rashes. I had heard about the “terrible twos” and the “trying threes.” I was fortified for long days and short nights, especially during the early years. And I knew having a child home to entertain and educate for five years would be a whole different challenge from my professional life.
But, I thought I was ready because I knew—at the end of a long, sometimes dark, tunnel—there would be kindergarten, followed by the blissful and innocent days of elementary school to put me back on track. I anticipated that from age 5-11, life would be pretty seamless. Five years of struggle followed by at least six of predictability before the challenges of the teenage years moved in.
So when our daughter entered kindergarten three years ago, my husband and I settled in for the “predictable” parenting years we were expecting.
Sadly—and far too soon—those years are coming to a close…
This past summer, we got glimpses of something we had heard about but weren’t prepared for just yet: moodiness, sassy attitude, changes in speaking style, exploration of identity, greater awareness of appearance and increased self-consciousness.
Now that 3rd-grade is in full-swing, those glimpses are becoming the norm. It’s fairly clear that we are entering a new stage of parenting: we’re entering the TWEENS.
“Tween” is a term we use here in the US to describe the pre-teen stage of life. It’s in-between being a sweet, young kid, who’s dependent on parents and family for every aspect of life, and puberty, when a child morphs into a sassy, experimenting, independent teenager, stomping off toward adulthood.
The Tweens is a stage of life—I think populated almost exclusively by girls—when kids try to propel themselves prematurely into their next growth phase. They test out language they pick up from older kids, through pop-music and from movies and television. They mimic styles they see in the media. They use vernacular such as “like” and “whatever” and “no way!” They gravitate almost exclusively to their own gender groups.
And despite even the best attempts to shield children from pop culture and the negative influences present on TV, they still somehow find their fix at school.
The tweens are a funny, little limbo-land.
Take our daughter for example: She’s still afraid of the dark (in fact, she’s fairly convinced the Wicked Witch from the Wizard of Oz is living in her closet); her favorite Disney character is Sofia the First; she loves kittens and rainbows, unicorns and stuffed animals. But recently, she also has discovered Disney’s High School Musical, and when we go to our pediatrician’s office, she pours over the book, It’s Perfectly Normal, (she has a lot of questions about both).
These days, she prone to emotional outbursts, demanding “alone” time and spontaneous moments of being shy. Aren’t these teenager behaviors?
Tonight, while my five-year-old was in a martial arts class, my daughter and I sat in the car having a chat. She said she was sad because she felt frustrated and sort of out of control. I found myself explaining puberty to her and talking about hormones and endorphins and lots of other changes in our bodies that made us feel confused and out of sorts…Uh, did I mention she’s only 8?
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the onset of puberty in girls now happens as young as 7! OK, so none of my early parenthood prep or information gathering or family planning ever involved needing to have these conversations so soon. Afterall, my youngest just started kindergarten. By my accounts, I had just come out of the trenches. I’m not battle ready. I don’t have my armor on. This is going to be a massacre!
But this is where we are these days…the in-beTWEENS. Wish us luck.
Have you experienced these sorts of changes in your own child(ren)? If so, at what age? Any advice for getting through to the other side?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog from our managing editor and mother of two (one of whom is entering her tweens), Kyla P’an.
The image used in this post is credited to Karen. It holds a Flickr Creative Commons attribution license.
“But mom, why can’t I do my homework in front of the TV??? I’m not watching it, I’m just listening to it!!”, says my 12-year-old girl, emphasizing the word ‘watching’ with a half roll of the eyes.
My daughter is a really cool human & a great child. She is a tween so craziness and challenges come with the territory. Still, she has sweet moments, and she “OKs” everything, whether she remembers later or not.
But, my life was very different growing up in Italy and then Tanzania…
By age 9 my older brother & I alternated daily chores. We had to do dishes & sweep daily. There was no dillydallying, no talk-back, no having to dry our hands to like a song on Pandora…. none of that. We did homework on the kitchen table, our beds, in the yard, and wherever else. After I was done with homework I’d have to use the house phone, speak to a parent with good phone manners, & find out if my friends could come play. There was no texting them.
Everyone knew our plans; at least initially (smile). Outside we used our imagination to play with nothing. We picnicked under a tree in this huge sunflower field. We rode our bikes in circles in the bus’ parking lot and made sure we were home when the lights came on.
When I was 11 we moved back to Tanzania. Life here was drastically different, yet, in some respects there was more access to things than we had in the small Italian town we lived in. However, constant electricity and running water were gone. We had a western toilet in our home, but often had to use toilets requiring squatting, be they a hole over a sceptic tank, or an Eastern latrine. Not having water & electricity all the time required planning.
Though there was hired help, we also had to fetch water. If you don’t like fetching water you learn to use it sparingly. You take a shower from a bucket that’s a quarter full and come out clean! You recycle water so that first you wash your hair by dipping it into the bucket, then use the same water as the first cycle of your laundry, which you wash by hand. Having city-wide rationed electricity, meant ensuring you have kerosene, wick for lamps, and match sticks. You actually needed plenty of match sticks in Tanzania, because there is this one brand that makes them and you’re lucky if one out of five matches actually lights up & stays lit. HAHA!
We must see these things as humorous. Lack of electricity and paying for it in advance, meant using it responsibly. The radio would be on, and so would the TV for some parts of the day. We knew to close the fridge fast and to unplug the iron as soon as the job was done. Ironing was not always done with an electrical iron, either. Some times we would use a charcoal iron. It sounds like it’s from an entire different era, right? It’s still being used. A charcoal cast iron had to be used carefully. You’d also plan how to get hot coals so instead of wasting charcoal, kerosene fuel, and good match sticks, you’d use the charcoal for cooking. That required planning as well. A lot of planning and patience for a youngster, and children had to consider all these things from toddlerhood!
I am so infinitely grateful we lived this kind of life in my teenage years. Though I am sure I threw crazy hormonal arrows (figuratively speaking) at my mom, I think that having to deal with these realities made me get myself together quickly, thus sparing her six years of teenage craze. As far as school goes…wow! We had mandatory knee-high socks & buffed black shoes, mandatory hair pleats that I never had, monitors & prefects who thrived on their power to make us kneel for ‘misbehavior’, and hit-happy, switch-carrying teachers in the hallways who would whack you for no good reason.
In elementary school we had to chant….slowly & loudly…..”GOOD MORNING TEACHER!” Then we’d answer & ask, “FINE THANK YOU TEACHER, AND HOW ARE YOU, TEACHER?”, then we’d be permitted to sit down. In boarding school we had exactly 30 minutes to eat. The first year we ate food we individually cooked the night before, hoping it was still good without refrigeration. As a senior, food was made for us, so we’d hope it was ready & that we didn’t have to scoop bugs out of our beans. We’d always wash our dishes before returning to class. All of this, in 30 minutes.
At this school there was no corporal punishment. However, if we were late or didn’t follow other rules, we’d have some agricultural work for at least one period.
We studied in the hall after we cleaned our dinner mess. After two hours of supervised solid studying, we’d return to our hostel rooms (mine had four bunk beds with three beds each), and lights were out by 10pm. Everyone took showers in the morning, which I found to be unnecessary as the water was very cold, so I would leave some water in the courtyard for the sun to heat , and take a shower after school.
When I came to the United States I didn’t think I had a different work ethic than anyone else. I thought we all work hard & have different struggles. As the years passed I began to see certain differences & felt extremely fortunate for my history as it was.
As a girl I was lucky that my mother (who is partially Afghani & Punjabi) didn’t believe that I was worthless, blessed that she believed in education and sent me to school. I was also fortunate that I wasn’t betrothed at a young age, or at all. As I was in college I understood that I was privileged and had to make other women proud.
I would have to get the best grades, be a well-rounded student & not take electricity and running water for granted. So when my daughter asks why she can’t do her homework in front of TV, I don’t know what to say! OK, I do answer her, trying to use logic she’ll understand. She visited Tanzania for a few months in 2010, but she cannot relate to my history.
When my daughter was round age four she always asked if she could help with chores, but as I tried to rush I’d ask her to draw or play instead. I thought the environment around us would do for her what it did for me at her age. I knew I wasn’t in Italy, or in Tanzania, but I still thought I wouldn’t be the only one pushing for a balanced human. I also didn’t anticipate technology advancing so incredibly fast & how much gadgetry she would have at her disposal. In retrospect I should have encouraged her willingness to help.
She is now 12, doesn’t like to do any chores other than the occasional Swiffer mopping. She wants to do homework while listening to TV, somehow ignoring the visuals, and she wants to spend her other homework time listening to pop songs. She does practice Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and has a unique passion for it. But when not doing her school work, she looks at photos with funny quotes, watches short videos, and messages her friends on her phone. Our lives are so different. How do I teach her what I’ve been taught?
Is it drive? Is it thirst? Can you relate? How do you teach your children how to work hard? Please share your findings with me!
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Sophia in Florida, USA. You can find her blogging at Think Say Be and on twitter @ThinkSayBeSNJ.
Photo credit to Trocaire. This photo has a creative commons attribution license.