There is an age when we are not quite grown up, yet not quite a child anymore. It’s the age of the “tween.” The word “tween” is perfect because it depicts a phase of development during which kids often feel awkward and as if they don’t belong. It is also a difficult phase for parents. One moment our little darling is hugging us tight. The next minute she is launching the “death stare.”
Recently my own daughter exhibited the maddening contradictions of a typical tween. It was a Sunday night. The pressure was on to finish that essay, get the gym uniform washed, and ready ourselves for another week in the stressful world of middle school.
I can’t even remember what we fought about now, but as my daughter made one scathing remark after another and fixed me with a withering glare, I remember thinking, “I don’t much like my child right at this moment.”
At times like this I usually give myself a timeout. Most moms can relate to those moments. You lock yourself in the bathroom and take several deep breaths to keep from punching a hole in the drywall or uttering the evil thoughts that are swirling in your mind.
So I marched upstairs to my bedroom and slammed the door. As I sat on my bed and tried to unclench my fists, I could hear my husband attempting to corral the unruly tween in her own room. There was a lot of banging, and I could hear her angry protests through the door.
Then I heard her ask plaintively, “Is Mom going to tuck me in?” There it was – the child inside the burgeoning adolescent. She couldn’t bear the thought of going to sleep without me, and I didn’t have the heart to make her.
As we said prayers and I tucked her long, lanky body under the covers, I realized that my tween is not going to need me forever. She is going to go to high school, learn to drive, start dating, and stay up long past my own bedtime some day.
For now, I will be happy to exist in that in between space with her so that when she is ready, she will have the confidence of knowing she is loved no matter what.