I haven’t forgotten that I have part two to finish of my most recent brain tumor post. It’s kind of a fun one, so, if you missed it, here’s a link… There’s NO Tumor in my Husband’s Brain! And, I will get to part two, but more timely on my heart is the story of my oldest boy who is growing all too quickly into his tween. I haven’t written about anything other than brain tumor in pretty much three years and the idea of it is thrilling. So, today, as the (figurative) Parenting Blog Train is chugging by, I shall jump on it, instead of waiving it past in anticipation of the Brain Tumor Blog Train. Did you catch that? I actually get to wave the brain tumor one by for a change! How freeing!
So, do you wanna come with me? You do? Cool. Let’s go!
I don’t know that tween was even a thing when I was young enough to fit the description of it (a person between the ages of 9 and 12). It might’ve existed then, but if it did, I never knew it. It wasn’t until I became a parent that I realized it was out there and that it would one day try and kick the crap out of me. And, since my boy is almost 12, perhaps he’s moving toward the end of tween and onto actual teen (but which is worse)? Maybe we’ve been lucky that it’s only just now beginning to show. Or maybe its been building up for the last two years and that’s why it’s rearing it’s ugly head in such a noteworthy way lately.
And, look, before I go on, I’m not trying to smack talk my boy. That fact must be made known. And, in his defense, his tween shows only occasionally and the rest of the time, he remains the sweet-hearted, compassionate and smart guy we know and love. This stage of life isn’t his fault, its just, well, life.
With that said, it is the scariest stage that I think we’ve ever known since parenthood came a-knocking. It’s like this bundle of emotion, drama, moodiness and snark comes swooping in and grabs hold of him, making it particularly difficult for me to see him clearly. And honestly I want to jump behind the couch and hide because I don’t know what to do…AND HE’S A BOY! I just assumed it would be easier with his gender, not mine, I mean, right?
I don’t know what I did to get it, but somehow, the target is on my back. He doesn’t throw is tween darts at his brother or his dad, or even his grandparents. Just me! Chris and I had a very difficult talk the other day. One that couldn’t be swept under the rug, and I really wish it could be, at least for a while longer. We came to the realization that it may only get harder from here. There is no tip-toeing past the next three years of middle school. No matter how well we think we’ve raised our oldest thus far, I bet there isn’t a child out there who is exempt from the “perks” that come with adolescence. Again, not their fault, but as parents, I don’t think we’re equipped to know how to handle it. My loving husband blatantly reminded me that he and I were both jerks to our parents upon starting middle school. (Sorry, parents!!) And then I cried, because I don’t want him to be a jerk to us.
I spoke about my defense army a few posts back, well, they are busy training in a new sort of capacity now. And, I think they need to pick up the pace! All their stumbling around and dropping equipment will do none of us any good if they can’t pull it together, decide on a leader and learn how to react in a way other than jumping behind the couch to hide!
I.Am.Mom. I gave him life! Shouldn’t I be mightier than this!?
Here’s the deal, well, two things are the deal. Number One – He is too smart for his own good. He desires to prove people (but mostly me) wrong. He told me that himself on Monday. During our battle. I feel like this quality will wind up being a strength if he learns how to use it appropriately – maybe he should join the debate team!! Would that make it worse or better? Or betterworse?
Number two – He.is.my.child. He got some good stuff from his dad and some good stuff from me, but also from me he got his people-pleasing worrier, as well as his dramatic, shady, twist-it-around-to-gain sympathy, manipulator.
Ew. That’s a big and ugly reveal, I know. I hope we can still be friends after you read this.
In my defense, I’m not that way any more, because its gross and I hate it. Well, the people-pleasing worrier is still there, and that one is gross too, but the other is worse so I’m glad it’s gone! There is much negativity around the manipulator part, and yet, I think I can benefit from it now because the game he’s playing is (was) my game. And, I tell him that I know the rules all too well because I played it with my parents when I was his age.
“I see your game, son, you wanna know how? Because I played it too.”
Or how about this?
“You don’t think I speak your language? I created that language!”
Hahaha! Oh, it’s fun to sound tough. But, I’m not. I might be on to him, and have been a player of the game, but it doesn’t change the reality that I don’t actually know how to play it from the opposing side!
I told him how he and his brother mean everything to me. EVERYTHING. And, since he is my first born and therefore first to go through these changing times in life, I want to try and be the best that I can be for him and when we are at odds together, it hurts my heart. But then he felt really, really bad and said that he doesn’t want to be the bad guy if he’s unpleasant and has an off day. He even said that he puts pressure on himself to be perfect for me because (and these are his words) “Mom, I’m like gold to you.”
So I wonder if I’ve done something wrong? Did I coddle him too much? Have I told him how proud I was of him too often? Is it even possible to have that be a bad thing? Or am I simply overthinking it?
All I can do is assure him that I love him no matter what, even on off days. We all have them. And, even if it is one of those days, he and I could both do better showing each other respect and grace.
That seems easy enough, but when I talked to Chris about it, I wondered, how do you express grace toward your own children when they are flat-out rude? I’ve been so good at extending grace to all the people lately! But, when it comes to my own boy, why do I take it so personally? He is the one who matters most when it comes to the grace that I shell out!! But, as parents, aren’t we supposed to expect a certain amount of respect from our children?
My feelings doctor has taught me that validating my boys’s feelings (especially upon tween and teenage years) will be my golden ticket though it all. Don’t we all just want to be validated? So, what form of concession is it on my part if I validate his feelings of frustration towards me, or his lack of respect for me for wanting to consult his dad first before impulsively spending his money on a pre-owned video game that we’ve already discussed against in the past?!
I know there must be a balance. He’s working through it. Chris and I are working through it. I’m aware that it won’t go away any time soon. And, maybe by the time Logan is in high school and he’s evened-out some, Eli’s tween will have started to show. But, by then, perhaps we’ll be less shocked by it and have a greater handle on it.
I don’t envy my oldest boy one bit. Eli will have it easier, but only because we will have learned how to do it from Logan. That alone makes me want to have more grace toward him.
I will completely validate the more feelings he experiences, as well as new feelings; of going through times of still being a kid, but realizing that his world is getting bigger and not quite knowing what to do about it; of him being torn between make-believe play with his brother and discussing more mature stuff with his pals…even though they still make-believe play, but have begun calling it Role Playing Games (RPG). It’s accurate and they are geeks, so…it’s cool.
I had another conversation recently with a pal about the way difficulty changes through the growth of our children. Never can you compare infancy and toddler-hood to tween and teenage years. The difficulty is there no matter what. The busyness of changing diapers, preparing food, feeding food, picking up toys, strollers, car seats, etc. moves to the busyness of putting out fires of emotional distress and maintaining a status quo. Not one is worse than the other, just different. Really, really different.
I have to believe that since we’ve managed to stay above over the last 11 years, that we’ll be able to stay above through the years to come. I read the What to Expect…books when my boys were babies. I’m unaware that there are What to Expect…books for their older years, although I haven’t looked.
I remember my dear friend, who used to be my next door neighbor, once telling me that it takes a village to raise a child. I believe that. I’m thankful to have others around me that have already gone through it or who are side by side with me as I go now and we can figure it out together. And, in the meantime I’m thinking of the words: Love. Validation. Grace. Patience. Humor. Flexibility. (What else?) All words that I think I will put up on sticky notes around my house as reminders of what’s important.