Is Tween the New Toddler?
For years, I’ve been hearing about this mystical sweet spot in childhood. As folklore has it, it occurs after the tantrum years but before teenage angst and attitude. A period of time when your child is finally somewhat rational and enjoyable and yet still wants to spend time with you.
My oldest daughter is now 10 and I figured I must be be right there. Just as I was about to bask in mother-daughter outings filled with lovely moments of bonding and laughter – she was throwing a fit over the fact that she doesn’t have an Instagram account.
Instead of a sweet spot, I have found my preteen or “tween” daughter on a roller coaster of emotions. One minute she is lovingly pushing her 2 year old brother on the swing and the next moment, she is bursting with giant tears because of some incredible injustice.
In the last few weeks alone, she cried when I killed an ant in the kitchen (instead of setting it free), when we bought the wrong color protractor although she never mentioned having a preference and when her sister got 15 minutes of extra TV while she was on a playdate.
Sometimes it’s so ridiculous, I want to laugh but I don’t. Because I know the emotions are very real. It’s almost like the feelings take over her – so suddenly and so dramatically that she can’t contain it. Just like the days when she was a toddler, protesting madly at the outrage of having to wear pants – yes actual pants – when she left the house.
I often get blindsided. We got frozen yogurt recently and I always remind my kids to not overfill the fishbowl size cups because I need some money left over for their higher education. But this time, my daughter ignored my wishes and filled her cup to the brim with a mountain of yogurt and toppings.
After I had paid close to $20 for our 3 yogurts, I said, “Dylan, you put way too much in your cup.” And she exploded. “I’M SORRY MOMMY. WHAT ELSE CAN I DO?!!! I DIDN’T MEAN TO! WHAT MORE DO YOU WANT FROM ME…..” And then the tears. She wouldn’t talk to me all the way home and all I could do was sigh and wonder how a fun yogurt outing turned so wrong.
The more I read about and explore the tween years, I realize they are filled with moodiness, volatile moments and pushing boundaries. There are hormonal changes going on and often preteens are as surprised by their emotional outbursts as the parents. Basically, my daughter is doing exactly what she is supposed to be doing and I just need to catch up.
And I realized I mostly need to calm down. All too often, I resort to yelling because I feel like I’m under attack. So when my daughter starts screaming about not getting to have a last minute sleepover (honestly, I just didn’t have the energy!), I found this advice very helpful…
“Kindly tell your tantrumming preteen that you see how upset they are and you want to give them time to pull themselves together before you discuss it. Ask them if they want you to stay, or to leave the room to let everyone calm down…. Later, give them a big hug, and really listen to what they have to say. Even if you can’t agree with their position, acknowledge your child’s perspective, and work to find a win/win solution.” (Courtesy of Aha! Parenting)
In the end, we decided to put a future sleepover on the calendar. And that seemed to do the trick. So no, I never did find my sweet spot. What I found instead was very sweet moments intermingled between the challenges in this new frontier. And I’ll take every one of those moments I can get.