The Internet and the calendar both conspire to tell me I've got one living under my roof right now, as I type this. But I'm not afraid... because they smell fear.
I don't know everything, nor would I ever pretend to have all the answers (although my fictional "on this day in history" soliloquies are the stuff of legend 'round these parts) about parenting a child of any age -- let alone one in the oft-dreaded "tween" zone. That said, I have stumbled into a bit of parental wisdom over the past few years.
Here are eight things I've learned about being the dad of a tween girl. Don't be scared, just be prepared. And remember, it only gets better. ;)
1. Silence Is Golden... Sometimes
Listen, dad, I get it, you're a fixer. Same here. But your tween is going to go through some stuff that you can't fix -- complicated stuff that she doesn't even want you to try to fix. Often during this time period, a steady shoulder to lean on -- literally and figuratively -- is all that's required of you. You'll know when your sage advice and vaguely related stories from your own youth are needed, and then you can strap on your cape and save the day.
2. What Are You Wearing... and Why Is Your Hair Purple?
Especially if they weren't permitted to have any decision-making power in their "younger days," tweens will push the boundaries (and your buttons) when it comes to fashion. While you should have been granting them this freedom all along, it is important to understand that they are trying to define themselves to the world. This is a good and important thing, so pick your battles mindfully. And eventually, the "Can I color my hair?" or "Who said you could color your hair?" conversation will happen. Have a spare towel and a pair of plastic gloves at the ready.
3. What Your Face Is Really Saying
Michelle Icard nails it in her great book, Middle School Makeover: you may think you are saying nothing while your tween opens up about him or her or them or it, but your face is anything but quiet. Raising a tween means paying more attention to your facial expressions than you ever thought necessary. [Listen to me interview Michelle Icard about this very topic on the Modern Dads Podcast.]
4. Can We Talk About That Smell?
Babies smell like rainbows, toddlers like a combination of every food ever made, but tweens... tweens smell like sweat and hormones and awkwardness. Water bill be damned, daily showers are now essential.
5. Coming Unhinged
You know, with usually nothing more than a Phillips head screwdriver, doors can come off their hinges. Keep this in mind if door slamming becomes a part of your life with a tween, because it gets awfully hard to slam something that isn't there.
Now for a few things that might fly in the face of conventional wisdom about raising tweens...
6. Never Too Old for a Snuggle
Admittedly, it might not happen as frequently as when they were 5 -- and maybe not in front of certain (or any) friends -- but your tweens will still crave a good snuggle, and they won't necessarily refuse a hand to hold while walking into the Lucius concert with you, either.
7. You Can't Spell SCHOOL Without FUN
OK, so what if none of the letters in "fun" are actually found in "school"? Tweens, while obviously growing up, are still kids, and kids like having fun. That's a fact. It's important to remember not to strip all of the school-time fun away just because the kids are starting to look like mini-adults.
8. TYS R STILL FN 2
It's not all texting and dystopian books with tweens -- or at least, it doesn't have to be. Littlest Pets, Matchbox cars, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, LEGOs, Minions, and more: pop culture toy icons don't fade away when a kid turns 10 (only to return a decade later when that kid is suddenly a hipster 20-year-old). They are still fun -- and if given the opportunity to enjoy an elongated childhood, your tween can and will still be a kid.
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