From the moment our kids come into this world the more experienced parents out there warn us that it's the teen years when the real challenge begins. It usually goes something like this:
New parent says, "I haven't slept in a month, I've changed ten diapers since lunch, and they won't stop crying long enough for me to drink a glass of water."
Experienced parent dismissively responds, "Just wait until they're a teenager."
Okay, okay. We get it. Being a parent of a teenager must really suck. Warning received.
Rarely, however, do we hear similar warnings about the almost-as-challenging tween years. Yet, this is often when the trouble begins.
For those who don't know, the tween years technically occur between the ages of 10 and 12. But observable tween traits don't usually kick in right when a child turns double digits. It takes a bit of time. Then, before long, you're in full-fledged tweendom. You quickly learn that the tweens aren't as much about an age as an attitude -- often, a bad attitude.
Knowing your child has entered the tween stage of "development" can help with the adjustment. So, here are a few signs that your once loving, pleasant and occasionally-obedient child has become a tween:
1). They Choose Solitude Over Family Time: The first sign your child has become a tween present itself in the simplest way -- you don't see them as much. You know they're in the house somewhere. You saw them get off the bus, and their shoes and bag are strewn about the mudroom.
A few months prior, they would have been sitting at the kitchen table gabbing about their day, or doing homework, or playing in the yard outside. But no more. Now their favorite thing to do is to sit alone in their room, maybe reading a book, listening to music, or -- god forbid -- playing on some sort of electronic device you broke down and bought them so they'd fit in with their tween peer group.
Apparently, tagging another tween's family photos on Instagram holds more intrigue than actually hanging out with your own family.
2). They Suffer From Uncontrollable Eye Rolls: Not long ago, that goofy pun-filled joke dad always tells would have been greeted with a smile, and maybe a shake of the head. Now, your child rolls their eyes and then retreats to their room again.
The same thing happens when you suggest partaking in family tradition, like apple picking or playing a favorite board game. The constant eye rolling and accompanying "ugh" sounds come with such frequency they can appear involuntary. If anyone figures out how to control these, message me, or text me, or tag me in a post. Heck, you can even send smoke signals. (Eye roll)
3). They Begin Speaking Tween: There was a brief time between when they learned to talk and the tween years that you understood every beautiful word your child said -- and even the not so beautiful ones.
Then, suddenly, you notice they start saying things like "totes magotes" instead of "totally," or they replace the word "crazy" with "cray cray," or they begin to verbalize any form of textese, like OMG. If any of these things happen, well then, IMHO, they may have already crossed into the abyss that is the tween years.
You may also notice that tween boys start talking about girls, and tween girls begin talking about boys. (Parental eye roll and guttural "ugh" sound).
4). They're Newly Obsessed With Their Looks: Just a few years ago, they were more likely to dress like Punky Brewster -- in a colorful, mismatched outfit that inaccurately reflected your family's general sense of fashion. Now, they wear only the carefully selected clothes that portray the exact image they hope to put out there, right down to socks. If you dare advise them what to wear, you get the eye roll.
And then there's the hair. Remember the wild, unkempt pre-tween hair? If not for a parent routinely instructing the boys and girls to grab a comb or brush before leaving the house, they simply wouldn't ever touch it. No more. Now, they can fuss with their hair for hours before getting it just right. And if they do get it right, they might just take a selfie and post it to Instagram.
5). They Become Remarkably Easy to Embarrass: Before entering the tween phase, most kids didn't have a clue when to be embarrassed. Like the time they made toot noises with their mouth in a public place, just to make their siblings laugh. Or the time they had a screaming fit at the grocery store because you wouldn't buy them the Beanie Boo the store cruelly put on the end cap of the cereal aisle. Not embarrassed by that at all.
Then, suddenly, your child develops an acute sense of embarrassment. And, as it turns out, the most embarrassing thing in the world is actually you. It's true. Nothing embarrasses a tween more than being seen in public with their parents.
Consider drop-off and pick-up (to or from any kid event, really). They used to bounce over to your car, hop in, and then sing along as you played the radio leaving the parking lot.
Now, they slunk to your vehicle, addressing you with the warmth of a passenger getting on the city bus. And if you so much as roll a window down with the radio playing before you're out of earshot of the other tweens, they will hate you forever. That's a quote.
So there you go. If you notice your child exhibiting any or all of these characteristics, there's a chance they've become a tweener right before your eyes - or more likely, while up in their bedroom.
Don't fret though, because, as we've all been warned since they were born, this is a cakewalk compared to the actual teen years. So enjoy it.
Read more from Cort Ruddy at RuddyBits.com