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Saturday, August 23rd, 2014
I used to think that babies and toddlers were the hardest to parent, with all the sleep deprivation, bodily fluids and baby proofing that come with that age range. It felt like my children were trying really hard to get themselves killed, and we spent our waking hours standing sentinel and worrying that all that stood between my daughters and certain doom was a flimsy plastic cabinet lock. Those were the days of guacamole in the hair and 3 a.m. wakeup calls, but at least we got nap time to recover and get our groove back.
Now that I’m the mom of a tween and an almost tween, I find myself dreaming of those days. Because while the really physical days of parenting are done—no more bending in half and hunching my back for hours over a struggling-to-walk-toddler—parenting an older kid requires tremendous mental fortitude. And I’m not sure I have the skills necessary to survive the next few years. Here’s where I’m falling short:
Scheduling Prowess I need military-level precision to keep track of all the school projects, teacher meetings and extracurriculars—something a girl once voted most disorganized by a jury of her peers simply can’t muster. I used to be horrified when I read stories of moms using their minivan as a traveling office/dinner table/living room, until my daughters began to fill every day with their various extracurricular passions. And now, my car comes stocked with paper towels, an array of snacks (and used wrappers), and is my regular conference call spot (thank God for Bluetooth!).
Mind Reader My daughter has developed a split personality, as she straddles the precarious line between childhood and adulthood. One minute, she’s begging me to let her watch The Fault in Our Stars—the next, she’s saying that she’s not too old for Sophia the First. And I’m never quite sure whether I’m talking to the grownup or the kiddo, which makes it hard to determine whether any suggestion I make is going to be greeted with a dramatic eye roll and sigh or excited exuberance. It’s hard to find that happy medium, where I’m allowing her to learn and grow, but not learn too much, too fast. So, despite the fact that I hear that every other parent in the fifth grade lets their children Snapchat on cell phones and watch Walking Dead marathons, we’re sticking by our guns.
Peace Maker I simply don’t have the negotiation skills necessary to get my girls to stop the battles and bickering and actually be the loving sisters I know they are, deep, deep (deep) down inside. I’d love to just tell my children to work it out themselves, but that often leads to tears and pain (and not just for me).
Book Smarts I was a straight A student when I was in school, but apparently I killed a lot of brain cells between then and now, or they decided to rewrite the curriculum just to make me look like the village idiot. Either way, there were things in fourth grade math that had me stumped, and I’m frankly a bit nervous about what comes next. I hope my daughters can teach me.
I’ve talked a bit about my struggles with tween parenting with my mom, and she just chuckles. “Wait until they hit the teens,” she says, ominously. “That’s when parenting really gets tough.” I hope I can survive it.
Tell us: Which age was the toughest for you as a parent? Why was that? Keep up with your kiddo through every age and stage through our Parents.com newsletters.
Image: Busy mom by Angela Waye/Shutterstock.com
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Friday, December 20th, 2013
Being a tween girl is hard. And according to a new study, the television shows tween girls and boys watch is making life just a little more difficult. The study published in the journal Sex Roles found that programs on common kid channels, such as Disney and Nickelodeon, frequently show girls (all of whom are good-looking) being concerned about their looks, working to look better, and receiving comments about their appearance from other characters . At the same time, boys in these shows had a larger variety of “looks” (some attractive and some not so attractive) and didn’t focus on their appearance.
If you think about your tween years, or your own tween child, you know that this is an awkward stage. Braces, glasses, growth spurts, and hand-me-downs plague a majority of middle schoolers and affect their self-esteem. When combined with the existing struggles of tweenhood, TV shows that tell girls to focus on their looks are bound to cause anxiety about every aspect of their appearance.
What worries me most about this study is that if girls are told to spend time thinking about what they look like, what are they not concentrating on. For example, if they spend their morning preoccupied about their outfit, are they missing out on time learning in class? Are they wasting time that could be used to daydream about their future career? And could low self-esteem keep them from speaking up in school or participating in sports?
Aside from turning off the television, there are things you can do to counteract the negative messages on their favorite channels:
-Set a good example by loving yourself.
-Encourage your girls to participate in a variety of activities.
-Talk to her about all her positive qualities to increase her long-term confidence.
What do you do to promote a healthy self-esteem in your kids?
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Thursday, December 19th, 2013
A couple of weeks ago, I pulled my daughter and her cousins aside for a little talk: “Do you guys still want to wear matching PJs for Christmas Eve?” I asked, reassuring them that it wouldn’t hurt my feelings if they wanted to stop matching now because they were getting older (ages 8 to 11). I fully expected “Yeah, we’re too old for that” with an accompanying eye roll. Instead, they looked a little disappointed that I was even asking. They told me that they still liked to match. And decorate the gingerbread houses. And help me make their favorite Christmas Eve appetizers—mini “pizzas” on bruschetta bread with a little sauce and cheese cut out in the shape of tree or snowman. So it seems that tradition trumps tweendom.
I should have realized that by now. My daughter, 11, is well into the tween stage. There’s nothing predictable about her except maybe being unpredictable. One minute she’s watching the Hunger Games. The next, she’s glued to a Sophia the First special that features Ariel. For Christmas, she asked for Barbies and clothes from Hot Topic (Have you ever been in there? It’s the only store that’s actually made me grateful for Justice.)
Starting tomorrow, she’s going to be off from school for the next 12 days so I’m going to face her multiple personalities 24-7. I’ll surely be referring to this piece in the latest issue of Parents to help me deal. But I’m also going to be relishing my daughter and her cousins frosting their gingerbread houses and putting on a play in their new peppermint PJs because who knows if they’ll want to do it again next year.
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Monday, November 4th, 2013
My tween daughter had a lot of plans for Halloween: what she was going to wear, which friends were coming over, how much candy she’d collect, how she would also hand out treats, and how she’d simultaneously cohost a party with her aunt.
She takes after me, a master multitasker. And she did an admirable job, getting in an hour of trick-or-treating, an hour of passing out candy, and two hours of partying before collapsing in bed. But then she started sobbing, because it didn’t all go perfectly.
“I forgot to put on my bat necklace!” was her first complaint. And then, “I forgot the spider ring too! And Alma never came over! And neither did Emma!”
At first I did the Mom thing of trying to negate every little thing she brought up. “No one would have noticed the jewelry. Look at the text that Alma’s mom sent, saying they were too exhausted to come. And you KNEW Emma couldn’t come.” Etc.
But there’s no stopping a tween tantrum, as I should know by now. So then I did another Mom thing, which is to get angry, and start being a little too honest.
“Grace, you can’t expect every event to be perfect. Lower your expectations! If you think it’s going to be just okay, and then it’s better than okay, you’ll be happy. But if you need things to be amazing, and then they’re just good, you’ll always be disappointed.” And then I sung her to sleep.
Downstairs, as the party wound down, I recounted the story to one of my best friends, who doesn’t have kids. “You told your daughter to aim low?!” she asked in sort-of mock horror, holding her head in her hands.
I thought about it. Yes. I think that is what I did. “But you know, girls get worked up about things being perfect. Like expecting Prom to be some magical evening, which it never is,” I argued lamely. We are far from Gracie going to Prom.
At work the next day I checked in with a Mom colleague to get some perspective. Her daughter is only 1, but she’s thoughtful about raising a girl. “It’s not like you’re asking her to lower her life goals!” she reassured me.
That is it, of course. I want Grace to continue to say she hopes to go to Yale. I want her to continue to list about six professions she thinks she will hold at once as an adult. I want her to aim high for everything…except the little things. Halloween is supposed to just be fun. Teaching my kids to live in the moment and ride over little disappointments while also making life goals and recognizing the big stuff remains my toughest parenting challenge. When Grace was a toddler I would say, “that is not to cry” when something small upset her. Finding the right words now that she is 11 is more difficult. But I guess I’ll start with “lower your expectations sometimes.”
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Friday, September 27th, 2013
It wasn’t that long ago that I took a hard look at my Facebook page and I didn’t like what I saw. After hours of slashing through pictures of my freshman year of high school, notes titled “25 things you should know about me,” and random groups I joined (e.g. I hate my study hall teacher), I finally whittled my page down to something presentable. Now imagine the damage I could have done if I had the same technology at 9-years-old.
But now that it’s 2013, easy access to smartphone technology is what kids and parents are dealing with. In a recent Wall Street Journal blog, “Is a Smartphone a Dumb Idea for a Small Child?” Catherine Pearlman writes about her friend’s pre-tween daughter using an iPod Touch, which works like a smartphone when Wi-Fi is available, to text her friends. This got me thinking, if kids can use iPhones to text, couldn’t they just as easily use apps like Instagram and Facebook? According to Pearlman, most kids are obsessed with their friends during the tween and teen years; they’re insecure, desperate to fit in, impulsive, and forgetful. This sounds like the worst possible time to introduce smartphone technology that instantly lets kids post public, non-erasable information about themselves online.
Today, my friend’s 11-year-old sister takes “duck-face” selfies along with Instagram videos of herself singing, and she shares them with her 175 followers. I wonder how well she knows her followers. I’m not even sure I knew 175 people when I was 11, let alone 175 people I would want to share videos of myself with. During my middle school days, I also didn’t know what a flatiron was, I had braces, and I was not allowed to wear makeup. Would this have been the ideal time to take selfies? I think not. Though the idea of a 6th grader with an Instagram profile is scary, she did figure out how to make her account private, which could prevent anyone and everyone viewing her page. This is something I hope all kids do until they learn impulse control.
While it’s frightening to think that any public information could also be accessed and used by child predators, it’s more likely that the images and posts could sabotage kids’ chances of getting into a great college or being hired for a dream job later on. Plus, pre-tween posts might simply lead to future embarrassment.
Now that I’m older, I’m glad that my childhood memories are safely hid away in scrapbooks and on home videos. I just hope that parents today think about how social media apps leave digital footprints and can affect their kid’s reputations and identities in the future.
Image: Courtesy of Shutterstock
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