When the 13-year-old comes out of her room and says, “Hey, let’s play a game!” you forget whatever else you were doing, and you play that game!
This is actually true of any of my children, but especially for Flora. Recently Michael asked to play the board game Sorry!, and so we did. Last night, Flora wanted to play Apples to Apples, so we did. Random requests for family together time should be delivered if at all possible!
One of the challenges of continuing to blog is that I started this when my children were babies. I needed a repository to complain, to write about babyloss, to capture the cute and frustrating things that my children did. From infancy through about age 4, I found parenting to be physically and logistically challenging in ways I hadn’t expected.
The tween and teen years, of course, are challenging in different ways, and ways that I cannot always share here. Because it’s not just about my parenting any more; it’s also about making sure my children’s privacy, safety, and dignity are also respected. Each of my children give me challenges every day — why won’t Michael do his homework; what can I do to get Flora out of her room; how do I help Kate navigate a drama-filled relationship? — and while I can allude to these challenges, I can’t always dive into them in depth.
They aren’t my stories.
Navigating the tween/teen years as a parent are challenging for me in the following ways:
1. Emotions run strong. I think the tween years are proving to actually be more fraught (although my teen isn’t far into the teen years, so everything is subject to change without notice — I think I’m going to make this my new bio). The hormonal, physical, social, and emotional upheavals that start around the ages of 10 and 11 are harder to deal with. Once a young person going through puberty starts to figure out what is up, they can temper their reactions. Mileage varies, of course.
2. “Your feelings are valid.” Even as the emotional roller coaster of puberty appears to turn already irrational creatures (i.e. children) into even less rational creatures with a side of eyeroll, this is something I find myself telling my children often. I think I’m doing the right thing by affirming my children’s emotions, the positive ones as well as the difficult ones. I do this in part to help them navigate the difficult ones. Anger, anxiety, sadness, grief — my children’s reactions to things that happen in their lives are appropriate. It’s what they decide to do after that needs to be examined and dealt with accordingly.
3. I want my children to DO stuff. At this point, none of my children are involved in any extra curricular activities, and while I think part of that is my responsibility, I also want them to be like, “Hey, Mom, I’m really interested in XYZ, can I take this class, course, sign up for this sport?”
And that’s not happening. Flora and Michael played soccer last fall, but neither was interested in soccer this spring. Flora doesn’t want to do anything extra (although there was one club at the library she was interested in, which never got off the ground due to a lack of interest); Kate was in drama club, but the faculty member running it had to drop it this year due to health issues. Michael wants to take karate or similar martial arts. But I haven’t taken the initiative to get him signed up for those. I don’t count playing instruments because that is part of their curriculum.
4. I want my children to just do what I tell them to do. My children know what I expect of them: homework, chores, practice instruments. I want them to come home from school, and be done with their “work” before I get home.
This does not happen. I get home, and I am ordering them around. It’s not very fun. I’m not sure how to help them develop these habits.
Anyway: Tuesday, we played games. It was good. (And, no, I don’t “let” my children win.)
What did you do Tuesday?