Parenting A Tween-Is there a rule book?

Used to describe a person who has entered the “in between” years before adolescence; children between the ages of 10 and 12. These children display common traits, interests, and developing psychologies separate from those in younger, and older age brackets. Commonly abbreviated to “tween”. See related words: pre-teen, young adult.

“Can you get ready please son, we’re leaving in an hour”
“I’m just finishing this, I’ll get ready in twenty minutes”
Twenty minutes later…
“Are you getting ready?”
“No, I will in a minute”
Half an hour later.
“Are you ready, we leave in ten minutes”
“Just getting changed now”

Ten minutes later, I’m sat ready and waiting.
Another ten minutes later the boy comes downstairs with no socks or shoes on.
“I’ve been ready and waiting for ten minutes. I gave you an hours notice”
It’s the hottest day of the year and he’s wearing a black hoodie.
“You really don’t need that today”
Cue major meltdown.
You’d think I’d told him that Wi-Fi no longer existed.
“Well I won’t come then. You don’t like me anyway. I look stupid without the hoodie. I’m not coming. Go on your own.”
Throws shoes across the room and discards hoodie on the floor.
And breathe.
Count to ten.
Carry on waiting.
Son comes down the stairs.
Quietly puts his shoes on and picks up the hoodie.
We leave the house. He starts swinging round his key chain. Something he knows annoys me. I ask him to stop.
“I didn’t mean to”
A few steps down the round, the key chain is swinging again.
“When I asked you to stop I meant forever, not just that particular time”.
Another over reaction with him demanding I put the keys in my bag then and he storms off ahead.

Something happened a few weeks ago. My little boy turned into a tween. If anyone remembers Harry Enfields character Kevin, it was just like that. One night he went to bed as my loving, considerate son. The next morning he woke up with attitude, back chat and an urge to break rules and do everything he knows annoys me. I could make excuses for him. He’s had his fair share of tough times to deal with, where he showed a maturity beyond his years. The fact of the matter is, after speaking to friends and looking online, I’m not the only one experiencing this. I had heard that kids can shock their parents by starting to act like a teenager before hitting 13. No longer a boy but not yet a man. I went along thinking my boy would be different. Being forced to grow up and deal with the passing of his auntie at a young age for no real reason, and the breakup of his parents marriage and subsequent new relationships of both of us, I thought he’d skip the difficult “in between” stage I’d heard so much about. Don’t be fooled. No child will skip this stage. No doubt they will begin to astonish you, in the same way my boy did me, with their ability to manipulate, argue brilliantly, guilt trip and do stupid things.
While he is embarking on a path of trying to find his place in the world and amongst his peers, I have had to start trying to parent through power instead of through relationship. “Because I said so” is simply not working anymore when trying to discipline. It seems to make him more defiant and rude, and we both end up yelling. Lately I have found myself juggling mood swings, independence, friendships, hygiene, puberty and growth spurts, while desperately wishing for the little toddler running around in a superhero costume again. The one who just sulked when told no, rather than answer back.
When I had my boy, I was in love, married to my husband and our child was planned and wanted. The thought of him growing up didn’t phase me because we’d deal with it together. I don’t believe in good cop, bad cop parenting. I envisaged the pair of us, a united force standing our ground if our son did anything wrong. I’ve seen children be told No by dad then go straight to mum and be told Yes. We wouldn’t be like that.
Since the separation, it’s become very clear that we both have very different ideas on how to raise our son after all. Neither way is right or wrong, just different approaches. At first the split worried me, with regards to how our son would take it and react. I’d read about the importance of keeping a strong base around them through the transition to teenager, and was concerned that us separating at such a crucial time in his life would have a negative effect on him. Luckily, and here I give the credit purely to my son, he’s a wise head on young shoulders. Right now though I am struggling to find a balance between keeping him close and letting him spread his wings and explore his new found independence. At the time of writing this, he is with me full time for reasons I’m not going to go into. It’s only a temporary situation but it’s one that neither of us are used to. For the first eleven years of his life he had me and Dad. Then for the past coming up to two years he’s split his time between the two of us. Now, just me. I know you don’t get a rule book for parenting, but I never signed up to do this on my own. His Dad is and continues to be, a strong influence in his life, and I adamantly believe a boy needs the male influence too. I’m not so sure that I, a middle aged woman and a tween boy have an awful lot in common. He and his Dad are at least both male, right? I was a teenage girl, I don’t claim to have ever been able to understand teenage boys. Things are made even more complicated these days with computer games, devices, Wi-Fi, phones.
The biggest struggle I have is dealing with the extremes of his behaviour. If we’re both at home with nothing to do, I can’t get him out of his room. PlayStation, Skyping friends, playing his keyboard, watching mindless You tube videos all take preference over keeping his Mum company when she’s bored. In fact they are prioritised over everything from getting changed, eating breakfast and doing homework.

The minute I decide to do something, or arrange to go out somewhere is just when he starts to need my attention. Don’t get me wrong, my son comes first over everything and anyone, but just recently I’m having to forfeit any “me” time because his knack of making me feel guilty has been fine tuned to epic proportions. Again, I was inclined to put it down to circumstance, until speaking to other Mum’s who have reassured me it’s every child. No matter their situation. When we are available to them, they don’t want us. Yet the second they think that we may possibly, might want to do something which takes our attention away from them even for the shortest time, it becomes an issue to them. They probably don’t even realise that are doing it. Actually, no, thinking about it, my son is perfectly aware he’s doing it. As you know, I’d gotten used to having three nights to myself. One of those generally spent with Mr Amazing. The other two were just my time. I could make last minute plans. Go for drinks with the girls after work if we felt like it, food even, to save me cooking for at least one night. I had a bit of freedom. Now, I have to go straight home after work. I’m adjusting again. My son is adjusting again. He is very clever at making me feel guilty if I say I want to do something with a friend. He takes it as a personal attack, that I don’t want to be with him when it’s not that at all.
On the other hand, I joke that he acts like my Dad. He has become very possessive over me and constantly worries if I’m ok when I’ve never given him cause to think I’m anything but ok. Worries if I don’t reply to a text straight away even when he knows I’m at work. He wants me but doesn’t need me. Then he needs me but doesn’t want me. It’s confusing. One minute he’s stifling me with attention, the next he wants to eat his tea in his bedroom.
Asking for more help around the house now that he’s a tween is also becoming a chore in itself. After the usual “do I have to?”, follows a laborious routine of him finding stuff that he needs to do/finish/find/listen to which takes so long that by the time he actually joins me to help, I’ve more or less finished. He’s at an age now where he shouldn’t have to be told that if he uses a glass or plate in his room, it will, at least, some point soon after, need to be taken back into the kitchen, if not washed up and put away. But then this is the boy that steps over a rubbish bag and passes a bin rather than pick it up and put it in the bin.

Although not discussed, I’ve picked up on subtle tell tale signs that there may be a girl he likes. Dealing with his emotions of whether she is or isn’t talking to him this week is hard. I didn’t have the answers when I was 13, let alone now. I had my first boyfriend at the age of 14. Rob. He was in the same year as me but at 13, he was a little bit younger than me. We went to the same school. He’d come round to my house after school or at weekends on his bike. Trouble was, more often than not, his mate Lee came too. We’d go to the park behind the shops near where I lived. Rob would want to kiss me. If Lee was there like the proverbial gooseberry, I didn’t want to kiss Rob. I got dumped for being frigid. It scares me to think that my son, next month, will be the same age as Rob was when he dumped a girl for not wanting to snog infront of someone else. Times have changed since 1991. A lot. Being a teenager when I was one was very different. I didn’t really have the independence that my son has already. We didn’t have mobile phones so didn’t stray far from home. My parents couldn’t threaten to take my devices off me because we didn’t have them. I also didn’t have the internet at my beck and call, providing me with answers to everything and exposing me to the attitudes, come backs and put downs that you-tubers, bloggers and online gamers use.

It’s very apparent my son knows too much. I don’t remember being a handful for my parents, I’m sure they remember differently, but all they had were good old fashioned threats to punish me with. Thankfully, the power to make Wi-Fi go away is enough to make my son apologise for whatever he’s just put me through. Although it’s never very long before something else sets him off.

I don’t know how long this stage lasts for. I don’t know how much worse the full blown teenager will be. What I do know is this- it’s not just my son. I also know that for all the stress, over reactions, melt downs, mood swings, arguments, girl troubles, falling out with friends and life changing problems he goes through, I’ll be with him every step of the way.
Every now and then, are glimpses of the kindest, most loving, considerate young man that he is growing into.
I love him. He’s kind of amazing.


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