Parenting Blog

What I’ve Learned About Parenting By Parenting Tweens

What I learned Parenting tweens

There’s a graduation party for every grade now.

A child “graduates” from Pre-K to Kindergarten. Then, a short 12 months later, there’s yet another ceremony to honor that illustrious year of building with blocks and inner ear infection co-pays.

Some schools are also audacious enough to squeeze in a couple of grad parties for coming and going from middle school.

Of course there’s also the ‘classic’ cap and gowns ceremonies for high school and college.

It’s out. of. control.

But the graduation industrial complex is not exactly what I’m here to talk about today.

This graduation season, I moved the tassel to the other side of my silky cap on Parenting a Tweenager. Where’s my stinkin’ cake? What, no moonbounce in the backyard?

What a rip-off.

There are many frightful pitfalls and occasions for confetti-throwing in the life of a parent. From sleepless nights, explosive shits, and the first time your kid bites another child at daycare to never buying another disposable diaper because your kid is finally dropping all of their deuces in the loo, not waking up at 2am with a toddler knee in your back, and leaving a restaurant without having to apologize to the entire staff and your fellow diners for the atomic food bomb your kid left in their wake.

There’s rarely a dull moment, except for all the painfully dull moments there actually are in the everyday normal life of a parent.

Graduating a kid from tween to teen usually doesn’t register on either end of the celebration spectrum, and that’s a shame. Having a child turn 13 is a special time for a parent and a child and as well as for the ever-evolving parent / child relationship.

This might just be the most important time in both of your lives.

Of course the baby years are important too but there’s a baseball saying that applies here: ‘you can’t win the World Series in April but you can lose it’. I think this is true of parenting too.

Meaning, don’t drop your baby on their head, don’t blow secondhand smoke in their tiny face, and don’t be an asshole as they grow up from baby to toddler to someone sorta resembling a real-life actual person, but you aren’t going to ‘win it all’ at parenting in those early years.

With that in mind, here’s what I’ve learned about parenting by parenting tweens:

You don’t get to parent less or clock out in any way from the job when your kid reaches the tween years. In fact, the exact opposite is true. You need to put in more hours, give your parenting decisions more thought, and double down on your commitment to the job of being dad or mom.

Parenting tweens and teens requires more from you.

I’m afraid many parents aren’t getting this memo.

I’m afraid many parents think their job is nearly over.

I’m afraid many parents check out when their kid becomes a tween and teen.

That’s a terrible, terrible move.

Yes, your older child is pretty darn self-reliant now. They have a phone, they can let themselves into the house by themselves and stay at home while you run errands locally. It’s kinda great for you and for them.

You can have conversations about some grown-up stuff with your tween and it’s actually enjoyable and thought-provoking at times.

While all of that is true, your 11, 12, 13, 15, 17 year old child needs you to be a more actively involved parent now more than ever before.

I was speaking with a blogger friend last week and she mentioned the term “foreverwords”. Not only did that 2 hour conversation spur this here blog post, but the idea of pausing before speaking those foreverwords hit me hard.

Say your tween or teen child has done something. Maybe that something they did is grand or maybe it is life-altering in what could possibly be a terrible way. Regardless of how good or poor their decision-making will eventually prove out to be, how you respond initially, those foreverwords you will use in that very moment as you and she/he teeter on a high wire, will begin form the foundation for a possible shift in your parent / child relationship.

It could be ugly.

Tread lightly, pops. The cement is wet still and awfully fragile.

You do not want to misstep and cause cracks in your kid’s permanent foundation. Not now, not after you took such care to keep them alive and reasonably happy for the past decade. Not after you’ve graduated to parenting tweens and teens.

It seems like so much of the parenting world, from ‘expert’ books to mom and dad blogs to those tired parenting memes to the overall cultural conversation about kids, revolves mostly around the early years and the sleepless nights. In retrospect, all that stuff — the baby, toddler and early elementary years — that’s the easiest part of a parent’s job responsibility! We can get that shit done on the back of a strong willed determination and a stronger gag reflex. For our efforts, we’re rewarded with baby smiles, adorably mispronounced words, a fountain of kisses, and air-tight squeezy hugs.

The tween and teens years of parenting require more nuanced thought, on the fly nimbleness, and patiently considered foreverwords. Our rewards during this often confusing and conflicting time aren’t always as adorable or evident or immediate or obvious at all.

We have tweens and teens now and we can’t stop parenting them.

They need us more, even if they insist they don’t. So we need to parent more.

More thoughtfully, more passionately, more earnestly, more actively.


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