Parenting a confusing tween is, well, confusing! I knew he needed me, his tears told me so. His words were lacking, but also unnecessary. His eyes said it all.
Parenting a Confusing Tween:
I sat down on his bed. Well, first I pushed aside three stuffed animals (the ones he will NEVER admit to owning) and a poop emoji pillow – and THEN I sat down. I smelled the sweet smell of boy sweat and stinky feet, he obviously doesn’t shower EVERY time I tell him to.
This makes me wonder, what other instructions does he ignore?
He was crying. I don’t remember the exact reason for his tears that particular day. I am positive it had to do with his brothers, managing emotions and feeling frustrated. It seems to be recipe for tears these days.
I asked him if he wanted a hug. I know from experience (and from myself) that an unsolicited hug feels like fire on your skin – especially when you are a tween full of unrecognizable emotions. He nodded, quietly – but it was a nod none the less. I didn’t waste a second. These moments are rare. I went in for a big motherly hug.
Rubbing his hair gently as I desperately tried to blend in with his Star Wars bed sheets, in hopes that this moment would last longer than the last fleeting hug we shared too many days ago.
His sobbing slowed down. The stream of tears quietly dried on his cheeks. He turned his head and looked at me with every single emotion flowing through his 10 year old body. I felt like he was begging for me to interpret what was going on inside him.
Parenting a Confused Tween:
He wanted so badly for me to explain every conflicting feeling and emotion. Isn’t that what moms do? We explain, guide and hold-their-hands until they are safely on the other side? For once, I felt at a loss. I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t know how to explain that what he was feeling is normal – although it’s a lot.
I saw it in his eyes. He was feeling it. He was feeling A LOT of emotions: frustration, irritation, excitement, elation, happiness, disappointment, anger, impatience, patience – so many feelings, conflicting, strong and URGENT.
I wish I could take his pain away, but I can’t. Instead we sat in silence. He calmed down and I gathered my thoughts. While silence can be golden, it is not how things should be left.
Just like you wouldn’t trust a quiet toddler, kids don’t always trust a quiet parent. They start to wonder why you are quiet, worrying what may come next – waiting for the other shoe to drop. I know our tween, he’s a worrier, so I quickly composed myself and then started to talk – although I was in completely unchartered territory.
We have already had several “talks” over the past few months. He knows about the upcoming physical changes, but I realized that I hadn’t prepared him for the other changes – the emotional ones.
We talked about hormones and what they do your body. I told him about the monthly surge of hormones I go through… and I reminded him of the minor meltdown I had the weekend prior, when one of his brothers couldn’t find his shoes, and they were right in front of him.
“Oh yeah mama, that was really not something to get upset over, you know that, right?!”
(Taking the attention away from him, for a moment helped him to see how we are all affected by hormones and overwhelming feelings – and we had a good laugh – at my expense!)
Connecting With Your Confusing Tween:
I wanted this moment to last for bit longer. I hadn’t felt connected to him in so long, because – hormones – his, not mine! I wanted to freeze time, go back to the days when he reached his arms out towards me and cried “mama”. Back then, I KNEW that he needed me and I knew how to comfort him.
THIS – all of this is new, and as much as it is confusing and overwhelming to him… it is equally so for me, his mother.
When he answers my questions with one syllable words and asks me politely to leave his room, what does that mean? Does it mean that he is hiding a big dark secret that he doesn’t want to talk about? Or does he just need some alone time?
When he wears his hoodie pulled down over his face, what does that mean? Is he hiding from the world, feeling less than his peers? Are they not being nice to him? Am I supposed to step in and fix something? Or does he just need some alone time?
When he lays in bed reading his book for hours on end, what does that mean? Is he trying to escape the real world because it’s big, scary and painful? Is there a sign somewhere that I am missing? When do I worry, when do I not? Or does he just need some alone time?
Although the answers may seem clear to an outside person, they are muddied and murky to me, his mother, who is as confused over his emotions as he is.
I sensed that our quiet alone time was coming to an end. His brothers started to look for me and he quietly pulled away from my motherly embrace.#Parenting confusing and confused #tweens without losing your mind. #ParentingTips Click To Tweet
A Lifetime of Parenting Confusing Tweens:
I didn’t know how to end our conversation, because I didn’t want it to be over.
I smiled at him and said “Honey, as much as these feelings are new and confusing to you. Please know that this phase of parenting is also new and confusing to us. But we WILL get through it – together!”
He got a twinkle in his eyes, the one I love – and I prepared myself for his smarty-pants reply.
“Mama, think about this: JUST when you have figured ME out, you will have THREE other boys behind me to figure out too. You have a lot more than ten years left of parenting confusing kids!”
Thanks kid, I have a lifetime of this – and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
One of my favorite blogs: Sunshine and Hurricanes writes about parenting confusing tweens. I often turn to their blog for advice.
Their post about “How to Talk to Kids About Sex” breaks it down for you, as a parent – and makes it a much less daunting conversation to have.
Although our tween isn’t (quite) in middle school, yet, I have started to teach him some of these valuable life skills, for his sake (and my own sanity!)
Many of these tips apply to building a strong mother-tween relationship, regardless of the child’s gender.
Please share in the comments some of the ways you are surviving parenting a confusing tween.