Having a tiny little newborn is physically exhausting and mentally all-consuming. When you have babies, you think nothing—NOTHING—can ever be that demanding again.
In a way, it’s true. Your children, as they grow, demand less and less of you physically. My babies are all old enough now to feed themselves and dress themselves. They’re potty-trained and no one needs to be carried or pushed in a stroller. They can buckle their own seat belts and brush their own teeth. My hands, while always busy, are not constantly moving in service to a child’s needs.
We’ve moved on past the physical stage of parenting, and in some ways it’s a great relief and unburdening.
But in leaving that stage behind, we’ve moved on to new challenges. With my boys, ages 8, 6, and 4, I’d say we’re firmly in a teaching stage. We’re constantly showing them HOW to do new things—like read, make a bed, ride a bike, throw a football, fold laundry, understand fractions, build Lego cities. They’re almost always in learning mode or practicing mode. Although it’s definitely time-consuming, it’s also pretty fun. And watching them learn a new skill or perfect something they’ve been practicing is really rewarding.
With B, though, at age ten, I think we’re moving into a whole new stage that we’ve not dealt with at all before. This new stage seems to revolve mostly around emotions. It’s not surprising, certainly, that a preteen girl is ruled by her feelings and her moods, but it is a new world for Matt and I as parents. We’re treading carefully and trying to parent thoughtfully, but it’s going to be an interesting balancing act, I think.
I remember, a little at least, how difficult it is to be a preteen and teenager. I remember how overwhelmingly significant everything seemed. B is a lot like me, too—given to drama, over-sensitive, and fairly self-absorbed. In some ways, that makes it easier for me to empathize with her. But it’s also difficult because I can see her leading herself down the rabbit hole, and I can remember going there myself, and it’s all I can do not to shake her and say STOP IT THIS IS NOT WHAT YOU WANT TO DO, I KNOW THIS FROM EXPERIENCE.
It seems like Matt and I have nightly discussions to figure out how we want to deal with pretty major topics–technology, access to things like Instagram and texting friends, balancing fun and responsibility, respect and kindness, and the list goes on. We’re trying really hard to be PRO-active instead of RE-active. But it is not easy. And I know it’s only just beginning.
So I have a request for parents of teen girls:
Please, please tell me if you have tips or tricks or advice or stories or warnings or things you think you did well or things you think you could have done differently.
If you don’t have teen girls, but you know someone who does (or did and now has lovely grown daughters that turned out wonderfully!), please pass this post along. I’d love to hear from more people who have been there and made it through relatively unscathed.
I know we’re not alone in finding the pre-teen years a bit challenging, but as they say, it takes a village, and right now, I’m looking to my village for some help and support. Hook a mother up.