If there’s one topic that’s almost absent in the self-help genre of books, it would be the topic of raising tweens. This title was coined several years ago to describe the years right before our kids become teenagers. It’s a confusing age for kids. Their bodies are changing in weird ways, and they flip back and forth constantly between wanting to act like a young child and wanting to act like an adult. They don’t really fit anywhere, often feeling like outcasts because of it. And we parents sit on the sidelines all like, “What? The? CRAP???”
And there are basically no good articles or books to help us. Woohoo.
So, I’m about to write an article that isn’t going to be all that helpful either. You’re welcome.
But from much trial and error and a plethora of tweens in the house, here’s the one thing we’re learning the most: These years as parents are mainly about transitioning from hands-on to overseer.
A couple of years ago, Liam made the comment that it must be really hard for me to raise eight kids. I told him that physically, it was actually much harder when I had four kids. At that time, none of my kids were even school aged. It was me who had to prep all food, do all cleaning and laundry, dress my kids, strap them in car seats, carry them to and fro, teach them everything new, and make all decisions, usually with a baby on my boob. Now, I only prepare one meal a day (with a cooking helper I might add), do minimal cleaning, only fold my own laundry along with Bill’s, shop for kids clothes that my children dress themselves in, walk myself to the van where all kids are strapped in and ready to go (many times with lunch packed that I had nothing to do with), listen to them tell me about what they’re learning from reading on their own, and often get creative ideas from my kids to help me make decisions. And, well, there’s still a man who occasionally sucks on my boob, but never while those other things are going on… [oh to be a fly on the wall so I can see my poor, mortified mother’s face as she’s reading this].
The little years are the years your hands are literally full all the time! You never stop doing, and it’s physically exhausting. For us, this has changed immensely. Even with the amount of children I have, I don’t need to be nearly as active as I once was because my kids share so much of the load.
However, I’m not less exhausted.
My exhaustion has simply transitioned from a physical (though I’m still plenty active here, too, as a mom!) to a mental exhaustion.
These are the years my kids want time, time, and more time with me. They want to talk about everything from the newest Super Mario game (it’s Odyssey, if you didn’t know–I do now!) to feeling left out with friends in the neighborhood. They get extremely vulnerable late in the evening, ready to spill everything. Their slap-happy gets more ridiculous and funnier all the time. They tell me that I’m their best friend.
I’m loving it!! And it’s so incredibly hard because I would almost rather give my energy to physical work than that much emotional work. But the times I give myself up to listen, really listen, and simply talk as friends to my tweens have truly been some of the most blessed moments of my life.
Here are a few ways Bill and I have changed our parenting focus with this age:
- Instead of us doing most of the physical work around the house, we watch over the kids work, giving them instruction and letting them learn by trial and error. We also inspect what we’ve expected. If you’re still doing most of the work here and your child is at least ten, I can almost promise you they’re able to do almost all the work you do.
- I push myself to stay awake later at night. Even in college, I cried if I had to stay out after ten. I figure since I’ve acted like an old person for so long, it means I’ll be the best grandma ever.
- Bill and I really try to carve out time for each other and give the kids most of the rest. The two of us really really love talking to each other, so we find every excuse under the sun to do so. Family walks–let’s hold hands and talk. Working in the kitchen–let’s talk. Family games–time to talk to Bill. Great quality in a relationship, not so great if it means the kids rarely get opportunities to talk to you because of it. We have time set aside as a couple every day and other times throughout the week, month, and year. And we push ourselves to be patient in the other times to wait for each other (cause true love waits–ba dum bum) so we can be free for the kids to talk our ears off.
- We have weekly time set aside just for our tweens. We call it Dude/Chick Time. After everyone else is in bed, we split into guys and girls to talk about tons of things relevant to their lives.
- As they enter this season, we take them on an individual weekend trip to talk to them about the changes that are coming up for them, how our bodies work, and sex. Every year after that, each of these kids get a day trip with one of us for some individual time and to continue these conversations.
We’d love to hear other ways you guys pour into your tweens. And we’d love your list of resources, too. Though we haven’t had great success finding quality ones we love, we still have hope they exist.