The not-so-secret life of the American Tweenager


I’m swiftly sailing into uncharted territory here with my oldest child. Not so much swiftly sailing into, more like hurled face-first into an angry sea, without a life jacket, surrounded by sharks, sharks that want to rip your face off but also want you to take them Pokemon hunting. It’s weird.

Living with a kid in the in-between stages of kid vs. Teenager (Get it? “Tween”?) is quite a journey of emotions and full of contradictions.

For example, lunch out with your tween will go something like this:

You: Hey, want to go to your favorite restaurant for lunch today? (It’s not really where I want to go, even though it’s my birthday, I’m just really not in the mood to hear you complain about it and I’d like to sit and have a nice lunch without some major ‘tude.)

Tween: Ugh. Gross. I hate that place. (two minutes later:) Fine.

Hostess: (Oh, the poor hostesses at these restaurants! So awkward trying to judge the ages of the children and not wanting to offend anyone. Looks over our party of four with a quizzical expression:) So…do you need…um, how many kids menus would you like?”

Tween (looking at his little brother, offended to be put in the same camp as a six-year-old): I DON’T NEED A KID MENU!

You: Just one please. (Even though you know damn well he is going to order the kids’ pasta.)

You: (Suggest everything on the menu he might possibly eat. After all, you know him pretty well.)

Tween: MOM! You don’t have to tell me everything that’s on the menu!

You: Okay, are you sure you don’t want to look at your brother’s kid menu?

Tween: (Rolls eyes so hard it probably hurts the inside of his brain.)

But you can tell he’s getting nervous now. Nothing on the grown-up menu is appealing to him; however, he’s made such a big deal about not being a kid that he feels trapped. He starts to ask a million questions about “what’s on” certain menu items and decides he doesn’t like any of them so he’ll “just have the kids’ pasta” because he’s “not that hungry anyway.”

Other favorite activities include:

• Wants to stay home alone sometimes but also requires one or both parents stay awake until he falls asleep at night.

-Wants to stay up late because “only babies go to bed that early” but also falls asleep at normal (baby) time.

• Will only wear “certain” brands of clothes but still has an affinity for stuffed animals and a certain blanket.

• Hair must be perfect when leaving the house, but still needs to be “forcibly encouraged” to shower and brush teeth.

• Begs to play Rated M video games (no), but covers ears and runs through the room at rapid speed if parents are watching The Walking Dead or anything with “scary” music.

Oh, little tween-o-mine, I get it. I really do. You’re still a kid wanting so desperately to grow up, with every instinct inside of you fighting the other. Part of you is itching to become an independent man, a lone wolf, ready to take on the world…while the other part of you is like “WAIT! Stop! We still really enjoy Legos, and cartoons, and wrapping Fruit RollUps around our finger, and pretending mechanical pencils are giving us injections, and think farts are the funniest thing to ever happen to mankind!”

Here’s a secret, kiddo: This internal fight never goes away. Eventually you just end up on the other side of it.

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