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Thursday, June 2, 2011

Having a tween girl – not all it is cracked up to be.

I was asked by my mom a few weeks ago what a tween was. I tried to explain it to her and her response was to tell me how stupid that sounded and why the world has to come up with so many new-fangled terms nowadays. I just laughed and told her that her granddaughter is technically a tween (for a few more months) and then we move into the “official” teenage years.

The definition of a tween according to about.com is, “A child between the ages of 9 and 12. A tween is no longer a little child, but not quite a teenager. While a tween is not yet in the midst of adolescence, he or she will face a variety of obstacles in the next few years including transitioning from elementary school to middle school, approaching puberty, increasing responsibilities, increasing amounts of homework, and exposure to dangerous behaviors by their peers including drugs, sex, and more.” (source)

It is amazing how much your life as a parent changes once your son or daughter enters into the stages of adolescence and puberty. Moods change, attitudes need adjusting and of course the body starts changing. Schools start to offer sex education talks; our children need to start using deodorant, razors and special soaps to keep acne away - and that is just the start of it! I recall when the letter went home about the parent/child sex education talk for girls. I was thrilled! I figured I was getting off easy, someone else was going to say the embarrassing stuff and I just had to sit back and take it all in. Sadly, I didn’t get to go with my daughter, her step-mom went with her because I was ill. However, I can tell you that she came home boldly stating that she will never use a tampon and was devastated that she won’t be able to swim for a week each month because of it. I told her that she needed to actually start her period and then we would cross that bridge when we got there.

Things started changing when she made it to the fifth grade. We had the sex education talk and she needed to start wearing a bra. I seriously don’t remember when I got my first bra, but I don’t think it was in fifth grade! Regardless, we went shopping and got some cute sports bras and tanks that had bras built into them (since she was so into layering) to start with. We made it through fifth grade and the following summer without any major issues. She had no desire to shave her legs and didn't get her period, which I think makes for a good summer!

Beginning sixth grade has been exciting! This will be her last year in an elementary school before moving up to middle school. The girls at school are starting to get interested in boys and the dinner conversations switch from “How was your day at school?” to “Guess who has a new boyfriend/girlfriend this week.” I was blown away.

On my daughter's twelfth birthday, God graced her with her period. She was just devastated! It was like the world crashed down around her. She had cramps, was moody, and considering this marked the start of her turning into a woman, as her mom; I'm struggling with the idea myself! She is a little older than some of her friends, so I know she was the first to start and that kind of flipped her out a little bit. She didn’t know who she could tell and who she could trust. She was upset about the whole swimming thing, and next thing you know she is invited to a sleepover and didn’t know how to handle it. In the end it all worked out just fine, but the questions kept coming and I did my best to answer them. Sometimes we sat down and Googled the answer together but other times I just told her what had happened to me in the past and she was happy to hear that.

It doesn’t matter what store you walk into, you will be hit with a plethora of tween driven marketing. From video games to clothes from makeup to music, there are items directed at tweens all over your local Target and Wal-Mart stores and that is just the beginning! Have you ever watched Disney or Nickelodeon? Every other commercial from the hours of 7 pm to 11 pm are geared towards the tweens. Hannah Montana, Justin Beiber, The Jonas Brothers, Big Time Rush, Selena Gomez and Harry Potter dominate the marketplace with their own clothing line; snacks, CD’s, DVD’s and they are on covers of books, movies, magazines and all over the shelves.

I am amazed at the way my daughter dresses now. She just got her ears double pierced and likes to have her hair straightened, highlighted and colored (by mom) and somewhat enjoys shopping for her own clothes now. She likes picking out her own outfits, will now wear jeans (after a two year hiatus) and takes pride in having her nails done and sometimes even wears a little bit of makeup. Wearing the right name brands is important to her and staying up to date on current events also tops the list of dinner table conversations.

The one thing that hasn’t changed is that she loves me. She still loves to curl up on the couch with me and enjoys spending time with me. I love that she isn’t embarrassed to be seen with me and that her friends actually like me. Ah, friends - that is another thing that changes as a tween. The friends that she has had since first grade start to change. They start to either become closer or drift apart and there is nothing that I, as a parent, can do about it - it just happens. There is nothing I can do but give her hugs and kisses when a friend becomes a former friend or someone says something nasty. I can’t make her keep friends because I am a friend with the parent and I can’t force her to be friends with someone because I think they are a good kid. She has her own independent personality and she is getting older and more responsible and has the right to pick and chose her own friends.

Something else that defines a tween is the preparation and transition from elementary to middle school. I am in the midst of this change as I write this and boy is it challenging. She will be going from four teachers to eight and will have a locker, three times as many students surrounding her and lots more homework, peer pressure and a larger possibility of bullying. There is that word, bullying. It has been running rampant across the news lately and is the word of the decade. I seriously believe that there is bullying in schools, but if we raise our children right and teach them respect and how to be honest and forthright that they can stand up to any bully, boy or girl, and walk away with his/her head held high.

I am not an expert in parenting nor do I claim to know it all, but as a mom of a tween and having been a tween once myself I can tell you that it gets better and the awkwardness goes away. It is an experience that provides a lifetime of lessons and while it may be confusing at times it is also one of the best experiences in the circle of life

Post submitted by Jody from ClevelandMommies.com

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