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I’m thinking this whole blending family situation is ratcheting up a level with the tween factor now in my house. I’ve been a bit slow in accepting the reality that big sister is moving out of childhood and heading into puberty.
So, my sweetheart, cuddly, hilarious, funny little girl is also moody, angry, mad, surly, and practicing her attitude, with generous helpings of sassy commentary and disrespectful tones along the way.
And yet, the same girl who has a hissy fit supreme court argument about whether or not she needs put away her toys or books that she left scattered all over the floor, or whether she has to clear the table or stack the dishwasher, will the next hour demand hugs and cuddles and tell me about her hopes and fears.
Add in a dose of Exie making the world all about him via his words, phrases, attitude, etc,, it’s enough to drive me bananas.
For some really helpful advice, I went here--found from a simple google search for some help with my tween.
I resonated with a lot of what they said—and I think having the back and forth and dealing with a visitation schedule with a cranky Ex escalates some of my struggles. Here’s a little about what I’m trying to learn and apply:
Regarding #2 (Focus on the relationship, not discipline): Choose my battles. It’s like the toddler years all over again, except she can make logical (to her anyway) arguments that have me running in verbal circles. Is proving my point, or being “right” worth the sacrifice of a moment where I can choose to be close to her? It depends, is she endangering herself, me, her sister, the dog? If not…think about how to choose wisely.
Regarding #3/#4 (Tween independence; quality time): Hmmm…I think I’ll give myself a B+. I think both the Ex and I are protective of our time with our daughters, but from the beginning I’ve been more willing to forego “my week end” time so she can do normal growing-up-girl things, like sleepover slumber parties with friends, or inviting her friends along, so she can cultivate her identity separate from mom (and/or dad)—so she can be more independent.
I can also think about how to bring about more quality time with her (in between school, activities, visitation away from us—must.find.more.energy.in.the.tank), somehow, somewhere. I can get so wrapped up in the moment about getting homework, dinner, bath time done, that I don’t stop when she wants to joke and play with me—I just tell her to get moving, get in the bath, etc., and just a few weeks ago I realized that I needed to stop and smell the roses, be a little silly and let go. Enjoy those playful silly moments when she actually wants to be silly with me. That’s her way of reaching out.
And, while I’m normally the one who takes her to her events, who helps her teach her girl scouts, who helps her fundraise, who helps her bring goody bags and snacks to school for her teammates and/or friends—I definitely see that she craves one on one time with me, and I need to get better at that. She’s expressed interest in making earrings for craft fairs, I need to up my game and help her.
Regarding #5/#6/#12/#13 (empathy/anxiety re: growing up/taking things personally/insist on civility from a calm place): I can do better about empathizing—and I can so improve on not taking it personally. Sure, she may have just come back from an extended stay with dad. Sure I’m super excited to see her again and then can’t believe I’m arguing about how to teach the girl scouts a craft activity. Maybe ten minutes after picking her up is not the best time to get into a war of wills, because now we’re both sitting in sullen silence while driving 30 minutes to tennis practice. I have to remember if she’s getting testy or upset, there is a real reason under there, and usually after some time passes, she’ll tell me what it is. I have to cultivate those moments when she trusts me to tell me the things that worry her, and not get so bogged down in details. Which feeds into #14
Regarding #14 (strong feelings): Just because Ms. Tweenster is losing her SH*+ does not mean I have to. (Waaaay easier said than done, but well worth remembering). This is an opportunity to build a bridge, and go back to #13, civility and dignity, do not feed fire with fire. The battle of wills is where everyone loses. Ugh, and don’t I know it.
Here’s where I can get into my own !@#$ and realize I’m getting triggered. Why am I so upset she’s talking like this to me, is it because I’m afraid of something? Is it my weird abandonment/anxiety issues coming into play, and if so, is it time for me to take a damn deep breath? Likely, yes. (Thank god for therapy. And wine.)
On the bright side, for #8, #10, #11, #15 (computer time/couch potato/getting sleep/talking about relationships and sex/physically close): I think we’re doing okay there but I’ll keep monitoring. Both girls have a relatively early bed time, since our morning commute starts soo early. And I’ve been open about our bodies and how we develop, we often have body talks together, along with the animated American Girls books about growing up—I definitely want both daughters to have the words and language for our skin, bodies, and yes, talking about sex and what it is, too (mostly DD1 who’s curious at the moment). And I’m lucky that she’s still a snuggler and will cuddle at night at bed time (although no holding hands in the light of day, or if so, VERY RARELY, lol, le sigh). She likes to go to the beach and swim and she plays tennis; they know they have to balance screen time with reading time, and they know they can’t sit around and watch TV all day. In fact, it’s only when they get sick and are hopped up on Motrin or Tylenol, that they can have an Avatar marathon on Amazon prime, cuddled up with me and/or our dog on the couch—a rare treat. So maybe in these areas, I’ll give myself an A-.
And to wrap it all up, I think I’m in the midst of #16 (course correcting), as of writing this. I’ve been thinking a lot about how DD1 is changing and am wistful for her little girl days. But she’s not a little girl any longer, she’s almost as tall as me, she can fit my shoes for goodness sake (!!!!), so it’s time to get it together and embrace #1—the part about being willing to change.
A small baby step forward: the other night, we were holding hands saying our goodnight. Suddenly, DD1 got a bee in her bonnet because I was helping DD2 too much with our goodnight routine, but expecting DD1 to go along as usual (like we have every night, for every bed time in the past five years since DD2 has been old enough to sleep in the top bunk; that’s at least 1100+ bed times if you subtract out dad days, so you can see where I might be a little surprised). She decided she did NOT want to hold my hand and argued and bickered with me about what I should or shouldn’t do or help with DD2, and DD2 is SUCH a baby (at this time, DD2 was oblivious and was just happy she wasn’t arguing or in trouble, thank goodness I didn’t have TWO cranky girls at one time).
And while I’m about to start laughing now, in the moment, I could feel myself getting upset and angry. However, instead of demanding that DD1 use a more respectful tone and to stop arguing, I took a deep breath and just embraced the moment. I continued to tuck them in, starting with DD2. And I said: I love you so much girls, and I know you love me too, even if you’re mad at me.
DD2: I love you too mom!
DD1: (unintelligible grunt)
And a few seconds later, as I walked out of the room and across the hallway into mine, DD1 said: Don’t forget to check on me!!
Which is code for, come back and give me a hug in a little while. Which she has said every night for the last year. Which I realize is because her sister is asleep, and it’s our time to chat about whatever she’s thinking without being interrupted. And so I did.
Love wins. I hope.
Love wins. I hope.