I Am Now Parenting a Tween


tweenParenting a tween is somewhat like a series of heartbreaks. Your sweet little child changes a thousand little things and starts the transition into a teen.

While I knew this day was coming, I had previously spent all of my time worrying about what it would mean to help lead my kids through the physical changes they would experience because of puberty. I hadn’t thought about all of the social and relationship changes that would happen as they transitioned from a kid to a teen.

I wasn’t ready for my child to prefer spending time with friends to time with family – and to get requests for seeing friends every day of the week.

I wasn’t ready for the demands and questioning about the details of EVERY single decision. I wasn’t prepared for the negotiations and hard sell for whatever thing was wanted at that given moment.

And while there have been some things that have changed that I wish I could rewind, there are other changes that are a nice change of pace.

For instance, my kids have always been early birds, and their mornings have slowly changed – moving their typical 6 a.m. wake-up times to 7 a.m. and even 8 a.m. this summer. Mama loves a chance to sleep in now and again.

While there used to be a growing resistance to be photographed, this had morphed into my tween taking a million selfies, which was a lovely flashback to when my kids were preschoolers, and each time I picked up my phone, there were new selfies in the photo gallery.  

There was even the start of deeper and more thoughtful conversations. A better ability to articulate wants and needs. And also the challenges of being asked questions about why things happen in the world that aren’t cut and dry. Why aren’t their women on dollar bills? What does Power of Attorney mean? Why would someone shoot kids in a school? Why is this my bedtime? When do you think you will die? And so many others.

The upside is that we now can have a long, careful discussion about these and other topics. And when I say “I don’t know” and explain why that can sometimes be a good enough answer because we both know we don’t live in a black and white world.

And while some things have changed radically, like my tween saying she doesn’t want to go to college at the university where I teach (which my little one thinks is a brilliant idea), there are a few things that still haven’t changed.

Like the power of mama’s snuggles to make her feel better when she is sick or upset. Or the love of reading together at night as a family.

So at least for the moment, I would say that the scary and sad changes are being outweighed by the good ones. We are learning to renegotiate our relationship and still talking to each other about things big and small.

While my tween sometimes pushes all my buttons and makes me insane, every time I let her go to a friend’s house, and I get the report from the friend’s mom that her behavior was excellent and that she seems like a lovely young lady, I can’t help but think I must be doing something right.

I have succeeded in teaching her to treat others well, while she also knows that it is safe to push the boundaries and learn those negotiating skills at home because she knows I will always love her, no matter how crazy she makes me.

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Erika is a professor of Chemistry and Environmental Studies and mom to two kids (2010 and 2013) plus two cats (2005 and 2019). A Midwestern transplant who has lived in 32 places, she has happily called Fairfield her home for the past 12 years. At work, she directs a program to support first-generation and underrepresented student success in science. In town, she can often be found driving her kids back and forth to their respective sporting events and teams or sitting in a coffee shop using the wifi to get a little work done before pick up. Erika loves spending time enjoying the water, cooking, theater, reading, and hanging out with her husband.


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