I’d like to start off with a story if I could, from mother to mother, me to you. January is slow and you’ve got time, right?
Once upon a time, when my girls were 3 and 18 months it first hit me, as one pigtail-sporting tot stood on the top step of our wooden staircase letting raw eggs from the fridge sail into the air and splat on the landing below. Unfortunately, it took me FOREVER to figure out what that sound was. Meanwhile, the other distracted me with a dirty diaper and by being hungry. Later, after the mystery splatting noise was identified, I thought with a heavy sigh as I tried to scrub egg yolks out of the tiny cracks of the hardwood floor, “HOW… am I going to keep track of these two?” I scrubbed harder. I was so very tired. Had I slept in months? And I cried a little.
Short story #2: Around that same phase of life, at “nap time,” we’ll call it, my tiny girl took off her diaper and smeared her own poop all over each bar of her crib and the wall within her reach with loving care until I wondered if it could really be true that she was sleeping so soundly, so quietly and so quickly, and when I went to check, NOPE. NOPE. Not sleeping at all. And I cried a little as I made her tiny hand clean off every bar with an entire spool of Clorox wipes. I made her do it. It was her first real punishment, you know?
Listen, I have the most awesome memories of my tiny babes, and they brought me more joy than I can measure, but I’m not going to lie to my fellow mamas and say it was all cake and lattes. Back then I’d often think, If I can’t handle the toddler years, what am I going to do when they are like, 11 and 12?! “The Tween Years,” if you will. You know, tween = the few awkward years right before the real teen years. I pictured lots of slamming doors, red-faced yelling with unreasonable teenage angst, “You never understand me!” Ugh!!! Oh, the rolling of the eyes. I worried about this. Because if I couldn’t keep up with tiny people and their tricks (although the older they get, the more I can laugh about it now), how was I going to manage the real deal on the horizon?
Well, I’m here to report that the tween years, the ones we dread because of the attitude, the yelling, the slamming of doors? These years exist. They are not just scenes on horrible TV shows on the Disney Channel.
But, I have good news!
There are great things to behold at this age! In no particular order, I give you the awesome things about having a tween.
- They are finally FUN to have at the store with you. Me to my oldest: “Want to go to Target?” Oldest girl: “Sure! Can we get Starbucks, too?!” Me: (DUH.) “Um, I guess… if you help me with coupons.” Oldest girl: “YAY! Let’s go!” Me in my mind: “YAY! Let’s go!”
- Housework gets easier. Once you endure the initial eye rolling, cow noises, door slamming, and “discussion” about why one child is not actually doing more work than the other child and why life is not fair, it is easier to get things done together! Put those big kids to work and get ‘er done! And no one is dumping Cheerios out of the box in the corner on the carpet while you are unsuspectingly cleaning the bathroom. Or throwing eggs down the landing.
- They share fashionable clothes with you. My almost 12-year-old wears a size 10 women’s shoe. BOOYAH. While you shop for shoes, remember this line: Old kid: “Mom, look at these boots! Can we get them, puhleeease?” You: “Well, I don’t know…. I suppose if we can share them…. Hmmm… but, I don’t know.” Old kid: “Oh, yes! We can share them for sure!!! And I can do chores to work them off!” Annnd done. Cute boots picked out by someone who knows fashion, an offer to do chores to work off the price: 2-for-1 deal.
- They are nice people. The best part about having kids this age is not always their behavior at home, I’ll admit. The best part is seeing them function and hopefully thrive in the great big world out there. I love to hear them talk to their friends’ parents in such a respectful way, their responses to their teachers when working out an issue, their politeness to store clerks when we are out and about, watching them babysit another person’s babe with such care and grace. This age offers PROOF that a mama’s hard work in the tiny years produces totally worth it awesome big people! All the hard work and the tears if you’ve been there too… it is totally worth it. Way to go mamas!
They go from this…
…to this. The first babysitting job. It happens in minutes.
And that makes me cry a little… in a totally good way.