The Tween Years

I loved the [fairly] straight-forward parenting of babies. I’m a bit of a rule-follower and soaked up everything my pediatrician said. Took notes, even. Sleep train? Check. Boot camp potty training? Check. Plenty of outside time at the park? Check. It’s all very step-oriented, and I like steps. And, we had our kids in church every time the doors were open. We really thought we had this parenting thing NAILED.The next several years would prove me…well, “wrong” doesn’t really even cut it. Let’s call me “blindsided.” Parenting babies had lulled me into a false sense of security that you could actually GET it…

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Fast forward to age 10…my oldest, my son, is a tweenager. We are on the road to puberty. In other words, it just got real around here. There are no logical steps in this part of the parenting process! In his book Sacred Parenting, Gary Thomas says that parenting requires skills only the Lord possesses. My first thought when reading that was to look heavenly and say a sarcastically heartfelt “THANKS.” But my second was, thank the Lord someone said it out loud! It’s so true, and I’m so grateful I read it because as much as I try to fight it and think I can handle it on my own, I cannot. I need God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit and several of the apostles if we are going to make it through the next eight years.

It requires God-sized patience when the emotions go from happy like Pharell Williams to I HATE MY LIFE AND ALL WHO INHABIT IT in the course of about three seconds.

It requires God-inspired wisdom to answer ALL THE QUESTIONS, usually at the worst possible times. In the Target checkout line perusing the tabloids, “What is a sex tape?” (For the record…I focused on the “tape” part of the answer and our foray into the old days of VHS proved a worthy distraction.)  

It requires God-given peace for what the future holds when they ask you to take them to the Parkour jam and you see all the tattoos and the swinging off of bars and the jumping off of structures that may be in your future.

The tweenage years can be some of the greatest and most frustrating times of your parenting life. The independence is nice (Look at me, I’m sending kids to the bathroom by themselves!), but building a relationship that prepares you for the biggest changes your child will face is overwhelming.

So, as a mom of a boy at this age, I need help. I like sports, I have older brothers, I thought we would be fine! We’re not fine, and I feel very inadequate. Thank the Lord I have Godly counsel in the form of those who have gone before. Based on lots of talking and asking questions and praying that I can be a good mom to a growing boy, I’m trying to be more intentional about our relationship. Every kid is different, but here are some things that ~seem~ to be working for us right now. These are not my ideas, but the result of some great advice.

  • I try REALLY hard not to react poorly (read:  freak out) when he asks me a hard question about his body or tries out the new word he learned at soccer practice.  As many friends with older kids have taught me…you WANT them to ask questions…you WANT them to try out new words with you.  If you freak out, they just won’t ask anymore.
  • I picked out a book series we could read together. See, he’s growing up, but he still loves us to read to him. And those times reading together have spurred some of our sweetest discussions. We read a series about a boy whose dad disappeared, and it opened up a chance for me to share what it was like to lose my dad at 14 and how the Lord sustained me through it. The boy in the book also has his first feelings of attraction toward a girl, and we got to gently discuss that too.
  • I’m trying to learn more about his interests. I learned about Minecraft. I watch Parkour videos with him. We play Pokemon Go together and he educates me. Yes, I feel like a dork, but in his comfort zone he gets comfortable and he talks to me.
  • I have made him more accountable. I avoided giving him chores for a long time because it was just easier to do it myself, but that was wrong. He needs them…he needs to contribute to our family and feel good about his work.
  • I am honest with him. When he asks me a question, I answer it. If it’s beyond what I think he can and should hear at his age, I tell him that. If I don’t know something, I tell him that, too. If it’s something we can’t discuss in front of his sister, I tell him to remind me later and we’ll talk about it. And we’ve had enough of these moments for him to know he can trust me.  

And of course, the most important thing to do is realize we are not alone. We have a heavenly Father who WANTS to be here with us and His word that wants to teach us; who desires to help us if and when we ask. Thank God.

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Sara Beth Arcara and her husband Jamey attend the Barracks Row campus with their children Sam (10) and Eloise (6).  Her kids do part-time school and she does part-time work at their school (Capitol Hill Learning Group).  She loves to cook, drink coffee, hang with her family, walk around Capitol Hill, and watch football (go Vols!).