ChicagoNow occasionally hosts Blogapaloooza. Bloggers are given a topic at 9 p.m. and must publish by 10 p.m. Tonight's assignment was to write about a challenged faced by us or someone else.
For a moment, my mind was blank.
And then, I slapped myself on the forehead.
What I said to myself went something like this:
DUH! What is WRONG with you? You're raising a tween! That is a big challenge! A really frickin' huge challenge, actually!
And not just one challenge, oh no. It wouldn't be that easy. It's a ton of challenges. A relentless stream of challenges, one after another, day after day, coming at you at an exhausting pace, from all sides, with no end in sight. Well, perhaps there is an end in sight, but that involves my daughter having her driver's license, so I choose not to think about that.
The challenges range from the big stuff, like keeping your kids off drugs, to the little stuff, like keeping your dinner down when your tween starts talking about the rashes and ingrown toenails shown during the "Hygiene Makeover" video that aired in health class that day.
Tweens are constantly challenging boundaries set up for them, especially those by parents. They are supposed to do so, but the fact that it is "developmentally appropriate" (whatever that means) is cold comfort.
Hormones = challenge.
Not knowing whether my kid will act like she's 2 or 32 can also pose a challenge. Tweens can veer from displaying behavior similar to that of a toddler to seeming like a wizened citizen of the world making an erudite comment on current events, and they do so in a matter of minutes. Not days, or even hours. Minutes. I swear tween parents should be given a neck brace to help with the whiplash.
Having the child who not all that long ago thought you hung the moon and the stars exhibit active disdain for you causes an internal challenge, both with the fact that that this is supposed to happen as well as presenting the challenge of coming face to face with how wrong you may have been in the treatment of your own parent.
Trying not to laugh at your child when he/she tells you a piece of information that you have known for decades as though they are the first ones to know this EVER is a challenge. And not informing them that you are, in fact, not the dumbest person on the planet can also be a challenge. (Remember, there can be benefits to them thinking you're not that bright. Don't blow your cover, smart parents!)
The challenge of figuring out what is appropriate for a tween to listen to, watch, play, download, etc. could be a full time job. The fact that systems set up to supposedly help parents know what's appropriate have failed make it an even bigger challenge, as illustrated by last week's study that PG-13 movies have more violence than R rated movies makes deciding what movies are okay a challenge.
Watching your tween make mistakes, bigger mistakes than when they were young, and knowing that you have to let them make them and learn from them is a bitch.
Knowing that you as a parent will make mistakes, bigger mistakes than when they were young, is also a bitch.
Being witness to the hurt left in the wake of harsh words, unkind behavior, bullying presents both a parenting challenge and a self-restraint challenge that comes from keeping oneself from telling those obnoxious mean kids exactly what you think of them and what you'd like to do them if they don't stop.
In the midst of all this, a tween parent cannot show weakness or fear and must mask exhaustion. They'll smell any of that and pounce. No, a parent must have a "I can handle whatever you throw at me, kid. Bring. It. On." attitude.
Even my mother says she's glad she's not raising a tween in this day and age, and she's a woman who has tackled many a challenge and does not shy away from them.
Lest it sounds like I'm feeling sorry for myself, please know that I wouldn't have it any other way.
I was not so naive as to think that shepherding offspring through puberty would be easy.
Never did I think that any stage of parenting would be anything other than hard. Being responsible for another human being whom you love more than life itself has not been presented as something akin to falling off a log.
And I know I'm not alone. I love how Tween Us has grown into a community of parents going through the same things, facing the same challenges.
As Rose Kennedy said, "What greater aspiration and challenge are there for a mother than the hope of raising a great son or daughter?"
Challenge gladly accepted.
You can read all of the Blogapalooza posts on challenges here. They are awesome, and I'm grateful to be among such great writers.
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