What parenting a 12-year-old is actually like

What parenting a 12-year-old is actually like
Image: Phillip Niemeyer

I have spent the past 363 days living with a 12-year-old, and reflecting back on this year, I realize that my expectations of parenting a 12-year-old were very different from the reality, and in a good way.  Here's what parenting a 12-year-old was actually like this past year.

What I thought having a 12-year-old would be like:

+ I anticipated a lot of friend Drama. (And yes, I thought it would be Drama with a capital "D," that's not a typo.)

+ I expected my child to grow.

+ I thought it was likely that my child would want little to do with me and I was fully prepared to become persona non grata.

+ When she got a smart phone, I thought she would make mistakes.

+ I knew that she would be eager to grow up.

What have a 12-year-old was actually like*:

+ She deepened existing friendships and made new friends, and the drama was minimal. There were of course some bumps along the friendship road, but overall I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed her friends, who were good kids.

+ My child not only grew, she grew a lot. Holy height gain, Batman. I'm back to being the shortest in the family, and the donation pile was full of pants that were too short. And that's just physically.

Mentally, emotionally and socially there was also a lot of growth, too, and sometimes her thoughts and insights blow me away. (Other times, however, I'm certain she has found and used an "off" switch for her brain.)

+ While my tween does seek more privacy than in past years, she hasn't slammed the door in our parental faces the way I anticipated, literally or figuratively. Maybe that's because she still needs transportation and payment, or maybe it's because making it clear that family time is a priority made her think resistance was futile. Or maybe we are in fact likable. (I will confess that she's been spending more time in her room the past week, so perhaps I was just a year off on this prediction.)

+ Got one right! She did, in fact, make mistakes with her phone. Nothing awful or Earth-shattering, but there were definitely some teachable moments. And when the phone was taken away for a month, she was surprised that life wasn't as bad without it as she anticipated.

+ While I've always been aware that growing up is inevitable, I didn't realize how very close some milestones would be at the end of 12. This brings her great glee, and me great, well, something that I don't have a word for. When she announced in the car that she was two years and three days away from being able to get a learner's permit for driving, I had a visceral physical reaction. Turning 13 is harder on me than I anticipated.

* No two 12-year-olds are alike, and everyone's experience is difference. As always, I write from my own personal experience.

I asked my husband if he had any expectations that were or were not met about age 12 and he replied, "Nope. I had no expectations. I'm just along for the ride, holding on tight." Perhaps that's a better approach.

Turns out, while 12 has its unexpected twists and turns, highs and lows, overall its been a fun ride. Just be sure to buckle up first.

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Filed under: Parenting

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