MOMMYHOOD: The Tug and Pull of 12



Navigating the tween years can be so tricky.

You get through the no-sleep, diaper ridden newborn phase, the toddler tantrum phase and the play ground politics elementary school phase coming out of all of it seemingly unscathed. During the whole journey, this child of yours is practically another bodily appendage, holding your hand on the way to school and wanting you to stay with them at bedtime. They want to read with you, snuggle with you, do everything with you. 

Now I walk into my 12 year old daughter's room and she asks why I am there, with that little bit of edgy attitude. You know the tone? You may recognize it because you had it too, many years ago.
At bedtime, she wants to get her own water and doesn't always want me to tuck her in anymore.
She can't wait to get out of my car at school drop off.

As she pulls away from me, I try and stay close. After all, isn't this the phase that I should be knowing what she's doing, who she is hanging out with and talking to? Isn't this the precarious phase where bad influences can prove disastrous for my daughter? I also...well...I miss her. But when I push into her life, she often pushes back. A few months ago, I was at my wit's end.

I finally sat down to talk to her. The conversation went like this:
"I just want you to know, I want to respect your privacy. And I am so used to you wanting me around, doing so much for you and with you. I am having trouble knowing when to be around and when not-and I miss spending so much time with you. If you want to hang out or want me to tuck you in or watch a movie together, I need you to let me know, because I want to be there for you. Otherwise I'll try and give you more space, OK? I know you are becoming your own person and want more independence. I don't want to squash that. Does that sound like a deal? Can you help me know what you need from me by communicating more?"

"Yes, mom."

So now it's a dance. I give her space, nudging in when my instincts tell me I should, and when she surprises me and says, "I want to hang out with you after homework and watch a show." I make sure to drop whatever I was planning on doing and get in that time with her. Sometimes she can't communicate when she needs me, so I'm always on the "mamma-bear-instincts-red-alert" when I feel she may need me to push in. I am in a "Stop, Drop and Be There" mode. If I don't do it now, what will the teen years be like? I will barely see her at all!

I have noticed that because I respect her privacy now she wants to hang out with me more-and tells me so. It has made us closer, and she has a lot less attitude when she talks to me. Maybe because I have made a point to try and understand her and force her to communicate her needs with me? I am not sure. 

SO the dance continues, maybe well into high school.
I push in sometimes but generally follow her lead. We get close when she asks and then she boogies on her own for a while until she asks for another twirl. And when she asks for a dance, I oblige-no matter what. Because I never know when the next dance will happen. You have to be there when they want you or else they may stop asking for a dance with you all together. That's a slippery slope I don't want to go down.

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