MOMMYHOOD: Dear Fellow Tween Mom, The Fun Isn't Over, It's Just Different.
I recently read a really good blog post that was widely shared across the Internet, about being the mom of older children. The article was melancholy and hit home in many ways. Truthfully, I found myself crying at the end of it, and shared it prevalently among my own network of moms (warning them to have tissues nearby). What was it that resonated with me? The idea of a mom blogger going quiet, sharing less on my blog as my pubescent daughter becomes more private, which in turn makes me more private? That the pains and awkwardness of this age bring back so much of our own agony, awkwardness and heartbreak as well? That we try so hard to help them, as they often pull away from us? The article spoke also of hope, and that most of our tween children will eventually come out the other side as well adjusted, confident adults-as long as we continue to love them and support them through it all.
Yes, I too grieve my missing precocious, outgoing kid that announced her name as "karate horsey" the first day of preschool, not caring about the giggles that ensued from her classmates. I miss the kid that would come downstairs dressed in a clone trooper helmet, Yoshi slippers, mismatched clothes while holding an American flag, ready to enact a play about Lord knows what. I miss the kid that wanted to go to the "Museum of Science and Mystery." (She couldn't say industry for years, and we kind of liked the idea of a museum of mystery.) I miss the busy girl who would have died to go slumming around the city with me on any day off I had. I keep hoping that kid is still in there, somewhere. "She has to be!" I keep telling myself. Hormones and peer pressure can't change a person that much, can they? Is my mommy future really quieter and lonelier for a while, as the article I mention above acknowledged?
Yes, our lives are quieter. Our daughter is quieter. We are out and about less. She says less. But there are also joys in this time of our lives with her. These moments are very different, but I am finding them more special-more intimate. Because my daughter is becoming her own person. She is starting her passage into adulthood. And I, as her mother, am a big part of it. It came to me as I was emailing her an article about some artists in an art class in the 70's who all turned out to be the major animators of today. This art class, it's teacher and philosophy, helped change animation as we know it.
I emailed this article to her, with a "I thought you would find this interesting." As I hit "send" it hit me. Wait a minute. I can send my daughter an article like this. She is at an age that I can share things like this-intellectual things, funny things, things that interest her.
When did this happen? (Cue epiphany.)
This is the age that your child starts carving out their interests and passions. They start focusing on the stuff they are talented at, too, as a way to define who they are in the world. This helps with their delicate self confidence as they try to gain acceptance from their peers and teachers. I am finding these interests as a way for me to connect with my quieter, more introverted daughter.
I am enjoying sharing articles I see about art and animation, a new passion of hers. I also send her funny Dr. Who memes, a new obsession of hers since we exposed her to the series (OLD Dr. Who, by the way. She says the old Dr. Who is much better.) She'll email funny memes and notes back to me, too. It's a fun banter between us and a new way to communicate with each other.
I am loving Spotify, too, for the same reasons. I am following my daughter's play list and get all giddy when I see that she added a new band or song that I introduced her too. And by following her play list, I am getting exposed to new music that she likes. Music gives us something to talk about in the car or around the dinner table. Music was so important for me growing up. It is for all of us, I think. Didn't we all create mix tapes and share bands? I still love music and I am finding it as a way to connect and grow with my daughter now.
That also goes for movies & books, too. I am noticing it's less about animated movies these days, as she is opening up to watching some of my old favorites like Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Edward Scissorhands or Indiana Jones. Her age and intellectual maturity is allowing a whole new world of sharing, and it's pretty cool. Sometimes we miss the mark with a movie, and she retreats to her room. But sometimes, we hit a home run and she hangs out with us, munching on popcorn, totally engrossed in what movie we exposed her too. And the joy and surprise of what resonated and what didn't is always fascinating to me. This is an emerging adult, slowly coming out of her cocoon. Each hit or miss allows us to learn about this little person. I think she is learning a lot about herself, too.
The other aspect our tweeners have that we did not when we were growing up is technology. The "Information Age" is allowing our kids to really learn and create within seconds, and in doing so discovering things about themselves. They are evolving and learning at record speed. It is another avenue of joy and surprise for me as a mother. Last night, my daughter invited me into her "inner sanctum" (a.k.a. her bedroom) to help her create music. She downloaded a demo of music making software, and said I had a "better ear" than she did. (I am not sure where she got this idea, but heck, when your tweener asks you to come into their room to hang out with them, you should oblige. You never know when the next invitation will happen.) I watched her in amazement as she was pulling tracks and working through complex menus. We had fun trying to figure out a song together, but I also was secretly marveling at how fast my kid was navigating this new piece of music software. Music making? Yet another facet of my child that I didn't know was growing under the surface. She shared other music created in this program which she found on YouTube while searching out some tutorials. It was a great night, and I am glad I skipped laundry to hang out with her. We were just two girls checking out music, a perfect bonding night.
The years ahead will be stretched tight with a lot of tears, heartbreak, friend drama, peer pressure, acne problems and school stress. And yes- it is a quieter, less busy "mommy time". But in those moments of doubt and loneliness, I turn on my daughter's Spotify play list and rejoice in who she is, and who she is becoming, because it's all there. Just perusing and enjoying her play list, I know I am making an impact. Every time she quotes something profound from a movie I exposed her too, my heart skips a beat in happiness. Every time we laugh and giggle in the car when she shares some quippy observation about life, I need to believe that deep inside there, my outspoken-fun-loving-clone-trooper-helmet-wearing-preschooler is waiting. I see glimpses of her. And I rejoice in those moments.