The Terrible Tweens

Life isn’t easy. Being an adult means having a lot of responsibility: bills, cooking, cleaning, teaching kids values, holding your own in a sometimes challenging world… It’s no cake walk. But it’s a hell of a lot easier than being a 12-year-old girl.

As I watch my oldest become a tween, I remember what it was like. I want to hide her in a closet and let her out when she’s 14. Middle school sucks. Tween girl drama sucks. Mean friends (frenemies) suck. Zits suck. Being 12 can suck.

Hearing what goes on in the circle of tween girls takes me right back to 7th grade. I remember I said something mean about my friend’s awful boyfriend, and she hated me forever for it—they both bullied me for years. It was awful, but I should have kept my mouth shut. Lesson learned. I try to teach this to my daughter, but I’m just the mom. What do I know? I see her (and her friends) making the same mistakes I did, having the same fights, crying similar tears—and it sucks.

The middle school years are such a complicated time. It’s God’s cruel trick. Puberty, self-consciousness, independence, vanity, and innocence all converge into one giant mess of hormones. I remember being 12 and just wanting to grow up. I hope my daughter doesn’t feel this way and enjoys childhood, but I wouldn’t blame her for wanting to blow past middle school!

Hearing the stories of the drama, the fears, and the self-doubt make me want to protect her, but that’s God’s cruel trick for parents of tweens: It’s a time when we have to start letting them learn their own lessons. (Because they wouldn’t listen to us anyway!)

I’ve been thinking a lot about how to respond and handle the friend problems she shares with me. For the next few years, I plan to use the “you-can’t-love-them-too-much” approach. Middle school is not a time for me to give tough love. The other kids will be tough enough on my children, I need to be that soft place to land. I hope my kids will have an easier time than I did navigating the cold halls, loud lockers, impossible combination locks, and meanness of middle school. Thankfully, it’s only a few years, and this too shall pass.

This week, I wish you nice friends, smooth back-to-school shopping, and a soft place to land when the world is mean.