Upon thinking of this title, I recall memories from my time between the ages of 10-14. I remember going to the grocery store with my mom, who would spend forever shopping and making friends out of strangers. It wasn't something I, at the time, was particularly interested in. I wandered the store to find something to hold my attention. In order to find me by the time she got to checkout, my mom would ask the store clerk to call my name over the loudspeaker. Embarrassed and a little angry, I always came running to the front of the store to find my mom giving me that mom look (You know the one). It wasn't like I did anything wrong, I was just bored and thought I'd have more fun elsewhere. I mean, how could she embarrass me like that?!
Fast Forward to me now at age 32. As life often does, it came full circle with me yelling in the grocery store, threatening to take my 12 year old daughter's TV privileges away if I had to call her over the loudspeaker. Running toward me, I always feel myself making that very same mom face at her. A look of pure annoyance and dread typically plastered on hers. The dialogue usually goes a little something like this when she reaches me:
Montana-"You didn't have to do that! I could've found you! Everyone could hear you!"
Me-"Yeah, that was kind of the point.."
Montana-"I'm not a kid anymore! Geez!"
The checkout process is pretty quiet after, but I can feel glaring indifference burning through the back of my head. This is now common place in my parenting life. All I could think while the clerk bagged everything last week was "What the heck happened?!". One minute, I'm the one who knew everything about her, the one who could make her smile, the one who soothed her when she was upset, the one she came to for anything and everything. Now, I'm just annoying?! I don't think I've ever been so insulted with anything in my life. As a parent, I know I am to try and have patience and grace toward her while dealing with her moods, but dang! It stings so bad sometimes. I was told the shift from child to tween would be dramatic, but I was hoping for more of a slight climb up the mountain with some elevation pains, not a stick of dynamite exploding the mountain of childhood altogether. All the moans and groans when asked to do something and the eye rolls are enough to make anyone go crazy.
My breaking point, however, with this attitude came in December while on a little family vacation at a resort with an indoor waterpark. Having gone to this place most the days we were there, the chlorine was starting to get to me. Casey had taken a nap the day before, leaving Montana and I to go to the park by ourselves. Thinking we could take shifts, I asked if he would take her down there while I had myself a break.
The response from my daughter: "Fine whatever, I guess I'll go down with Dad since you're being such a buzzkill."
My kid has said some things to me that made me say "ouch" from time to time, but a buzzkill?!!
This was over the line.
In response, I did what any mature, level-headed parent would have done and completely lost it. It started out by saying everything I do for her day in and day out, then escalated into a fit of crying, which made my husband and daughter back out of the room and out the door. I was a bit on edge at that moment, but still, how could she have said that to me?! After some time of reflection and mauling things over, I headed down to the waterpark to meet up with them. At first, I ran into just Casey because Montana was floating the lazy river. After talking with him for a bit, he went to go try his hand at surfing the wave. This is when Montana walked up and quietly sat next to me. There was nothing said at first, just both of us looking on in silence, then she spoke up.
Montana-"You're not a buzzkill. I don't know why I said that."
Me-"It hurt me hearing that you know?!"
Montana-"Yeah, me and the rest of the hotel figured that one out."
Me-"Yeah... sorry about that. I just hate feeling like all I do is annoy you."
Montana-"I mean, I don't know. I just think things and then say them. You always tell me to be honest."
Me-"Well, yeah! But there's a nice way to do that!"
Montana-"You and dad talk like that to each other all of the time though."
(Ouch! Strike One!)
Me-"Umm well that's different! We do it jokingly and even if we are serious, we apologize after."
Montana-"It just seems like you get angry at me so easy now. I say anything, I feel like you're mad automatically."
Me-"Yeah....It's hard to hear you say I'm annoying or embarrassing all of the time, but you're right. I should try to manage that better."
Montana-"Do you have ever it figured out?!"
Montana-"Any of it. Like what to say, how to act."
Me-"What do you mean?!"
Montana-"I know I am still technically a kid, but I should act my age, but I don't know how or what that is. It's confusing."
Me-(Now at a complete loss for words.)
At this point, Casey came back with his knee injured from his endeavor and my focus went to that. Montana and I have picked up that conversation on and off since then. Did talking about this fix everything?!
I wish, but no.
It did, however, help me to tap into something I had long forgotten about as an adult. What it was really like to be a tween. When I would look at pictures of myself back then, I'd just laugh and say that it was my awkward stage. I had blissfully forgotten that not only was my clothing terrible and my hair bleached blonde, but I didn't feel like I fit into my own skin. I didn't know who I was, what I should be doing, what was appropriate for my age or for my speech. My friends and I would look up to famous adults and want to be like them, while at the same time living as children. It was conflicting, confusing, frustrating, and well, awkward.
Not only has looking back made me cringe a little at myself (I'm sorry 12 year old me), but it's changed my approach to how I deal with my awkward tween. I try and stop myself from just replying with anger (Doesn't always happen, I'm not perfect) and try to investigate what she's thinking or feeling. Questions get asked now instead of just blunt accusations about her mood. Sometimes, my questions come up short because she is just tired or grumpy. Other times though, she tells me what's up. A lot of the time, it's something I did or said that triggered her mood swing. It could be that I treated her too much like a kid, or that she felt like I was embarrassing her. My response to this varies depending on seriousness. The scale goes from momified sarcasm to active listening and engaging of the subject.
I have found with this method of doing things that, yes, I am still the most annoying person in her world, but I'm also the one she's most honest with. The stings of tweenage attitude remains and it still hurts, but I'm starting to see goofy, dorky, tween me now in her. The one I can have some serious conversation with, but still joke around about stupid stuff. When I hear "I love you" or receive a hug uninitiated, I know there is intent behind it and not just blind obedience. Her annoyance means something still, but her love means more now. I look forward to that most with this new territory of parenthood.
My mom has now received probably a million mental "I'm sorry" notes from me with all of this, and she'll probably receive a million more. This stage of parenthood is rough and rocky terrain, but when the sun comes shining through, it's a beautiful sight.
Thanks for reading! I'll see you on the next post! Have a blessed rest of your week :)!
Bonus: For your viewing pleasure, but definitely not for mine. Tweenage me!