Friday, August 26, 2011

The Seven Tweenly Sins

"Of the seven deadly sins, only envy is no fun at all." ... Joseph Epstein

I truly believe that all babies are born innocent and good. Regardless of their religion or whether anyone puts holy water on their head, no baby in my book ends up in limbo. If there is a heaven, and I hope there is, it is chock-a-block full of babies.

But, something happens along the way as they grow wise, grow stubborn and grow up. Tweens may still be little angels on the inside, but they can be positively devilish on the outside.

Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Sloth, Wrath, Envy, Pride. The seven tweenly sins will not land the typical tween in hell, but they can certainly put well-meaning moms in parental purgatory.

Let's begin at the beginning: Lust. My daughter, like every other girl her age, is pure passion. Much to her father's relief, her lust for life does not yet center around boys or even one particular boy (I won't count Darren Criss from Glee; while her admiration runs deep, she hasn't technically met him). She does, however, love her horses with an "intense appetite," "uncontrolled desire," and "enthusiastic craving." There you have it ... the dictionary definition of Lust, the first tweenly sin.

Next: Gluttony. My daughter has an adorable figure. It would take major — and I do mean, major — surgery (along the lines of amputation really) for me to fit into her size 3 Hollister jeans. This natural slenderness, however does not keep her from ingesting her body weight in pizza, pasta, Cheetos, dark chocolate M&Ms and orange soda. My idea of a snack? A small handful of roasted pumpkin seeds. My tween's idea of a snack? A small handful of roasted pumpkin seeds AND a pint of Ben & Jerry's ice cream.

The third sin is Greed. In the gospel according to tween, more is more. Sugar Lips tank tops, Breyer horse models, Japanese erasers, iPhone apps, iTunes songs, Gossip Girl books. More, more, more. With all due respect to Gordon Gecko, I insist that "Greed is not good." It isn't even feasible. Well, not unless you have lucrative babysitting gigs and a mother with a very good credit rating.

Then, we get to Sloth. To see this particular sin in action, simply step inside my daughter's bedroom door. On any given day, you'll find drawers hanging out of the dresser, discarded outfits wadded up on the carpet, a cluttered desk, an unmade bed. But, none of this bothers her (as you've probably gathered I can't say as much for her dear old mother). Is she blind or just lazy? Or, is she simply a tween?

Wrath. To prepare us for the eventuality of PSATs, Wrath is to Sloth, as ...
(a) My daughter's reaction is to my insistence that she clean her room.
(b) My daughter's reaction when I threaten to cancel a sleepover or riding date unless she clean her room.
(c) My daughter's reaction to my confiscating her electronica until she cleans her room.
(d) All of the above.

And that brings me to the sixth sin: Envy. The tween and teen years are a period of intense scrutiny and keenly-felt comparisons. "So-and-so gets to stay up as late as she wants." "What's-her-name's mother bought her a horse." "Whosit never has to make her bed." As an enlightened, 21st-century mom, I try to get my arms around every potential teachable moment. "There will always be things you want but can't have, honey." "There will always be people with more than you." More importantly, there will always be people, millions and millions and millions of people in this world, who have far less than my daughter. Somewhere, deep inside, she knows this.

FInally, we have Pride. While I have drilled into my daughter's head, longer than she can remember, that I'm so proud of her, we are talking about something else here. Austen's Mr. Darcy would argue that, "Where these is a real superiority of mind, pride will be always under good regulation." My daughter has come to believe that she has that "real superiority of mind," at least where her father and I are concerned. There is very little we say or do these days that doesn't elicit rolled eyes, pained sighs or at the very least a tolerant half-smile.

When faced with one (or several, for as you can imagine, they travel in packs) of the tweenly sins, I try to keep a sense of humor. I trust that my daughter will outgrow them.

Just as she will eventually outgrow those jeans.


  1. Alex, I am Pam's friend. I love your posts. I am a relatively new Mom. I have a preschooler who is not quite 3. I was that child, despite all my mom's best efforts. But the good news is that I treasure my Mom now, which only happened after I became a Mom. My mom and I had the relationship of love-hate during my teen years, and off and on throughout my 20s and 30s. Whenever I was strong-willed, or wanted to do something non-traditional, well Mom and I would fight, and fight hard, mean and nasty.

    The good news? I'm 43 now. I treasure every minute I have with my Mom. I have the wisdom to know how lucky I am to have her in my life still. I also have a very strong-willed daughter. As a single Mom, I can only say that I have been served a version of me and then some in my daughter. She's fire and passion beyond belief. But she also has the compassion that I have always had in my heart.

    Know that you are teaching your daughter wonderful strengths. Every time I read your posts, I know what's in store for me in the next 10 years. But I am thankful and can only hope that's in store for me, as I wanted to be a Mom more than anything. I've heard the devil comes out... as my Mom likely thought it came out of me during that time.

    But we return to our roots in my cases. Love your writing. Continued love, wisdom and some luck along the way.

  2. Hi LT,

    Thank you so much for reading, and especially for your thoughtful, personal comment. I really believe that girls have to turn away from their mothers in order to become whole, individual women. (And maybe their devilishness is in direct proportion to how connected they feel when the process starts. The closer they are to their mom, the more they have to fight it.) But, as you described, they do come back. Even now with my perpetually petulant tweenager, I get glimpses of our former closeness and I know it's still in there somewhere.

    Thank you again and good luck with your own "fire and passion." Enjoy these crazy years because no matter how tough it is (and wow, do you have my admiration doing this as a single mother!), the time does fly by.

    Keep me posted ...