Saturday, February 4, 2012

The Tween In-Between

We're on another ski trip. What this means, per usual, is that my daughter and my husband are enjoying the ski slopes with our friends while I'm enjoying the peace and quiet of our rented ski house.

This morning, my daughter complained that her father is paying more attention to our friends' daughter than he is to her. He's tickling the younger girl, laughing at her fourth-grade jokes, teasing her with affectionate silly nicknames.

Quite frankly, my daughter is jealous.

I listened to her sympathetically and then I pointed out that her dad is really in a no-win situation, one that she herself created for him. He's between a rock and a hard place because if he teases and tickles his own daughter, she complains that he's treating her like a little kid. If he refrains from this activity, her feelings are hurt.

"You have to decide what you want," I told her.

My daughter heard me (which is in itself a rather unusual circumstance). She nodded knowingly and as she headed back downstairs sadly said, "I know. I'm too young for half the things I want and too old for the other half."

There's a saying about tweens: they're "Too old for toys; too young for boys." That's cute. But, the reality is much more complicated. My daughter and her friends are walking contradictions. They long for what they imagine were "the good old days." Easy friendships, less cliques, less lunchtime politics, less homework. At the same time, they are impatient for independence and the fantastic liberty they imagine comes with adulthood.

No rules, no limits, no curfews. Being your own boss. Never never never having to do anything, not one single solitary thing, you don't want to do.

Hey, sign me up.

I try to relate; I do. My daughter really is caught between little girlhood and grown womanhood. Her issues are intensely real to her even if I'm tempted to pooh-pooh them. When I point out that her perceived "glory days" of seventh grade weren't all that glorious, or try to tell her that with adult freedoms come adult responsibilities, she rolls her eyes, she walks away. In her book, it's just another example of my not getting it.

These are the times I try to remember what it was like to be in eighth grade myself. It was a rather awkward period if the pictures I have are any indication. I was growing out a Dorothy Hamill haircut; I was a little bit chubby. I definitely didn't know what to do with myself. My parents were completely clueless about what I was going through, about parenting, about everything. (Funny how much wiser they became as I got older. Hmmmm.) I couldn't wait to go to college, get a job, have my own apartment, start my life.

It's tempting to romanticize your youth. But, in reality, those junior high years were downright difficult. Sure, there were some girls who seemed to have it all: cool clothes, popularity, clear skin, good grades, even ... a boyfriend (gasp!). But, I believe one of two things is true. Either they were consummate actresses and despite their smooth exteriors, they were suffering the same doubts and dramas we all were. Or, they really did have it all and how sad that must be because if you peak at fourteen where do you go from there?

Really, I ask you.

(Despite rumors to the contrary, heading into my fifth decade, I myself haven't peaked yet, which gives me something to look forward to.)

Here's my prediction for this afternoon. The skiers will return, wiped out in a happy way, rosy-cheeked with lots of stories to tell. My daughter will have forgotten this morning's hurt feelings and will be excited to tell me all about the black diamonds and moguls she and her father (both accomplished and fearless skiers) tackled. Somehow, the ups and downs together at a ski resort seem to wipe away the ups and downs they have in day-to-day life.

My hope is that when the terrible tweens are behind us, they will still have this exhilarating activity to share together ... and with me.

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