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Mama & Me: staying relevant in my Tween's life

My daughter & her girlfriends were hanging out (at this age, they don't "play".  they "hang out".) upstairs when they rowdily came downstairs to the kitchen, where I was in the midst of a little craftiness (which came in a surprising spurt last weekend).  I was making shortbread cookies, frosting them with orange and decorating into basketballs, for my son's birthday celebration.

The girlfriends squealed: "See?  Your mom *is* cool!"  

I felt smug.  I felt affirmed.  I felt welcomed.

It was almost like I myself was back in middle school, wanting somehow to fit in, wanting to be wanted.  Wanting to fit in with my daughter and her friends, wanting to be wanted by my daughter and her friends.

I feel like my tweenagehood and teenagehood was so recent.  I remember it vividly.  I remember feeling increasingly estranged from my mom, from my parents.  I remember feeling the angst and wallowing in it, feeling lonely with only one or two people I would really regard as confidantes.  

This is new territory for me, parenting a tween daughter.  Have you been through it?  Do you remember feeling like you wanted to be wanted, feeling encouraged when labeled "cool" by her friends?

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Our house is not the coolest or funnest place but it is a safe, peaceful place. I've hosted many a teen for an impromptu sleepover because we felt they weren't safe to go home. I don't condone drug use or violence to children and I will put myself between you and your child if I feel that's necessary. Sometimes, sleeping over at a trusted friend's parents home can help all parties cool off.

That said, my teen girl gave me none of the usual teen girl issues about clothes, curfew or dating. My teen son is another story. It takes both my partner and I and the whole village to keep this kid in line. Wish me luck, he's still a junior at high school.

Whenever I think of moms trying to be cool I always think of Amy Poehler's awful character in the tween favorite "Mean Girls". It kept me from trying to be cool and just be a mom. As far as parenting a tween it was a real challenge that tested me. She's past it now and the damage from the flat iron has finally grown out and she's doing great. It is such a tough time for them, much harder than when I was that age.

This post comes at an interesting time when I'm reading "Hold On to Your Kids", which goes against all that I've read about the importance of friendships for kids to be happy adults. Apparently those feelings of estrangement for our parents as we entered adolescence is not normal development, but a product of our modern culture and our kids' desire to put friends before their parents. Geesh. It's throwing me for a loop. So I guess it's nice to be considered cool, but maybe irrelevant since your tween shouldn't be feeling influenced by her friend's opinion??? Maybe she shouldn't even have friend! (kidding, of course).

Gotta say, I'm curious as to what evidence the authors of that book give, because kids rejecting their parents is fairly universal and there's much evidence of it throughout history. There's also a fair amount of basic biology indicating pulling away from one's parents is fairly normal.

As for relationships with tweens - I'm lucky, my daughter and I are super close (aside from shcool work battles) and she sometimes tells me MORE than I'd like to know. She routinely brags about how awesome she thinks I am to her friends!

But we're really similar personality-wise, because my husband does not get treated in this manner. And even I am still sometimes banished, etc.

Su, I agree, Hold On To Your Kids is a great book! (Zumpie, I don't know you IRL but from your past posts I have a feeling your parenting style/relationship with your daughter is just like what the book recommends.)

Okay, well then I stand corrected! :-) Because I do value the very open relationship I have with her.

I haven't read Hold On To Your Kids, but I did read a great article in National Geographic a couple of years ago (you can find it here: http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2011/10/teenage-brains/dobbs-text), that discusses the teenage brain and some of the developmental reasons teenagers do the things they do. A section that stuck with me:

"The teen brain is similarly attuned to oxytocin, another neural hormone, which (among other things) makes social connections in particular more rewarding. The neural networks and dynamics associated with general reward and social interactions overlap heavily. Engage one, and you often engage the other. Engage them during adolescence, and you light a fire.

This helps explain another trait that marks adolescence: Teens prefer the company of those their own age more than ever before or after. At one level, this passion for same-age peers merely expresses in the social realm the teen's general attraction to novelty: Teens offer teens far more novelty than familiar old family does.

Yet teens gravitate toward peers for another, more powerful reason: to invest in the future rather than the past. We enter a world made by our parents. But we will live most of our lives, and prosper (or not) in a world run and remade by our peers. Knowing, understanding, and building relationships with them bears critically on success. Socially savvy rats or monkeys, for instance, generally get the best nesting areas or territories, the most food and water, more allies, and more sex with better and fitter mates. And no species is more intricately and deeply social than humans are."

Interesting stuff.

My daughter is 15, a 10th grader, and somehow I have been dubbed "cool mom" by her, and her friends. (Something I would have never anticipated, believe me.)

About the time she was turning 12, I started prepping our house for teenagerhood. I'd hoped that our home would be where she hung out with friends, so I had the family room in the basement redone, had the basement bedroom made "legal" and moved her into it, and fixed up the basement bathroom. The good TV even lives down there!

My daughter and her friends do spend a lot of time at our house (hurray!), but not in the newly-fixed-up basement/teenspace--they hang with me in main part of the house. Sometimes they ask me to go shopping with them, or to a movie (and not just for a ride or for my debit card, because I'm often willing to drive-and-drop, and everyone pays their own way.) I find it curious, but I'm not complaining--I just follow their lead, and make sure that I'm not inserting myself.

Our relationship certainly isn't perfect (like Zumpie, we have the schoolwork battles) but it sure is better than I ever would have anticipated.

@Sheryl - the fact that you were willing to invest so much energy and $$$ into making a haven for your tween/teen tells me exactly why/how you're the "cool mom"! I know of plenty of parents (not yours truly, ANY excuse to decorate for me) who don't even decorate their kid's regular room.

BTW, our basement is only "semi-finished"---it's recently redecorated (by moi, but more for the hubby), but not actually finished, just the ancient walls painted and a peel n stick floor (and carpets)---so I'm jealous. But with just the new furniture and the big TV, my daughter and her friends already fight her Dad for occupancy rights.

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