15 posts categorized "'Tweens"

Braces: just a scam?

October 22, 2013

I had braces for exactly 2 years, from ages 14 to 16.  The "Brady Bunch" had an episode about Marcia getting braces and how she had to adjust to them, accept them.  I suppose I thought they might just be a rite of passage.

Our 13-year old's dentist suggested we have an orthodontic consultation.  "The 45-minute consultation is free," the scheduler told me, "and we will walk through the doctor's recommendations, and all of your options and costs."  From the moment we set the appointment, it felt like a bit of a sales pitch.  My daughter was taught how to scan in at the front desk computer, brush up, and where to sit, "for the next time".  From my waiting room chair, I saw an endless stream of teens scanning themselves in, brushing teeth, and sitting to wait for the doctor.

 The doctor and the assistant were super smooth and fast-talking.  They were uber friendly and joke-making.  The recommendation: extraction of 4 teeth to make room then braces, no headgear, for 24 months.  The cost: $6855.

Continue reading "Braces: just a scam?" »

Does your family dine together? How often?

September 16, 2013

It's dinnertime!  We are a few weeks into the new school year, and the schedules are getting a bit hectic.  What I realize: we only have one evening during the Monday-to-Friday stretch when we can all sit down and have dinner as a family, a calm time when we can catch up over our days, check in on school, friends, new developments.  Only one evening?  I feel it is not enough.

It's said that sitting down to a family dinner eases family stress, makes for happier children, even results in teens who are less likely to smoke, drink, or use drugs.

I believe it.  I want to have it.  How many evenings during the week do you manage to sit down to a dinner with the kids?

Working Mama Guilt: Asking too much of the kids?

October 29, 2012

Last week, I reached a tipping point where too much was too much.  Posted on my Facebook page:

Just when my mama guilt was at 200% for too much travel & work in the past two weeks, I shared with a colleague, who told me that two decades of all work, no home resulted in a broken marriage, estranged children, and much loneliness. Signal to recalibrate. Worse: when my daughter came home just now, she said, "Mom! I never see you anymore."

The reality is that I work.  Have to.  The reality is that the hours can be long and late.  Have to.  The reality is that I have to ask my kids to step up and help me.  Have to.  Aged 12 and almost-9, I have been asking them to ready themselves in the morning when their dad and I have to leave super early.  They feed themselves breakfast, get themselves dressed, and get themselves to school.  In the afternoons, sometimes my older child can be home alone from 3 to 6pm.  And, sometimes, I will leave instructions on how to heat up dinner, maybe a casserole that needs to be warmed for an hour.  And in the largest request for my children to be independent: I asked them to come home from school alone, to fix their after-school snacks, to get homework done, and to get themselves to their after-school lesson (2.3 miles away, via bike, via well-known safe route), then to get themselves back home again.

To be sure, these are pretty tall orders, espcially for our pre-teens.  Also to be sure, I would have come up with alternatives if I could think of any (ask a neighbor for a ride? Tried two who couldn't.  Get a cab? Cost - and - would it was just as (un-)safe? Reschedule? Couldn't finagle that either).  Whenever possible, we do plan for homework groups or calling on neighbors to try to fill in where we cannot.  As we all know, it takes a village.

As the product of two working parents, the oldest of three, I was left alone with my siblings a lot.  From a young age, I cooked, cleaned, helped shuttle to after-school activities, in addition to my own homework load and my own after-school activities.  I also helped care for a younger cousin (or two) often.  I am sensitive to the loneliness that can stem from being alone after-school for too long.  I am sensitive to asking for too much from our youngsters from such a young age.

Then again: Can it be all-together avoided?  Is it all-together bad to ask them to contribute in this way, taking ownership over self and activities, playing large part in meeting family needs (like preparing dinner)?

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

September 25, 2012

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?

Sister to sister: "It's my birthday & I don't want you there"

September 17, 2012

Well, she didn't say it quite like that, but I am sure it sounded like that to her younger sister.  My older daughter turns 12 this weekend, and she has made plans with her girlfriends to hang out afterschool, have dinner (with us, her parents) at one of her favorite restaurants, then go play a round of mini golf, all with her friends (and us, her parents).  One thing she was explicit about: "can we find something else for *her* to do?"

This is a little different than the birthday party where we ponder whether to invite the friend & his little brother.  We're talking about the celebrant's own sister.

Her sister is deflated, 3 years her junior, wanting ever so much to be a part of the fun and celebration.  Granted, we will have more celebration reserved just for the family, so there will be an opportunity for Sister the Younger to celebrate with Sister the Elder.

On the one hand, I want to respect the Elder's wishes for space from her sister, wishes for a little autonomy, wishes for some fun with her own friends.  On the other hand, we like to exude inclusivity, especially among family.  Everyone is invited, all the time!

Well: WWYuMsD?  What would you urbanMamas do?

Helmet Usage & Kids: would you play cop to a stranger's child?

September 11, 2012

Riding in town yesterday, I noticed a pair of youth riding up ahead in the bike lane.  There was a boy, younger, maybe under age 10, based on his size and the size of his bike.  He wore his helmet and pedaled pretty hard to keep up with his companion.

The other child was probably in middle school, based on the size of her bike.  Maybe they were siblings?  Maybe she was tasked with picking him up after school and riding home with him?  I don't know.  I was heading someplace and didn't stop to converse.

As I approached, I noticed that the elder child, certainly not older than 16 years old, had a shiny Nutcase in her front basket as she pedaled along in the bike lane.  I was surprised, and I was sad.

While there is no federal law that requires children to wear helmets on bikes (or scooters, skateboards or inline skates), 22 states and hundreds of localities have laws and ordinances mostly requiring all children under the age of 16 to wear a helmet while riding a bicycle or even as a passenger on a bicycle.

This info from the University of Michigan says that:

  • wearing a helmet while riding a bike reduces risk of death by over 50 percent
  • every 3 days, a child is killed in the US while riding a bike
  • about half of children riding a bike where no helmet laws exist never wear a helmet
  • helmet usage would prevent 40,000 head injuries and 50,000 scalp injuries in children, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

Much of children's helmet usage might have to do with observing their own parents.  Some of these parents cannot afford a helmet (one of every two children of polled families earning less than $30,000 never wear a helmet).  Even though 78% of polled parents ride a bike, 27% of them never wear helmets.

Beyond parents, there is also the fashion statement.  My own daughter said that three of her friends, all of whom ride their bikes to school every day, asked their parents to drive them to school on picture day, to avoid "helmet hair".  As children get older, like this middle school-aged girl I saw pedaling ahead of me, they might become more and more conscious about wearing a helmet.  They aren't cool and they don't make for the best 'dos.

As I came closer, I said, "What about your helmet?"  I slowed a little bit to see what reaction I would get.  She looked sheepish as she pulled over and stopped.  I think she might have put her helmet on, but I couldn't stop to see.  

Maybe I shouldn't have said anything.  Or, maybe, since I did decide to do something, I should have pulled over and given the whole story on why helmet usage is important.  Like wearing our seatbelts, it's a no-brainer: it saves lives.  I don't know.  What would you have done?  Pedaled on? Stopped to chat?  Do you see youth, especially teens and pre-teens, not wearing helmets while they bike?

I want to tell them what to read

March 14, 2012

At the bookstore/library, my 8yo gravitates always to the "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" series": a cute, fun and light set of books that is sure to make her giggle from time to time.  The other day, I put my foot down when she asked me to buy her the first in the series (she already has the other four or five books).  I told her flat-out "no".  We kind of don't have funds to buy another book, and we definitely don't have enough cash for a book (hardcover only!) that I consider to be not-too-substantive.  I pulled out some other suggestions, different topics, new reads.  She refused and wanted only the book she originally picked out.

I recall when my other daughter, then aged 9 or 10, was obsessed with the very "girly" pre-tween Winnie Years Series that started with "Ten" and moved on to "Eleven", "Twelve", "Thirteen" and "Thirteen plus one".  When she started reading the series, she wasn't even ten yet.  Still, she managed to score herself the books, mostly through gifts and her addition of these books on her wish lists.  She used to read them over and over.  I often tried to introduce her to other books, and sometimes she'd read them, but she would always go back to the Winnie Years.

Continue reading "I want to tell them what to read" »

Cell Phone Usage: setting boundaries

February 12, 2012

Children in households across America roll their eyes when their parents say: "when I was your age, I never had a cell phone...", an introduction to a tyrade about how cell phone usage is a privilege, yadda, yadda, yadda.  (If you haven't already, perhaps it's worth visiting the post: "Kids & Cell Phones: yes? no? when? how?")

Our middle-schooler  has been using a cell phone since she started coming home alone afterschool last fall.  When no one else is home, she will go into the drawer where it is kept, retrieve the cell phone, and text us to let us know she is home.  She does not take the phone to school.  She is not allowed to use her phone to text/call friends during the week.

Continue reading "Cell Phone Usage: setting boundaries" »

Phone & Skype: Manners & Etiquette

September 22, 2011

Having family scattered throughout the country and even abroad, we - as a family - have started to video-chat pretty regularly.  Having moved far from her, my eldest has also started chatting on the phone with her bestest friends, also pretty regularly.

Frequently, I will overhear the kid(s) in the other room, chatting with a friend or with family via Skype in the other room, then I will hear my daughter say, "oh wait a minute, my brother needs something," and she will then proceed to go, pick up her toddler brother, tend to his needs.  Under non-Skype circumstances, she would have had no problem letting her brother fuss or go on unattended, unnoticed for any number of minutes.  On Skype, though, the dynamic is different.

Same goes for the phone.  I will hear her sharing news about her first week of school, then: "Stop it!" and "Wait, I need to get something from my sister."

The examples are really endless.  If I were on the other end of the phone/screen, I might be mighty irritated at the lack of focus, all the distraction.  Can't we just have a conversation?  To be sure, there are a confluence of factors here.  First, the other family members not actively participating on the call are likely to be a bit more intrusive during this time, when the other is obviously occupied.  I'm not sure why that is, it just is.  Second, the one participating on the call might want to share every, single bit of detail of our lives in this household.  Perhaps that is the intent in engaging in other activities whilst on a call.

Talking on the phone (and, now on Skype) is another vehicle for our communication, for social interaction.  There must be some "etiquette", some expectations, some code of conduct that tells the person on the other side: "yes, you are important; yes, I do want to talk to you; and yes, I do want to give you undivided attention."

Perhaps, too, it speaks to our society at large and our shorter and shorter attention spans.  That macroscopic question aside, what I'd really love to hear is how your kids are on the phone or video calls.  Are they engaged, receptive, attentive?  Or, are they distracted and easily distractable, even annoyingly so?

Our Food, Our Bodies: Supporting our Teen Girls

September 07, 2011

When my first two children were born girls, I often wondered how they would feel about their bodies and their food when they were older, in the teen and pre-teen years, when we can be so susceptible and vulnerable to all sorts of pressures.  I kept those thoughts in the back of my head; I had a long time before we would think about those issues.

Well, the time is now.  My eldest turns 11 in a few weeks.  I have recently noticed a huge surge in her eating, and her sweet tooth has gotten sweeter.  Her junk food magnet has gotten stronger. And, her appetite has gotten bigger, much bigger.

When Sarah posted recently about school lunches, Sheryl mentioned some thoughts about her 14-year old high-schooler:

Something I worry about is the whole peer pressure/body image/I don't know what to call it that goes on with girls in her age group. My lean, athlete of a girl has always eaten big, hearty, (mostly) healthy meals, with meats and veg and fruit and grains and dairy. Just recently I noticed she checks herself and eats much less when she's with her peers, and tends to shy away from higher calorie and/or fat foods. 

Indeed, I have started to notice that my big girl packs piddly lunches and comes home with a lot of it uneaten.  She goes on to state how "HONGRY" she is once home and will eat lots.  LOTS!  Often, she's so "hongry" that she'll devour food in mass quantity, almost eating like an animal.  If she's so hungry, what is it that keeps her from eating more at school?  Does she have too little time now in middle school to eat?  Is her food too complicated to eat (too much utensil food)?  Or, is it embarrassing to eat?  Is it better to just hang out?

I rode my own roller coaster with food.  Always an athlete, my appetite was always huge.  I recall being able to eat a whole pizza by myself when I was ramping up on calories in my early growth spurt.  But, I hit a point where body image started to play a part, wanting to always stay svelte.  I recall being able to eat a whole cake.  I also recall being able to then regurgitate it all out into the toilet.  That was a dark, confusing time.

Never wanting to support an unhealthy approach to food, we have spent the past decade encouraging our girl to eat a variety of healthy foods.  We have offered treats on a regular, but not daily, basis.  We have learned about ingredients in our foods.  We have sat down for mealtimes, where we all eat a balanced plate.  We try not to pressure.

What is your approach to food with your girls?  How do you discuss it at home?  Books to suggest for girls in the 10-20 year old range that might offer them support and guidance when it comes to food and body?

When she starts to "develop": books to read

May 17, 2011

Along with changes in scent come changes to the body.  Back when I was a young girl, there were pamphlets describing your ovaries, eggs traveling down tubes, then a monthly shedding of the endometrium.  It was all very clinical in all of its two pages.

Now that my girl is starting to go through the changes, I want to collect reading material that answers some of her questions.  I also want reading material for myself, from the mama perspective.

Years ago, we received a copy of Cycle Savvy, "The Smart Teen's Guide to the Mysteries of her Body".  It really is geared toward the 13-18 year old set.  I'm looking for books more geared toward the 8-13 year old set, to prepare girls for these changes.

Our doc recently recommended a series that talked about the changes, both emotional and physical.  But should couldn't remember the title!  Suggestions, please - both for girls in the pre- or early-pubescent range & their mamas....

Smells Like Teen Spirit: the body odor begins

May 05, 2011

My 10-1/2 year old plays basketball three times a week and works up quite a sweat.  She hops right into the shower when she gets home.  Some of us don't even use deodorant, but I actually do, a little.  She has recently asked about whether she "needs" to use deodorant, and I let her know it was up to her.  I don't think her body odor is strong; it is barely detectable.

If she's interested in using, do we just have her use what I use?  Or, is there something more gentle for the younger set?

The Motherhood-Project: have you participated?

February 17, 2011

It was only after I had endured a most angst-ridden adolescence that I had read "Reviving Ophelia", a collection of anecdotes of a psychologist's work with adolescent women coming of age.  Granted, as the daughter of two immigrants not fully accepting of "American ways", I didn't have the same experiences as the examples.  Still, something resonated.  When "Ophelia Speaks" came out, I was equally drawn to the stories, written by teenage girls themselves, reliving many feelings and emotions of being a young woman, in search of self, questioning and wondering, struggling and exploring (though I recall feeling the same sense of homogeneity in this book, telling myself I had to one day edit a book that would be more representative of the experiences of girls of color).

That was before I was a mother.  Now, I have a daughter named Ophelia (can you believe?), aged 10.  Roughly two years ago, we started to notice changes in our daughter's mood, behavior.  She was becoming more assertive with us, of the annoying variety, and oh-so emotional.  Tears were abundant, seemingly about mundane things.  But, it all meant the world to her.  We, as her parents, had a hard time dealing with these changes. Rebanal_women

More than anything, I want to have strong, passionate, and confident daughters.  I want them to feel comfortable in their skin, even if they are unlike the images we see on billboards or in the movies.  I want them to speak, loudly and strongly, in public, with elders, with peers, with youngers.  I want them to find their voice, know it and use it.  I want them to dance and perform, for the love of it all, with little self-consciousness.

I think we have our jobs cut out for us.  Raising conscientious and confident girls (or boys - saved for another post) is not easy.  

On thing I have heard about is the Mother-Daughter Project.  Groups of mothers and daughters have come together to support one another through the adolescent period and beyond, providing that important sense of community and sense of belonging, deepening mother-daughter relationship, while also forming strong peer relationships, all in the name of support and camaraderie during difficult times.

Have you participated in a Mother-Daughter Project group?  How have you tried to strengthen your relationship with your pre-adolescent or adolescent daughter?  What were memorable, meaningful relationships for you when you were an adolescent that you hope to replicate for your daughter?

Kids & Lyrics: do they know what they're singing?

February 12, 2011

*thump, thump, thump* are common sounds coming from my daughters' room.  Aged 7 and 10, they love to listen to music and dance along.  It's not unusual for me to walk into their room, find each one standing on their bed, hips swinging, Z100 blaring, and them singing Katy Perry: "Let's go all the way tonight, no regrets, just love....."

If I didn't pay attention to the words, I would think it was so cute.  And, I do.  But, is there something wrong with these girls uttering these words?  Another favorite song references "boys trying to touch my junk, junk".   Gone of the days singing about the moon or rain boots, a la Laurie Berkner.

We are a music-loving family.  There is always something playing in the background.  We don't want to deprive the kids of listening to new songs, pop music.  But, do we have to censor?  The content is just troubling, and - with two young girls - I am always concerned about female stereotypes and demeaning depiction of women and girls.  Do we have to come up with playlists of only approved songs?  Would that limit us to just a few selections?  What are safe, wholesome, but fun & upbeat artists, go-to songs or even radio stations that you'd let your [pre-tween] kids listen to? 

Kids & Counseling: when does it make sense?

October 07, 2010

I was chit-chatting with a friend earlier, and she talked about her 13-yo son and his biweekly counseling sessions.  He has ADD, which accompanies a host of other emotional issues for him including anxiety and depression.  The counseling sessions really work for him.  

We got to talking about my biggest girl and her emotional swings of late, surely a thing of growing up.  Then my friend suggested: "Why not have her see somebody"  I said, "Like a therapist?"  My friend thinks that having someone, a third-party, to have as a sounding board, is a good thing for a youth in their pre-tween to teenage years.  But, I thought, aren't her friends supposed to be that "someone to talk to"?  What about other close friends who are adults?  And, even, how about me, her mother?

There are situations when a therapist makes sense for our children, but - after my friend's suggestion - I am wondering, when *does* it make sense?  Has your child gone to counseling or to a therapist?  For what goals?  And, do you have some suggestions in the Portland-area?