As Mother’s Day approaches I wanted to take a moment to share some things about how I conquer my most important role on a day to day basis. Like most folks I’m not the biggest fan of teenagers. Their years long state of attitudinal aggravation, testiness and angst, gets to the best of us. The thing is, if we’ve made it this far we’ve all been teenagers getting on our parent’s last nerves. My oldest recently turned ten, a full fledged tween-ager, and I’m on the verge of leaping out of a first story window. Today I’ve want to share with you a few things I’m doing to prepare for the inevitable teen years as I go through the tween ones.
Whether it’s disagreeing about outfits or repeating myself over and over again, I’ve moved into the phase of parenting where I’m battling the opinions of someone who still needs help moisturizing their ankles, but swears they know it all. It’s in these moments that I have to figure out ways to encourage my daughter to have her own thoughts while reminding her that I am still in charge. A high stakes double dutch game if there ever was one. You want to be a parent who allows your children to express themselves openly and be sure they understand the hierarchy too. Here’s how I’m managing to do it.
Listen To All Feelings, Honestly
Growing up I was blessed with a mother who didn’t inhibit me from expressing how I felt. Even if it meant listening to me drone on about how she didn’t love me or cry about how ugly I was.
Drama. What it provided me with was a sense that I mattered and so did my opinion. Largely I think so many of us aren’t given the honor of that as children. We’re told by one adult or another that our thoughts are limited by our age or we aren’t really sure of how we feel. I never want my girls to feel diminished by me, which means even if I don’t agree with their take on things I’m willing to listen to them nonetheless.
Black parents often get a bad wrap of not giving their children the space to be free with their emotions, thus causing resentment to take root in the relationships we have. Clearly we are not a one size fits all people and since my goal is to change the perception of Black parenthood, especially motherhood, this tidbit is really important to me. Acknowledging and respecting D’s thoughts builds the trust we need so she feels okay sharing the intimate things later.
Teach, Correct, Repeat
One of my greatest pet peeves on earth is having to repeat myself. That said, I am learning that during this stage of child rearing – repeating oneself is something you have to get used to. I never thought I could tell someone to pick up a sock so many times but alas, here we are. The thing about redundancy though, is that eventually it sticks. Sure, I may spend the next two or three years telling this kid that lotion isn’t optional or to hang her towel up after her shower, but at least I know by college she’ll have it down pat. Critical to learning is hearing things over and over again. For a while I struggled with feeling bad about this, thinking I was being obnoxious. Now I see that what more than once is better than not at all. There’s hope one day that things will get done and I won’t even have to say a word. *fingers crossed*
One thing I believe that has inherently changed from growing up in the 80s and 90s, are the amount of boundaries that children have. It seems like now – anything goes. Kids have access to so much with phones in their hands from infancy to personal laptops in 1st grade. It can be difficult as a parent to feel like you have a hold on what your children see and absorb. However I don’t ascribe to the notion that my kids have to receive everything life is offering simply because it’s available. The most crucial value in my mind for children, is to maintain their innocence for as long as possible. Not in a way that makes them naive and oblivious but certainly one that gives them the freedom to just be children. That said, I’m mindful of screen time, cell phones can only be used on weekends, and social media is a no.
This isn’t to shelter my girl from everything but it is to safeguard her from content or information she may not be ready to handle. Moreover it gives me the ability to teach her about life rather than some television show or meme doing that for me. Let’s understand I am not anti-television or internet, I work in entertainment for god sake, but I firmly believe that everything out there isn’t for everyone.
As a mom I believe it’s my responsibility to rear up children that will be useful to society when they become adults. Those things start at home. I teach my girls that the way people feel about them isn’t their business, I implore them to treat others as they want to be treated, and I encourage them to do whatever they want within reason. I always hear my mother in my head saying, “if you train a child at two what is unacceptable and what isn’t, you won’t be fighting with someone sixteen trying to take over.” I couldn’t agree more.
PC: Anna Linduska Photography
Are you in the midst of the tween years? What are some things you’ve learned along the way?
Until next time,