Where were the warning signs that this was coming? I think I lost the memo.
No one told me that it starts well before they become teenagers. At least if they have two x chromosomes it does. I swear it starts at like 9.
With my first born, my hubby and I were on the receiving end of all the attitude and explosive emotions and all the pain. As her body developed and grew. At almost 11 ½ she still hasn’t become a woman in any sense of the word, but some of the emotions have settled down a little bit, at least compared to her 9-year-old sister.
My second born has thrown most of her attitude at her sisters. She appears to be this lovely, easy-going and generous 9-year-old that you would love to have as your buddy in Girl Scouts or on your building team. But if you are her sister, not a day goes by (sometimes it feels more like not an hour can go by) where she is not screaming, yelling or otherwise in a huff just because you exist.
We didn’t spot it immediately, because it wasn’t directed at us. We didn’t even realize it was happening and I am still not totally sure how much it is happening, because you know I am not with them 24/7 and giving them my full attention, I have a business and household to run as well.
But it is happening. We can hear it in the timber of her voice — in how quick she is to fly off the handle. It’s as though something has happened since she has turned 9 and her ability to hold onto her shit instead of losing it has disappeared.
Dinner time is not a lot of fun any more. Because she is rude to her sisters, forgets her please and thank you’s and is often overly tired anyway. Combined with my 11-year-old who should be crowned the queen of sulking and holding a grudge and it can make for a very interesting table. Because my youngest at four is having a very hard time communicating exactly how she wants things to go and to be. Because of that she is often throwing those intractable tantrums that only a 4-year-old can throw. At least most of the time my 6-year-old is pretty mellow.
Maybe I saw these warnings before I had kids. I might have just ignored them in my pre-kid bliss brain of I’ve been a camp counselor, I can handle this shit. I think mainly I heard that it’s the teenagers that are hard to deal with, that take more time than the toddlers, that are the emotional roller coasters without a pre-frontal cortex to soften any of their edges.
I missed the memo about the 9-12 year-olds. Totally missed it, and what is funny is that as my years of a Camp Councilor, that was always the group of kids I was given, the 8-12 year-olds was always where I started and the groups I worked it.
But I guess because I was “public” and therefore not their parents I didn’t see the worst. Or maybe because they slept in their own tents and not in mine, and that I had them at most for three weeks at a time, that made a difference. Anyone can get through 3 weeks right?
But when they are your own kid and they don’t go away and no matter how hard you think about the fact that they come into the world with their own personality, it can at times be very hard to not take their behavior personally. Either as a reflection of you, or aimed at you, when often you are just their safe person to help them try and deal with the emotions that are overwhelming their body.
It is still yucky winter here, so some of the tools that help my preteens are a little harder to reach. Once it gets a little less icy we can do more hiking.
There is something about being out in the woods climbing a hill that seems to calm my kids down and seems to work out all the frustrations of being in their bodies. My eldest is often in the lead and my middles are busy chatting and my youngest is either holding my hand or her dad’s and up the hill we go.
I need the weather to break just a little so we can do this. I am personally getting a little tired of walking the neighborhood, though I still try and drag them out to do it every day. For some reason this year the dance parties aren’t really working. Maybe it’s a lack of floor space, maybe they just have too many opinions about how they should dance. Maybe it’s because every time I think of holding a dance party all I can see is the mess they have yet to clean up on the floor. I don’t know, I just know that hasn’t been working very well.
And we need something. We need to find new ways to communicate, to help my daughters learn to deal with their raging hormones and emotions and to understand that sometimes you just have to lean into the feeling so that you can move on to the next one, and that ignoring it or trying to tamp it down only makes it blow up in your face later. Not that I have that one completely worked out myself, I am still working on that one and feeling like it is safe enough to cry.
Maybe I could just convince them to get a little more sleep? Because sleep is an important part of all this growing and getting bigger, and when they sleep I can sleep, or at least not have to be a parent for a while. All this parenting gets so tiring sometimes. So very, very tiring.
And just think in three more years I will have another 9-year-old, with another one about 20 months behind her. I wonder if I will have any more wisdom, or if they will have just come out of left field as well?
Chase Young is the founder of The Mommy Rebellion a place for judgment-free parenting. She’s created a place to get tips, tools and support for what it is truly like to be a mother, stories from the trenches that show you you’re not alone. Tips that real mothers use. Tools to give to yourself and to your parenting friends to feel more focused, have more patience and energy, and feel less tired and snappy .