Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Tween Angst

Yesterday, on two separate, unrelated occasions, I hugged friends as they sobbed about their tween daughters.  I spent an hour in the dark calling out to one of those girls last night, shining my flashlight into bushes and saying, "Honey, please come home - are you there?" into the night: she had gotten mad at her parents and run out of the house, yelling "I'm running away!" and they had called me, frantic to get help, desperate, frightened.  We had just called 911 when  I found her a few blocks away, at a drugstore, where she had gone to get out of the freezing night.  After locating her, I called her mother, her father appeared, and it was impossible not to tear up when I saw her father's face: when he realized that his "baby" was safe, he could not stop sobbing from the relief and pain and fear of it.

The tween years are upon us.  Thank goodness not every day is like that - it was a double drama day, more than I knew how to handle, but what else can I do? - but I'm hearing more and more stories from more and more parents.  Good, loving parents who have their kids' best interests at heart: the kind of parents who read parenting books and serve vegetables and hug their kids - these aren't "problem" parents, or "problem" kids.  These are kids who get good grades and have good manners.

Last night when I hung up the phone, I called to Katherine, "I have to go look for your friend Eloise - she's run away and her parents want help finding her.  I've got my phone, so call if you need me, I'll be close by....and please put on your pajamas and start reading!" as I grabbed my coat, hat, and gloves and ran out the door.  Fifteen minutes later it occurred to me that I had left perhaps ten candles burning in the house - a favorite winter evening ritual - and I called Katherine to make sure that the house hadn't burned down and asked her to blow them out for me.  She was concerned about her friend, volunteered to help look, wasn't worried about being home alone on a dark night.

Only afterwards did I think how extraordinary that was - I left her with fifteen seconds notice, and she took it in stride, and was more concerned about her friend than herself.

I know that the tween years are upon us.  I have been told over, and over, and over, and over again by books, media, and other parents that "just you wait!" and that drama is inevitable.  I think I'm told some version of many times a day, actually.

And it's getting old.

I know that I'm a Pollyanna, and that my optimism is deep in my bones, and that I cannot prevent the natural course of things.  But I also deeply believe that Katherine and I are in a good place, that we're learning to navigate one another, that I can adapt to her changing needs (and still parent her, more mother than friend).

Last night, after the friend was found, the parents hugged, my coat hung back up, I climbed the ladder into Katherine's bunk bed to talk to her.  I wanted to lay down next to her, to hold her next to me like she was my toddler, but I know that she is long past such things and that I'd only make her uncomfortable, so I contented myself with sitting at her feet.  I asked her, "Are you and I okay?  Your friends are freaking out and really mad at their parents, and it's kind of scary to watch.  If you ran away, I would be so scared that I would shatter.  Would you talk to me instead?  Do you feel like I listen to you?  Are you okay?"  She assured me that she was well.  She told me that "we" are well.  She smiled, and she made jokes.  She let me hug her, squeezed me back.

I am tired of drama.  Cancer drama, divorce drama, career drama - I'm sick of it.  I absolutely have had my fill of drama, and I feel like I've been a good little girl and managed all the drama in my life relatively well, but I have to say, I am over it.  I do not have a ton of drama-capacity left, and I am ready for some smooth sailing right now.

I'm ready to ski with my daughter.  I'm ready for big pots of vegetarian chili and watching a TV show together.  I'm ready to hang out at the bookstore with her.  I'm ready to take her to movies that I don't really like.  I'm ready to go ice skating with her.  (Make no mistake - if I skate close to her she will sail away from me, laughing with her friends, but when she's hungry she'll come find me!)

Not EVERYONE has big tween and teen drama - some families manage it okay.  I know that it's going to take luck, in addition to good parenting and boundaries and reliance on Katherine's good nature.

But I'm starting to believe in grace.  I'm starting to really believe that the hard times are behind me for a while - perhaps a long while - and that we can do this, Katherine and I, and that it's going to get better, not worse.

Hubris?  Maybe.  If I fail at this, I'll be honest and admit my failings, I promise.

But I really, really think we're going to be okay.

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