I was talking with my granddaughter the other day—we were discussing the trials and tribulations of the tween generation, that pubescent purgatory where hormones and sweat, body image and the opposite sex suddenly become apparent in their befuddled minds. Where friendships mean everything to them and parents are not the center of their world, anymore.
Aw, I remember it well. Why…because I had kids of my own and I taught middle school for thirty years.
My granddaughter is trying to maneuver her way through the mine-field of girl/boy friendships— why one day they are BFF’s, and the next afternoon her BFF is stomping away with their nose in the air.
It’s that age-old dance of acceptance—a pecking order that establishes who’s in and who’s out! The tiffs and drama could be about anything their deviant minds conjure up.
Whispers behind a cupped hand can put the fear of God in any tween. The folded arms across the chest, and harrumph followed by… “You know what you did,” signals the imminent expulsion of said tween from the coveted, super group!
It was painful to watch when I went through it with my kids and students, and it’s no less painful now as I listen to my sweet, perfect granddaughter. Your first instinct is to march right down to that school and snatch the little____bald-headed. That’s one of my mother’s expressions. And then, dress down every teacher who should have made an effort to stop this madness!
Wait a minute…I was that teacher a while back, and I’m telling you they can be sneaky little devils when it comes to intimidation. I tried to stop it when I could, but it wasn’t always easy getting the offended party to talk about it.
I realize this issue is as old as time— yes, even my time. If I try real hard, and rifle through the dusty files of my memory I can come up with some doozy situations of my own.
I’ve found the best thing I can do is listen and assure my granddaughter, that this is normal—a rite of passage. I also offer some sage wisdom… “Just wait until your first high school reunion…Queen Bee will be the size of the town’s water tower with missing teeth, and that popular guy you all adored… he’ll be bald with a beer belly!”
That gets a smile every time.
Taking the time to listen to our tweens or teens can be the best medicine for their fragile egos. Letting them know that going through humiliation, hurt, and failure is what makes you stronger as an adult, and that even now, as a grownup, you sometimes experience issues. They love hearing stories about “When I was a kid,” and how you handled your situation.
Being a Grandmother has given me the distance and perspective I lacked as an emotional parent, ready to strike with Cobra swiftness at the first person, place or thing that made my child cry or bleed.
Giving our children the tools to stand up for themselves and be compassionate at the same time is a tricky thing.
Reassuring them that you’ve got their back if they need you is powerful, and at the end of the day you’ll be their soft place to fall.
As any teacher knows, just give it a couple of days… the worm will turn!