Ella entered the world almost 6 weeks early. I have often asked her why she was so early (funny question I know), and she always answers with, “I couldn’t wait to be with my family.” We are currently writing a book together about heaven. In the book, Ella talks about how she tried to come to her family a few times before she was actually “allowed” to come. She was definitely excited to get here and I’m so glad she arrived and that I get to be her mom.
When we had Max, Seth and I were overjoyed to become parents and have this beautiful thriving baby boy. Max grew quickly and Seth began asking for a little girl. I joked with Seth that we were going to have children until we had one of each. When they told me that Ella was a girl, I didn’t believe the doctor. It took a few sonograms for me to believe it. Our precious little girl arrived, and Seth received the daddy’s girl that he was dreaming of. Ella, I don’t think we could love you more than we already do but I’m sure our love will keep growing.
Our sweet, easy, kind, caring, talented, smart, helpful, responsible daughter is a full on tween. I will find her crying and she won’t know what is wrong. I often forget about the hormones that her body has begun to experience. This is not what I would call an easy age, but is any age really easy?
This is what I want Ella to know as she becomes 12 years old:
- I know there will be times you don’t want to talk to your mom. I want you to know that I have an open-door open communication policy. You can talk to me any time about anything. I’m a social worker so no topic is off limits. I’ve talked about so many “uncomfortable” topics with people that not much makes me uncomfortable anymore. I will help you through anything. I will always be there for you. Through all the craziness, I had one constant through it all. I always knew that I would come home to my mom. She was the constant comforting force. If school, a girl, a boy, a teacher, etc. upset me, I knew I could come home to my mom and that she would help me through it. For Parents: Keep the lines of communication open with your children! Pay attention to the little stuff so that they will tell you the big stuff. Don’t ever be afraid to bring up a hard conversation! Show them that you are always there for them.
- There are different types of friends. There are friends that enter your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime. Unfortunately, or fortunately, you will outgrow friends and friends will change. You don’t have to have friends that have the same interests as you, but you will find that will happen. As you spend time at theater you will probably make all your best friends there. Make friends at different places. Friends from school, friends from theater, friends from girl scouts, friends from jobs, friends from Hebrew school…you will find friends in different places. I think the quality of your friendships are more important than your quantity of friendships. You know someone is a good friend by how they make you feel. Good friends lift you up. Good friends also don’t pressure you into doing something that you don’t want to do. Don’t give in to peer pressure. You are a strong girl! For Parents: Encourage the friendships that you think are positive in your children’s lives. Their friends behavior will strongly influence their behavior.
- Your emotions are going to be all over the place. Your hormones will do that to you. You will find that you are crying for no reason. That is okay and very normal. I will wipe your tears. Sometimes you will want to be alone. Sometimes you will want your family. Sometimes you will want your friends. Sometimes you won’t like what comes out of your mouth. That’s okay. Try to be respectful as you go through your tweens and teens, but I do understand that you aren’t perfect. For Parents: Your kids won’t even understand what is gong on with them sometimes. Puberty is quite the ride.
- Your body is going to change. One day you will get your period. You will want to shave your legs one day. You may notice you are getting curvy. This is all very normal. You have already experienced growing pains, so you know what those are. We all go through this and it is all very normal and to be expected. I went through it and can answer any questions you may have. I’m always here for you. For Parents: Tell your kids what to expect. My son tends to go to Seth with his questions. I will tell my girls what to expect and will help guide them through it. They can easily get their period when they aren’t with you for the first time so it may be time to start packing something in their purse or backpack just in case.
- You may find that you want more privacy and alone time and that’s okay. I know we have been together way more than normal over this last crazy year. I know sometimes you have had enough of your family. I get it! I’m glad that you have your own room, and you are always welcome to get some space from all of us. I remember spending a lot of time alone in my room. For Parents: Don’t take it personally when your children don’t want to spend time with you. Everyone needs alone time including us parents.
- I love to spend quality alone time with you. I love our Friday nights when everyone else in our family is busy. I look forward to more dates with you! For Parents: One on one time with our children is so precious and important. If they don’t want to do something with you that is normal too. You can suggest ideas or ask what they would like to do. One child may want to go to the mall and the other may want to go bowling. I find my kids open up the most when we are one on one and especially when we are in the car. Sometimes they don’t want their siblings to hear what they want to talk about.
- Be true to who you are. Love yourself and talk nicely to yourself. You have called yourself weird to me. Do you remember my response? What is wrong with being weird? It is okay to be different. You don’t need to be like anyone else. You are Ella and that makes you special. Your dad and I accept you for exactly who you are. The more authentic and true you are to who you truly are, the more comfortable you will feel in your own skin. Anxiety develops from resistance and negative self-talk. Live in a happy mind that loves who you are. It is most important that you love yourself. For Parents: The more we love and accept ourselves the more we can model this behavior for our kids. Encourage them to love themselves and to embrace who they are. I remember how awkward the middle school years were.
- I will always do my very best to stay calm and cool in any given situation. You know that I screw up sometimes and know that you will screw up sometimes. Perfection is not expected of any of us. Forgiveness is an important thing to learn for others and for yourself. Your parents are just as human as you are. For Parents: Your kids are more likely to talk to you if you are calm with them. The more casual we can be the more comfortable they become sharing.
Thoughts from a dad to other parents:
Don’t take it personally. Your tweens will run hot and cold. One day they will want to cuddle and love you (we can hope), and the next day they won’t want to be seen near you. You will go from being, “Daddy,” to “Father.”
Unfortunately, your relationship with your tween will be on their terms. You can’t force it anymore or make them do what you want like you used to. There will be periods where everything you say will be wrong. It may take them until their mid-twenties to “come back” to you.
You can’t rush it or make it ok. There are some boo boo’s that not even butterfly kisses can fix. Sometimes you have to just let them hurt. All the perspective in the world won’t help. “Nobody” can really understand what they are going through, or so they think. What you thought was a fleeting fascination with a boy /girl can turn into “the end of the world,” when it ends.
I didn’t necessarily realize it at the time, but some great pieces of advice my dad gave me, that I still remember are, “There are plenty of fish in the sea. If she doesn’t love you for who you are, then it’s her loss. If they want you to do “that,” or you aren’t their friend, then they aren’t good friends. Those who matter won’t mind, and those who mind, don’t matter. This too shall pass.”
I think he may have borrowed a few of those, but that doesn’t make them any less true.
Hang in there parents, it will eventually get easier, I promise. I just can’t tell you when.
I am really doing my best to embrace and celebrate each year of my life and my children’s life. Every year is a true blessing. Ella is such a blessing that was given to Seth and I. I look at us as her guardians. We are here to guide our children through their lives as best we can. We teach them, we guide them, and we help them through each stage of their life. Every age has new and different challenges. Try to remember what it was like to be the age that your child is. Being there for them is the best thing you can do, and it will take shape in different ways. One day Ella may want a hug. One day she may want to sit on the couch near me. One day she may want to go up in her room and have alone time, but she knows that I am downstairs if she needs me. Remind them daily how much you love and care for them. Remind them that everything they are going through is normal for their developmental stage. They can get through whatever stage they are in and you are there to help them.
Laughing, Learning, Loving,
Rebecca Greene, LCSW-R