What Do I Do with A Pre-Tween?
by Risa Green
Life was much easier when I had toddlers. Toddlers are simple and predictable. Yes, they have tantrums about nothing, but ooh! – look at that sparkly thing over there! – and it’s over. Also, toddlers still nap. And the world of a toddler is under your control. As a parent, you decide what and who your child knows and does not know. And you know everything that they know. But best of all, toddlers have a name: toddlers. They’re defined. They’re specific. And when you’re having a problem with them, they’re so easy to Google.
It’s much harder with kids who are in grade school. “Grade schooler” could include any kid from six to eleven. The older grade schoolers have their own name – tweens – but the younger ones, the seven, eight and nine year olds, what are they? Pre-tweens? Not a lot comes up when you Google that. And yet…these pre-tweens, they have their issues, too. Except there’s doesn’t seem to be anyone out there telling me how to handle them. There’s no Pre-Tween Whisperer. There’s no Chicken Soup for the Pre-Tween’s Soul. It’s as if these years are a no-man’s land of parenting advice. And I, for one, am freaking out over here.
Unlike in the toddler years, a pre-tween’s life is suddenly his or her own. I mean, I have no idea what my kids do at school all day. I assume that they learn things and play with their friends, but when I ask, I’m told that they did nothing. Or that they can’t remember. Or that they played with nobody. But they must be doing something and playing with someone, because they seem to know all kinds of stuff that I didn’t teach them. Like what an earth worm eats, or how to tell the difference between an alligator and a crocodile, or that Miley Cyrus used to date one of the Jonas Brothers. Suddenly, they know that they’ll get teased if they appear to like princesses/Thomas or own anything with princesses/Thomas on them. Somehow, they know that everyone gets their backpacks at Pottery Barn Kids, and that it’s not cool to wear socks with butterflies/Power Rangers on them anymore. Shockingly, they would rather freeze than wear a sweater that doesn’t match the dress they’re wearing, or be caught dead in anything but a Lakers jersey.
For my kids (especially my daughter), this self-consciousness seems to have set in almost overnight. One day she didn’t care if we sang outside at the top of her lungs, and the next day, she refused to do it because she was afraid that people might laugh at her. One day, she liked picking out crazy outfits and being different from everyone else, and the next day, she only wanted to wear things from the Gap so that people wouldn’t think she was weird. One day, she was my innocent little girl who only cared about what I thought of her, and the next day, I mattered for nothing, and she was a worldly pre-tween under the delusion that everyone is staring at and judging her at all times. I would tell her that strangers aren’t paying any attention to whether her sweater matches her dress, and that even if they did, they wouldn’t care, except that I matter for nothing, and therefore I am always Wrong.