My kids are 9 and 12, which is to say, I am uncool. Little things I do — that I’ve always done — are suddenly and objectively incorrect. You must also understand that the parameters are constantly changing, and the two arbiters are often at odds.
So, in case it helps any future/fellow parents of preteens, I’d like to share a few things I’ve been informed are unbearable and should not be repeated under any circumstances. (This list is not exhaustive.)
Sneezing in a way that sounds like heck-choo
Singing while you make breakfast
Calling their classmates honey
Calling it a play date vs a hang
Saying “beep bop beepity beep bop” when doing something technical (e.g., fixing the remote)
Not knowing something
Knowing something but explaining it for too long
Pointing out that it’s after 8 p.m.
Asking them to put on their pajamas
Asking them if they brushed their teeth
Asking them if they peed before bed
Clearing your throat
Making a joke
Using slang, yours
Using slang, theirs
Not being comfy enough to lean on while watching TV
Scratching their back but taking too long to find the itchy spot
Being loud while making a smoothie (for them)
Being proud (of them)
Having a VW Golf
To be clear, preteens will still ask for bedtime cuddles and watch shows together and want life reassurances and seek approval and climb in your lap when they are tired and overall desperately want to be loved and accepted by you, but god forbid you dance / even think about dancing.
A couple weeks ago, Evil Witches Newsletter sent out “the definitive guide to raising preteens without letting them get to you (lol),” which was GREAT.
I especially loved these two parts:
“Something that helped me not take the bait: when kids say nasty things or slam a door or whatever, think of it like they’re barfing up bad feelings to get rid of them. Just like if they had something poisonous inside them, they’d barf it up to protect themselves. That’s all they’re doing. Barfing.”
“Let them be in bad moods, but let them know you’re here to help. Their hormones are nuts, their skin and hair is the ugliest it will ever be, their teeth are jacked, they can’t put together an outfit for shit, and they don’t know where they belong in the world. They are becoming independent and still strapped down as young children but feel like they are not kids. It’s hard for them. For my kids, sometimes, I would just say, ‘It’s clear you had a hard week, let’s just make popcorn and watch a movie that makes us cry.’”
Writer Catherine Newman, one of my parenting role models, has also recommended letting tweens/teens have the last word in arguments. After all, they have so little control in their lives despite desperately wanting to be independent. I’ve remembered that so much.
Finally! In case you ever worry that you are uncool to the world at large and not just your preteens, I’ll remind you that EVERY parent deals with this. Remember this reader comment? It’s not you, it’s them.
“I read an article where Victoria Beckham was saying how her kids are so embarrassed by them that they make David drop them off around the corner. Like, it’s David Beckham! One of the most handsome footballers of all time and I’m sure he has a lovely car! If teenagers can be embarrassed by David Beckham, there’s no hope for the rest of us!” — Rachael, Cup of Jo reader
What would you add? How old are the kids in your life? And, the funny thing is, despite all the drama and moods, the preteen years might be my favorite age so far. xo
P.S. What has surprised me about having preteens, and 21 completely subjective rules to raising teenage boys and teenage girls.