Tweens are unique creatures, no?
My husband argues that the age of ten does not qualify one as a tween. The attitudes and actions taking place in this house by one BigBrother would beg to differ. But he’s also a Big Kid in that he likes to play things Big Kids play.
It’s just a weird in between phase for them. Hence that whole “tween” name that didn’t exist back when we were pre-teens. Before, not between.
There’s a picture of me sitting on the floor in the playroom in my parent’s basement. Seated in front of the giant Barbie house my grandfather made for me, my long hair—permed and brushed—is a wild mess down my back. I’m wearing a pink shirt from some vacation, a sunset splattered across it in the puffy style of 90s vacation shirts. And I’m playing with my Barbies.
When my mother developed those photos, I asked her not to show anyone. In fact, I confiscated it from my parents’ possession. I didn’t want any of my cool friends to know I still liked to escape to a world in which the brunette Barbie became queen of her own domain. She was a business woman. Our lone Ken doll and an errant Aladdin made dinner, cleaned the bathrooms, and took care of everything at home. Babies? My Barbies didn’t have babies. No time.
I don’t know where that photo lives now. I fear I might have thrown it out in a fit of tween self-hate rage. I searched through many pictures looking for it recently, coming across all kinds of tween angst and bad clothing choices. But one thing was evident in every single bad hair, grimacing, giant glasses, be-braced non-smile photo of me from the ages of 10-12.
I was me.
I didn’t know what to do with my new longer legs (which are still not very long). I didn’t like the fact that I was the first of my peers to start my period, and there’s even one picture of me on a friend’s porch in which I can physically remember how bad those first cramps were—and remained for decades. I didn’t know how to do hair or makeup or dress myself. But in those candid photos, the ones in which a friend took the camera instead of a parent, there’s a glint in my eye. There’s joy underneath the confusion of hormones and becoming something new inside the same being.
There’s Jenna, underneath it all.
I need to remind myself of this very fact as we continue our way through the tween phase with not one but two boys. They’re there. I see it in the way they rush up to me when I show up to at camp after spending a day back home. I hear it in their “I love yous.” I feel it in their hugs, given in front of their friends—still and in spite.
They’re there. One is just going through the process of becoming something new inside the same being. It’s important for me to remember that as a mom right now. And for the next one, too.
We’re all going to make it.