The Back Seat
Isabel Lee rants about the tweens in her life
A parent’s view of the terrible tweens
These are the formative years of forming good character, manners and ethics
WHAT IS IT ABOUT THOSE parenting tomes harping on about the Terrible Twos making new parents anticipate the second coming of Satan? Toddlers may whine, cry and defy simple instructions but they are still completely manageable and after a couple of years, they evolve into very pleasant children who can entertain themselves and are actually good company. Parents are then lulled into a sense of well-being that the hardest is over, and in the mean time many go on to have more kids (we’re suckers like that) and time passes.
One day you wake up and there’s this not-so-little or cute person in front of you defying you all over again. But this time there’s a disagreeable nuance to the rebellion. Then it hits you: they’re tweens – not quite surly teenagers but beyond playing with toys and keen on testing your patience. There are many definitions of a tween but the one that that made me laugh and agree wholeheartedly was ‘a creature that is said to be between the ages of nine and 12, and who for some reason have immense “confidence” in themselves’ – taken from that most intellectual of web resources, the Urban Dictionary.
The age definition of tweens differs depending on whom you talk to and what you read but a general consensus is that it hovers between ten and 14. This is the age of the onset of puberty, peer pressure and the need to belong to a clique. I hear parents lamenting about how kids today are so much smarter, slyer or worldlier than they ever were, but we forget that OUR parents said the same thing to us. As a child of the ’80s, my idea of rebellion at that age was going to a friend’s house and not coming home for dinner or making crank calls.
Tweens have become such a powerful force to contend with and to put it into perspective, the tween retail market is estimated to be in the billions of US dollars, which is divided into what they spend personally and how they influence their parents to spend. Advertisers, marketers and global brands have to constantly up their game to ensure they keep up with the voracious demand. Take for example electronic devices and mobile phones – tweens have them all and their knowledge of technology is amazing, and a little scary too. An article in an advertising trade journal called the phenomena of their spending power ‘The Tween Machine’ and stated that they are the ‘authority on this digital revolution’, meaning that 12-year-old is more savvy than you on what’s trending in the world of fashion, pop culture and anything cool.
The downside of all this is that tweens are so much more mature in their behaviour, dress sense, choice of music and how they interact with their friends. You hear pre-pubescent girls gush how about ‘hot’ Justin Bieber is and boys wanting to watch PG18 movies and, in some cases, wanting to go clubbing! They even talk funny with their shortened words and supposed street lingo picked up from friends or watching trashy tween TV. It’s imperative for us parents to be patient and kind but firm and be able to discipline them when it goes overboard. These are the formative years of forming good character, manners and ethics – easier said than done but as we’re responsible for how they turn out (and we don’t want them to become nasty politicians or ‘glamour’ models), we need to buckle down and know we’re not alone in our frustration.
But, today was a good day. I didn’t fight with my tweens, they didn’t answer me back every two minutes; we laughed, played a board game and had a peaceful dinner. They even regaled me with amusing anecdotes about their friends. And before bed time, my lumbering 14-year-old son gave me a big hug (he’s bigger and stronger than me) and for those five seconds, all I could see and feel was the chubby little toddler I so adored all those years ago. Yes, deep down inside they’re still your precious bundles of joy who love you albeit with funny cracking voices, insolent expressions and an innate need to be glued onto their devices all the time. Friends with adult children have all told me it’s just a phase and will pass when they hit that other milestone of becoming a bonafide teenager, so until then put up with the eye rolling and sighing, and cherish every moment because as we all know, once they’re all grown up we’ll miss them… even the eye rolling and contempt.