I’m no stranger to preteens, my eldest hit the tween stage early and hard. I’ve now got two preteens in my house (and a third not far off), but nothing over the past few years came close to preparing me for the dramatics that would come with the middle school years.
As my middle schooler grows, I’m doing my best to manage all the big emotions (hers and mine), but she is never shy to let me know all the ways I’m ruining her life.
And her big reactions to what feels like small decisions can also make it feel like I’m ruining our entire relationship at the same time.
These are all the ways I’m ruining my middle schooler’s life:
I won’t let her watch adult shows
My 12-year-old recently asked to watch Game of Thrones. I laughed, then said no.
Which, I’m sure she saw coming since even the least restrictive of her friends’ parents have also said no.
But then she followed up with a request to watch a very adult themed anime. And that no set her into a fit of rage over why I never let her watch anything good, and blah, blah, blah. Life ruined.
I try to monitor what they read
I’m super lucky that all of my kids are avid readers and can’t get their hands on new books fast enough. And while I’ve tried really hard over the years to keep track of what my tweens are reading, they just read too fast, so I trust them to make good choices.
But I have had to veto their choices which is always met with “they’re just books. at least I’m reading. you only want me to read baby things.” blah, blah, blah. Life ruined.
I expect her to help around the house
We don’t have assigned chores, our house runs because every person who lives here does the jobs that need to be done, whenever they need to be done. That means we work together to manage the laundry, empty the dishwasher, sweep the floor, tidy up. There is no my job, your mess, her stuff, his fault, blah, blah, blah.
You live here, you pitch in. Life ruined.
I care about what she wears
It’s not that I’m trying to control her style, in fact I try my best to honor her style and only buy things that meet her very specific criteria. Where we clash is when I ask her to put on “real clothes” (as in not pajamas or lounge wear), and the big fight always comes when I request that those clothes also be clean.
Because, apparently, not letting her leave the house in the sweatpants she wore yesterday, slept in, and spent all her homeschool hours in, is a major hassle and torturous, controlling request that cramps her style, and blah, blah, blah. Life ruined.
I expect that she is kind to people
We don’t have a ton of rules in our house. Most are basic safety and well-being expectations, number one of which is “always be kind and loving.”
It doesn’t mean you have to be happy all the time, or that you can’t have feelings that aren’t happy rainbows, or that you have to be constantly making wonderful memories with your family.
But it does mean that you can’t say hateful things, that you can’t hurt other people (physically or emotionally), and you have to take responsibility for your actions.
But, apparently having three adoring siblings is the worst thing that ever happened to my middle schooler, our family is the worst, all she wants is to live alone, and blah, blah, blah. Life ruined.
I don’t let her go wherever she wants, whenever she wants, with whoever she wants
Want to ride your bike a friend’s house? Sure. Going to meet a friend at the park? Ok. Plan to pick up some books from the library? Awesome.
Want to walk around town by yourself at dusk because you’re bored? Yeah, that’s a no.
It’s not that I want to control your every move, I just prefer to know where you’re going. Or to know you’re with a group of people I’ve met. I know you’re responsible, I know you won’t get lost, blah, blah, blah (the answer is still no).
I expect her to take care of her things
Speaking of running off to meet friends, is your flip phone charged? No? Guess you’re not going after all.
Sure you can have a friend sleepover, is your room cleaned up? No?
Guess we’ll have to plan for another weekend. Oh, you hate the “baby tablet” you have? Maybe you shouldn’t have stomped on your better tablet when you were mad about a game.
Around here, if you want nice things, you have to earn them. I know every other kid got a blah, blah, blah without having to do blah, blah, blah. Sorry, not happening here. Life ruined.
I make her hang out with the family
Over the past couple years we’ve gradually let our middle schooler stay home alone for longer periods of time, and as we venture farther from the house.
But if we’re going out to dinner, or for a hike, or anywhere that involves family together-ness, that includes every person in the family, including the grumpy pre-teenagers. Because, whether you like it or not, you are an important member of this family and will be treated as such, despite your frequent protesting.
I’m well aware that you’d prefer to stay at home and be alone where you can listen to your moody music, read your manga, enjoy the quiet, and blah, blah, blah. Life Ruined.
I value her education
We started homeschooling after a tough kindergarten year, and we’ve made it all the way to middle school. She’s been given the option to attend traditional school many times, always declining.
Yet, you’d think that getting an education is the worst form of torture known to human kind.
Forget that I’m a pretty relaxed homeschooler and my kids get to sleep in pretty much as late as they want and that they’re always done for the day by 1 pm, the attitude sitting down with me at the school table each morning is insane.
I’m really not concerned that you aren’t interested in this topic, you think this lesson is stupid, you’ll never use it, blah, blah, blah.
Your life is not ruined.
And, hopefully, our long-term relationship isn’t either.