Tweenage Wasteland


kids-and-cardsI’m suffering a case of whiplash.

Not from an accident in the pedal or be killed bike lanes of Copenhagen, but from watching my not-quite-eleven-year-old waffle back and forth between being a little kid and teetering on the edge of being a teenager.

Has there ever ben a more apt slang term than tween? When I was eleven and trying to figure out if it was still cool to play with my Barbies, while I was busy dreaming about the boy down the street and meticulously cutting out paper dolls, while I was fantasizing about growing boobs while playing with my Spirograph set and Fashion Plates, those years between kid and teen were just called awkward.

Surely you remember those years a little bit. The exquisite pain of trying to figure out where you fit in, the uncertainty, the sensation of growing right out of your skin.

The years betwixt and between. Caught between ages, emotions, between height and breasts and dropped testicles. Between a stirring in the heart and still being reasonably sure the opposite sex has cooties.

The other day my son was quite happily playing with his younger brother with a bunch of trucks in the sand, reminding me of that sweet, quick-smiling toddler of yore. Then he stormed off in a huff because of…well, I don’t even know what he was storming off about.

Was it something I said?

I have a feeling I’ll be asking myself that question a lot in the days to come.

Photo: Mary Ellen Mark
Photo: Mary Ellen Mark

He recently devoured the Divergent series in the space of a week….and followed it up by whipping through a series about a hamster named Humphrey.

Every now and then he snuggles up to me, lays his head in my lap and asks me to stroke his hair. Or he stomps away angrily, embarrassed, unsure. Still craving affection yet not sure if it’s cool to seek it out.

He asked a girl to the dance….and then asked Santa for a Build-a-Bear. He is mature enough to cycle to his friend’s houses independently, and yet still will only eat apples cut up into slices.

On a Thursday he went to see Jurassic World, and on Monday he happily wasted an afternoon watching PacMan cartoons with his brother.

Not going or coming, but both simultaneously. Still years away from being taken seriously by most of the adults around him, but with far more to say than a kid. Forming his opinions and ideas, not knowing where they fit into the big picture.

He is in the no man’s land between kid and teen.

Kids are tolerated, they are forgiven, they are smiled at and have their heads patted. They get away with things because they are cute and chubby and little. They lisp their toddling way into our hearts. Teens are tolerated because most of us have a vague recollection of being a teenager, of what it was like to use all your resources for that final push into grown up ness, when your bones stretch at night and you wake up a young man or woman. Plus, they sleep a lot and can make their own lunch, so that helps too.

34-Street-Games-GettyBut those years in between? They’re tough. Awkward. Tweens still exhibit all the goofy silliness of kids, but at ten, eleven, twelve, it’s not cute to us anymore. It’s annoying. They spout nonsense as if it were on tap, but instead of thinking it’s adorable like we did when they were three, we think it’s smarmy. They want to cuddle and yet they’re starting to smell. Too old for many things, not old enough for the rest.

My son still half believes in the tooth fairy and yet we’re talking to him about puberty, prepping him for deodorant and jock straps. Kissing scenes in movies are just starting to make him squirm. And we’re starting to squirm because he is. No wonder why he’s confused.

Tweens have to take that final, frightening step from kid to adolescent. They have the space of a few years to do it in, but there’s a whole lotta wasteland to cover in between, in which to be a tween.

In the meantime, I’ll prep my neck for the inevitable whiplashing back and forth.

6 Comments Add yours

  1. ginjuh says:

    I have an 11 year old girl, and your observations are so spot on.


    1. Dina Honour says:

      Craziness, right? Thing is, I remember all of it, and yet when I’m in the midst of dealing with it with my son….I conveniently forget. It’s going to be three years of face palms.


      1. ginjuh says:

        My daughter is initiating thoughtful discussions about war one minute and begging for quarters to put in grocery store trinket machines the next. Bizarre.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. My son still likes having his back tickled and my daughter likes to have her head scratched. Other times, they want me to leave them alone…strange creatures.


    1. Dina Honour says:

      Well to be fair, I feel the same way most times–but I’m pre-menopausal, which is like going through puberty again but without the perkiness and the collagen.


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