Mothers and Sassy Tween Girls
Encouraging Their Spirits While Taming the Sass
My entrance into this world was loud and celebrated. On my dad’s side of the family, I was the first girl born in more than six decades. My grandmother raised a slew of boys in the 40s and 50s, then a slew of grandsons in the 60s and early 70s. She was tired of boys. She loved them, but she wanted a little girl to dress up so badly. So when the announcement of my birth was made to my grandmother at a church brunch one warm, May afternoon, there was much cause for celebration.
However, I grew up with brothers, meaning I was destined to be a tomboy. My grandma made it her duty to try and turn me into a girl – and she had her work cut out for her! I wore my brothers’ hand-me-downs and happily sported the boy haircuts my mom gave me in an effort for her to save time – she would cut all four of my siblings’ hair along with mine as though we were in an assembly line.
Much to my mortification, my grandma took it upon herself to try to fix that. She brought me to her beauty salon and ordered them to make me look like a girl. I came out looking like a 65-year-old version of Annie, the fashion icon of that time. I hid my head under my pillow for weeks, sobbing, wanting my boy haircut back. I never did understand refinement or dresses or girls my age who wanted curly hair like Annie. I played soccer, punched boys, got punched back by them, and joyfully outran and outswam all the boys in the neighborhood.
As I matured, I slowly developed my own sense of my feminine self, grew up and got married to a really great guy. Our own babies made their entrance into the world five years later.
I tell you all of this to say that God has a sense of humor. He inserted three very girly girls of my own into my all-boy world. From their first angry cries in the nursery at the hospital, I knew I would experience a huge learning curve. After our second girl was born, I knew my learning curve had doubled. And three years later when a third sister was born, and I was already drowning in Polly Pocket shoes and beaded necklaces, I knew I should surrender defeat to all things girlie. Funny thing is – I’m having the time of my life! I’m still learning, but I’m getting better at this mother-daughter thing.
The one part of raising girls that has been the most difficult for me is dealing with their very many and ever-changing emotions. I was an even-keel kind of girl, probably because if I wasn’t, one of my brother’s would have slugged me. When hysterical laughter turns to tears, or a best friend at 1 p.m. becomes the worstest enemy ever in the history of the world by 7 p.m., Rob and I just look at each other in wonder and scratch our heads. We encourage, help, fuss over, and give the girls lots of hugs in those difficult times. But, when those emotions turn against us or become destructive to the girls or those around them, it’s time to play referee and redirect and refocus their precious little hearts.
I am definitely not the mom-daughter relationship expert, but here are some things I have done to keep the peace in our home:
I try not to play off their emotions.
Responding to emotion with emotion is usually cause for a disaster. I play it cool when one of my girls happens to be riding an emotional rollercoaster. I allow them to feel what they are feeling without adding to the complexity of their emotions by adding my own. I let them know that I’m here for them always, and once they are ready to talk, I’ll be ready to listen.
I realize that conflict is not bad.
How conflict is handled can lead to a good or bad outcome. The truth is that sassiness is a part of a girl defining her own sense of self and who they will be in the future. Sassiness and strong opinions are important tools a girl can use to lead others and eventually her own family. We encourage our girls to have strong opinions while maintaining an attitude of respect for others.
Embrace their pace.
I spend time with each of our girls individually, on their turf. For Belle, our youngest, we go to the park and swing, slide and run. Whitney’s comfort zone is right before bed. We talk about all sorts of things – she may just be stretching out her bed time, but we have had the best conversations during the 30 minutes before she falls asleep. Maddie and I like to go places together and find bargains. She loves to shop. Time with her doing what she loves puts me into her world and gives us opportunities to talk and really have fun together.
I remember that she’s my baby, not my BFF.
I love her, dote on her, spoil her sometimes, but I know she’s not my best friend.
As young girls turn tween then teen, sometimes the relational lines between moms and daughters get fuzzy. For a short season, your tween girl needs to know that you are the one in charge, not her. You are the rule maker, and she is the rule follower. This inevitably leads to conflict, but it is so important for that sweet little girl to have someone that is ahead of her in maturity, leading her to make great choices that she (and you) will be proud of. After you help her through the turbulent tween and teen years, your relationship will be strong, steady and established, and without a doubt you will have a best friend for life.
Raising girls is the hardest, yet most rewarding thing I’ve ever done. When we are walking along somewhere and she reaches out for my hand without thinking, when a conversation brings light to her eyes and joy to my soul, I am grateful for the swarm of lovely young ladies that have taken over my life.
And for that reason, I won’t ever take them to get an Annie perm. Ever.