Sylvia Martignani writes: In between Teens
In Between Teens
I worked with many in between teens in the past two decades. They are the pre-adolescents who are between the ages of 10 and 13 years old. They are emerging as young adults with their own mind and opinions but they are not old enough to be labelled as teenagers.
This is quite possibly the most frustrating period of our life. If you recall, things were happening to your body that you could not explain. Hair was sprouting out of every follicle without rhyme or reason. There were feelings of anger and sadness so extreme and so severe that you verged on the melodramatic. Tears and laughter were apparent in a moment and disappeared even faster. You started experiencing sudden bursts of anxieties about your scent, your height, your hair, your posture, your clothes and your appearance. All of a sudden, you could no longer identify with your parents and you felt that you needed to separate yourself from them so that you can be your own person. Your resentment of authority exponentially increased and depending on the issue of the day, sometimes you hated your parents. Some days you loved them so much you could weep with gratitude. You started feeling exhausted yet thoughtful about life and death and love and war. This is the stage where we become increasingly affectionate with peers and begin to explore the idea of being in love with someone. This is also the stage where we experience heartbreak, betrayal, remorse, envy, jealousy and extreme bouts of anxiety and depression all within the span of 24 hours. ‘Tweens are erratic, unpredictable, bundles of joyful chaos that God decided to grant parents in order to prepare them for the tumultuous stage ahead – Adolescence.
‘Tweens are also becoming more conscientious. With this new self-awareness comes a deeper understanding of the human condition in all its frailties and inconsistencies. They are questioning the existence of God, the relevance of religion and the seriousness of spirituality. They often reflect on the metaphysical and mythical aspects of life and conversations with them tend to verge on the existentialistic properties of reality and idealism. They are passionate at this stage and fight every battle like their life depends on it. They are compartmentalizing rules and defying routines in hopes of designing their own destinies. ‘Tweens are complex and often leave their parents scratching their heads and wondering “When did you become so mature?”
Unfortunately, ‘Tweens are still children in a young adult’s developing body. They require even more love and attention than their younger counterparts. This stage necessitates a firm commitment by the parents to model positive behaviours. “Practice what you preach” is the name of the game from now on for you. If you tell them to go to Church and you go late, they will know that you don’t mean it. If you tell them to save their money and you spend it on seemingly unimportant indulgences they will challenge you. If you tell them to control their anger by yelling at them, they will reciprocate by pretending to obey but doing what they want anyway.
I write this now with a heavy heart. I remember my ‘Tween years and many years later, I still dislike the child I was then. I was mean to my mother because I thought she was unreasonable, overbearing and too strict. I would tell her to walk far away from me at the mall and resist her warm embrace in case it would make me look “uncool” or “weak”. I would cry and beg to sleep over at my friends’ houses and go to the overnight trips with the school. I would write hateful messages when I was confused about who I was and how I looked. Now I am a mom of two beautiful little girls and this stage is the one I fear the most. The day my little girl turns to me and fervently states “Mom, don’t kiss me in front of my friends!” And so it starts…
My mother used to say “I wish I can fast forward to when you will be the same sweet daughter you once were and the one you will be…in time”. If there is a way to avoid this stage, I would pray to God for it but then my daughters will never get the chance to develop into the beautiful adults I know they will become. I guess it takes darkness to appreciate the light and war to appreciate peace. In this too, God made us to experience the ‘Tweens so that we can appreciate the next stage and the stage after that.
Until next time,