When You Realize Kids Are People Too – Raising and Connecting with Tweens
First of all, I wanted to give a massive and tearful thank you to all of you who read, commented and gave me tons of love and support on my last post about divorce. It was definitely THE hardest thing I’d ever had to write about in the 11 years I’ve been blogging – but I can now confidently say that I’m so glad I did.
I shared this photo, along with some thoughts on Instagram recently, and wanted to make sure they were seen here as well.
Recently I’ve gotten lots of questions about being a Mom to tweens, and daughters in general. It’s kind of funny, because never in a million years did I think ANYONE would ever ask ME for “Mom advice”.
I’ve opened up before about being a toddler Mom, and how it seemed like a very different experience for me than for my other Mom friends. There were SO MANY of you that could relate, and it was really nice to know that I wasn’t alone in those feelings.
But I DO know that THIS stage of life with my kids is SO fun, and SO much more rewarding than EVER, for me as a Mother.
In no way, shape or form do I feel like an expert or pro in the tween Mom category, but I DO have thoughts, experiences and moments where I’ve realized… “HEY! That totally paid off! I AM doing okay at this Mom gig!?” lol
So, I wanted to share some thoughts with you. Maybe they will help, maybe they won’t. Maybe you have suggestions of your own and want to share them in the comments (which I’d LOVE!), but either way… we’re all doing this Mom thing together the best we can – so why not share helpful suggestions and ideas that may work for us, with others!?
Alright, so here are a couple examples of questions that I’ve gotten, that have triggered my thoughts for today’s post.
“Hi Shelley! I have a question and I even feel terrible for admitting it! #worstmomever I have three girls as well, oldest being 10. And lately I’ve had a hard time connecting to her, (my oldest) I find I let her get on my nerves, or I find her annoying, again WORST MOM! Have you ever felt this way? You and your girls have such a great relationship! I love the way you all are towards each other, and having a house hold of girls myself I want to create that friendship. Just wondering if you had any tips to create that great friendship? Thanks so much!”
“I love that you actually have fun with your girls. I feel like they “LIKE” you. I feel like such a drag all the time. I don’t laugh with my kids, joke around or have fun with mine – even though I LOVE all of those things – or I used to, I think. Being a Mom has put that kind of me on the back burner. My kids are 4, 7 and 9. How do you start doing stuff like this? I almost feel like it’s too late and I should of started earlier. Any advice on how to step out of “just being the rule enforcing Mom” role, and into the “let’s have fun too” role?”
First of all, you are NOT a bad mom. I can almost promise that anyone who’s reading this right now… is NOT a bad Mom.
So stop. Don’t say that anymore. It’s not fair to yourself.
You’re just… a Mom.
And more importantly?… A PERSON!
Just because you birth, adopt, foster or take care of a child (just like you are their own mother), and you lose your crap on them from time to time or don’t think that they’re someone you want to snuggle, love on, dote over, play with on the ground or hang out with at Target and be next to 24/7… YOU ARE NOT A BAD MOM!
Have you ever met a 9 year old who picks up baby talk from school?
Or an 11 year old who brings the ever-snotty-sounding, “fine, whatever!” into their vocabulary?
How about screeching?
Odd new ways of laughing that they picked up from another kid that make you want to rip your ears off?
Or maybe the stage where they say “Mom!, Mommy!” or “Hey Mom!” TEN GAZILLION times, even when there’s NO ONE else around and you are LITERALLY the only one walking right next to them!?!?!?
It’s like, why do you have to start EVERY sentence with MOM first!? I know you’re addressing me, I’m the only one here remotely in ear-shot – JUST START TALKING!… and then the best part… when you finally say… “Yes?” or “What?” they go into “Ummm” or “Hmmm”, and after about 10 seconds of that they eventually pipe up with… “Oh, I can’t remember – I forgot.”
**Cue deep breathing, eyes slowly closing and therapeutic neck rolling. #serenitynowserenitynow**
We have ALL felt annoyed, bugged, frustrated or just OVER our kids at some points. And just because you are HUMAN, and some things grate on your nerves worse than others… it does NOT make you a bad Mom. In fact, I’d like to venture out and say, that if your child(ren) isn’t (aren’t) starving on purpose, is (are) clothed in some sort of way, and even remotely healthy!?… you’re a GREAT Mom!!! – and don’t let yourself or anyone else tell you differently.
Maybe I should just stop there… because really, I’m pretty sure that the fact I have almost always thought like that⬆, is the main reason I convince myself that I’m killin’ it at this Mom thing most days😝.
Set low enough expectations for yourself as a mother ⤏⤏⤏ You’ll exceed them every time!
Okay, okay, I’m sort of kidding – but honestly, if you’re only worried about YOUR kids, and aren’t wasting your time comparing yourself to any self-help book, other Mother, child, or a friggin’ beautifully staged Instagram account?… then you’re already doing better than you know.
So kuddos Momma. Keep on keepin’ on.
Okay, so that being said, here’s a little more insight on how things have worked for me.
Take it or leave it.
I will be honest and say that until my husband and I separated, I did NOT have the type of connection I do with my girls now, as I did before. It’s not because of age, and it’s not because they magically became different kids – it was because I was forced to change my perspective.
In my head at this moment in my life, these sweet, unconditionally loving baby girls of mine are literally the only guaranteed thing I have tied to me.
I feel SO incredibly scared to lose them physically or emotionally. Not in a crazy, overprotective way (well maybe sometimes)… but in that complete “mother/daughter” closeness kind of way.
I will be absolutely transparent and tell you that I did not have this type of relationship with my own mother. She is an AMAZING Mom, worked her butt off, was there when I needed her and I ALWAYS felt unconditionally loved… but there was never a deep rooted “you get me as a person” kind of connection with her and I.
It wasn’t until I was older that I even realized other Mothers and Daughters had something like that.
I’ve also realized as an adult now, that it takes TWO people to gain that type of relationship – and I don’t think as a child I ever cultivated that kind of need and openness with my Mom. It could of just been my independent, stubborn nature, or the fact that my Mom and I are very different people – but I knew after I separated from my husband, that I wanted to figure out how to get that type of “I call and talk to my Mom about everything, no matter what” kind of relationship with my girls.
So what was it like before?
… I think the best way to describe it is… moving through the motions.
I was just mechanically working through the days.
Not stopping and enjoying myself or my kids. Worried more about messes, work, money, laundry, clean toilets, picking things up, making the right dinner at the right time… things like that.
I was serving my family and still felt like a great Mom… but I wasn’t NEARLY as fulfilled in my role as a Mother as I am at this point in my life.
I’m genuinely excited now to see and spend time with my kids. I love and still need the breaks away from them, to focus on myself from time to time, but I miss them when they’re away – I also know that the fact I HAVE to be apart from my kids while they go spend time with their Daddy, has led me to really appreciate the time I DO have with them.
SIDE NOTE: A break from Momming because you need or choose it, verses a forced separation from your kids – feels very, very different for me. Something that I wouldn’t wish on any Momma, and that I’m still trying to figure out how to come to peace with.
When I’m with my girls now, we laugh, cry, talk, tease and embrace each other’s personalities.
I was never really this way before, and it feels really vulnerable to admit that.
Almost like I was sleeping, and then decided to wake up to realize that this was IT. This is THE BIG GAME. I’ve only got one shot at this whole “raising my kids and making it count” thing, and I needed to GET MY HEAD IN IT!
Don’t get me wrong, I loved my kids to BITS before – always have, but until I was forced to TRULY listen, be patient, act (and then REALLY) become interested in the stuff that was super important to them (no matter how I felt on the topic)… things didn’t click.
The key for me?
SOOOOOOOOOOO much patience, no phone or computer, eye contact, a TON of INTENTIONAL ENGAGEMENT in conversations and most of all, ACTIVE listening.
It took humbling myself, slowing down and letting a LOT of other things go.
It took breaking down the “I am Mom” and you are “The Child” walls, and seeing these little girls as the individual fun, quirky, amazing personalities that they are.
A pivotal guide that really helped me to accept, build tolerance for and find the good in EVERY personality, was the book It’s Just My Nature – by Carol Tuttle.
And let it be known that this may be the ONLY book suggestion I ever share with you, because I AM NOT a book reader. The last thing (besides this book) I read, was the Twilight series.
It’s NOT a self-help book and yes, there are others similar to it in the “personality typing” market… but THIS one I could REALLY understand. This one, I could relate to. It was a fast, easy to comprehend guide through different personality types that filled me with about a million “Ah-Ha!” moments while reading it.
I HIGHLY SUGGEST IT.
It changed how I saw myself, to the point of tears… because I could finally feel okay about how I operated – without being ashamed. It changed how I saw other people, completely. It changed how I treated them. It helped me understand why I can’t STAND certain personality types (it’s true) and why at the same time I was always initially attracted to them – causing me lots of frustration in the end, as those relationships progressed.
It changed how I saw my family members, friends, husband, co-workers (at the time) and most importantly (for this post’s purposes) my children.
Maybe the realization that “not everyone thinks like you” was just built into you naturally as a person… but for me, it definitely was not. So when I talk about teaching my kids “tolerance and respect for others”, it’s because learning it for myself was a huge turning point in a lot of relationships in my life.
ATTENTION (really engaging intentionally) + TIME = RESPECT
RESPECT = LOVE
LOVE = CONNECTION
When we are justified positively in our actions, personality or choices – we feel loved, wanted and accepted. 10 years old, or 100… I honestly think that the core of true, REAL connection is love, acceptance, respect, positive affirmation and intentional engaged attention.
There is so much safety and happiness in knowing there’s validation from the people you love – when it comes to just being YOU.
As a Mother, I think we get so caught up in teaching, molding and trying to correct our children… that we forget to embrace our kids’ natures that they were born with, and have fun with THAT part of them too!
Just because you cut-loose and let things go from time to time doesn’t mean that’s how it’s always got to be. It doesn’t mean you stop being the rule-setting, chore enforcing Mom – it just means you can love AND like your kid(s) as well! Which in my opinion, are two VERY different things.
* Loving (caring deeply for someone) is oftentimes built in, assumed and automatically set in place – especially with family.
* But truly LIKING and enjoying being with someone, is a choice in a relationship that we make. Choosing to invest quality time, true patience and heartfelt understanding into someone else, is what takes relationships to the next level.
I’ve decided that the hard truth nobody wants to admit (especially as a mother, concerning her children)… is that sometimes that “like connection” comes easier with adults, at different stages/ages of life, or with certain individuals (personality types), more fluidly than others – AND THAT’S OKAY!
Don’t beat yourself up about it!
When it comes to your family – you just keep trying and give it your BEST effort!
Don’t forget to show up as FUN YOU from time to time. Be silly, tease, dance, laugh and show your kids who you are as a person too – because if you do, I can promise that eventually they’ll feel more comfortable sharing the best parts of themselves with YOU as well!
I wholeheartedly believe that this paves the way for trust, stronger connections and definitely helps open up that door of communication between parent and child – so when it’s time to talk about things like friends, school, romantic relationships, social media, self confidence, religion etc… it’s way more comfortable and natural for everyone.
When I started to finally relax, have fun with my kids and really saw them as little individual people with these hilarious, amazing personalities – instead of the tiny humans I had to only “keep alive and constantly worry about shaping into responsible adults one day”… THAT’S when things really changed! That’s when the whole foundation of being a Mother AND a friend really started to build and take shape for me, and it’s when I began ENJOYING my girls and genuinely started making those deep, trusting amazing connections that I’d always hoped for.
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