“Mummy, can you not eat from my plate, please?” my eleven-year-old told me firmly this morning.
I was taken aback because I would never speak to my mother in this way even today. But I understood that my daughter was right. She had her preferences, like all of us, do.
I promptly left the fork and said, “Sure!”
Preteens and teens come as a much-needed reality check for parents. Parents who can take their children for granted. Parents who forget that their babies are no longer ‘babes-in-the woods’ who need guidance and hand-holding. Parents who can get too clingy and invasive in their child’s (an individual in their own right) space.
The need to wean away began a couple of years ago, when my daughter, who would sleep with her grandparents every night, wanted to sleep in her room. As a toddler, she loved to snuggle with her grandparents, who would humour her and entertain her with bedtime stories. When she moved into her own room and started sleeping there a few years ago, it broke her grandparents’ hearts. They tried to talk her out of it, but she was sure that she wanted to sleep independently. It scared me where she would fall off the bed in the night and hurt herself, but she managed fine. Yes, there were times when she was afraid, had some bad dreams, and would want me to sleep with her for the night sometimes. But, she’d want me to put her to sleep every night though – lie down with her till she goes to sleep.
Kids grow fast. As a parent, I want to savour the present time without being too clingy and letting my daughter discover things on her own and learn independently. I can see the change in her already. During this pandemic, she has taught herself many news skills – new techniques in drawing, video creation, video editing, animation, gaming, and social media. I don’t interfere, and peer pressure can be a good influence. She learns some from her friends and vice versa. I watch the groups teach and flourish together during the pandemic.
And then there are times she needs me. To watch the latest BTS or Black Pink interview or song is third-degree torture to my senses. When I pooh-pooh her request, she debates,
“But Mummy, you make me watch what you want me to watch. So, you have to watch this.”
How does a parent argue with logical reasoning like that?
And then, there was this time when she woke up in the morning and declared as she entered the kitchen. I want to prepare my own breakfast from now on. When I told her she already makes it by herself, she told me she wanted to use the stovetop. The protective mother in me protested, but she tried convincing me.
“Mumma, your work will only get lighter.”
“You don’t need to, and I’m not expecting you to.”
But when I saw she was eager, I agreed with hesitation. Long story cut short when the fire came on, and the pan was piping hot, my daughter chickened out—all this big talk on being independent – gone with the wind. I learned a new parenting lesson that day. When you reject what your preteen or teen wants, their demand becomes stronger. When you give in, they lose their steam. Ha-ha!
On a serious note, though, here’s what I discovered about parenting a preteen or teen. They are eager to discover the world and create their own experiences and stories. Be it success or failure; they want to make it on their terms.
As parents, all we need to do is sit back, and believe that our teenager can do it. Whatever it is that they want to achieve, and they will do it well. And they will open up to us and even seek our guidance and thoughts too. Just be there for them. Not in the way they needed us when they were babies and toddlers, but as silent pillars of strength who witnesses a caterpillar fluttering hazily at first and then confidently into a beautiful butterfly.
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