Life with my pre-pre-teen (by mkkendrick)

So, my oldest son is in the 5th grade.  Next year he will be in the 6th grade and will become a MIDDLE-SCHOOLER.

Now, I’m not unfamiliar with middle-schoolers — I work at a middle school — I breath middle school angst, energy, enthusiasm, humor, anger, silliness, brilliance, and sheer there-ness all day long.

But, I have never LIVED with a middle schooler. And, more specifically, I have never lived with a 10-year-old who is beginning the difficult emotional, physical, and hormonal transition from kid to pre-teen.  The past few days he’s been a roller coaster — in the space of 24 hours he’s been sulky, arrogant, despondent, and joyful.  I haven’t seen him this out-of-balance since he was a toddler. As an educator, I know that this is all a normal part of his development and comes with the territory…and it’s territory I’ve visited…but never as a mom.

I know many of you here have already been through this transition.  Any words of wisdom? Suggestions for what works and doesn’t work? Or, am I just in for a wild ride the next few years?

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49 thoughts on “Life with my pre-pre-teen (by mkkendrick)

  1. Let them go through their moods and pout. Try not to make a big deal of it. When mine crossed the line, I’d try to calmly point out that their behavior was not behavior I’d tolerate from their father or any other man, so I wasn’t about to start at this late point in my life.

    Relationships do change. After a few years, they’ll become close to you again, but boys don’t seem to ever recapture that closeness they had with their mothers before puberty.

    Oh. One more thing. When he’s a little older, urge him in the direction of a really good, responsible girl friend. Girl friends can get boys to do things that parents can never hope for.

  2. Haven’t experienced exactly this — my teen boy is less moody, sullen, etc, than my teen girl. But, she is possibly experiencing true depression [we are dealing with this], so “buck up” or “that won’t fly here” aren’t necessarily the best way to deal with that.

    But DS got flaky in terms of attending to school work in middle school and has not yet gotten fully back on track. He’s up and down. I had hoped it was a middle school phase but as a freshman it’s still going on. My hope is that by the time he leaves home he will have a handle on a little bit more organization and self-discipline….we shall see.

    So no great advice here — just good luck!

    • Find him a girlfriend. A girl friend who does very well in school. Seriously, my best advice. Boys are incredibly competitive, and they are not going to ever let a girl friend out-perform them academically.

      We dealt with a degree of depression in one of my sons. There was a lot of talking, talking, talking, that in the end resulted in our version of behavioral therapy.

  3. I’m in exactly the same place – my 5th grader turns 11 this month – and I can say that I love, love, LOVE this stage! Right now the world is his oyster. There is so much that he wants to do, so many books to read and activities to try and fascinating new ideas that urgently need to be discussed. He’s in love with his growing independence and increasing sense of control and power. He’s just one pure, shining point of potential energy. Everything is possible.

    He does increasingly have extreme outbursts of emotion, but it’s still mostly wild enthusiasm and the rages burn themselves out quickly enough. Both of my kids are pretty intense, though, and his younger brother has always been prone to extreme emotional outbursts. So I guess we’re used to intensity and mood swings; in this family riding them out has always been just one aspect of going with the flow.

    One downside, though: he Never. Shuts. Up. Seriously, it’s exhausting. I know I’m going to miss the openness terribly when he inevitably does begin to pull away from us. But there have been times when my husband and I just look at him and say, “sweetheart please, can’t you shut up for just a minute? Please?” And he’ll cheerfully say, “OK!” and go right on talking, with hardly a pause ….

    • sounds like my middle son. Until the day he graduated from high school, we always heard, every time we went in for conference, that “Vincent is really very chatty…maybe he needs to be a little less talkative”.

      This is the kid who still talks away to himself in the bathroom.

  4. I’m there too with my “nearly teen”…..13 in less than two months. In a general way, he’s a great kid/young man, but he’s very quick to impatience with his old mom. Also, I’ve posted before that he is hard to motivate….I wish there was a middle ground between Lynn’s intense, passionate kid and my laid back “whatever” boy. Actually, that’s not entirely fair….just when I think he is going to make me nag him into submission (on homework or chores or studying for his Bar Mitzvah, for example), he surprises me and just does it! I just can’t figure out why it happens.

    • Again, very like my middle son. At 21, I still sometimes worry about what I perceive as lack of motivation. You know, though, he is kicking butt in a sales job…quickly moving up to the top of the pack. Guess being “chatty” and living in the here and now has it’s benefits?

  5. My DD, who just turned 10 last Friday, has been doing this:

    “The past few days he’s been a roller coaster — in the space of 24 hours he’s been sulky, arrogant, despondent, and joyful.”

    on a daily basis for, IDK, the past 8 years. I am fully prepared for whatever she throws at me because there can’t be that much left in her repertoire! (Now I’ve totes jinxed myself…lol!)

  6. We’re there too. Harry’s going to be 11 in May. I’ve loved 10- it’s my favorite age since 2- and I’m so going to miss it. Like Lynn, the world is his oyster and everything is possible (sort of the way I felt at 18) and he’s just glowing with it. We’re already getting flashes of the moodiness and he sometimes seems to be clinging to his little boy self- his stuffed animals have come back onto his bed and he’s snugglier than he’s been in ages- but he’s also getting so mature.

    And handsome. Did I mention handsome? :-)

  7. No advice here, obv, as we’re a long way from middle school. But I just wanted to say thanks for writing this diary! This is what I love about MT…getting to learn about everyone’s kids and know what to expect as we hit a stage. I love sharing this parenting journey with y’all.

  8. seriously? I Typed a WHOLE reponse this morning and hit post….and um.. yeah it’s no where. I give up.

    Cliffnotes version: Tell them to bathe frequently and use deodorant and don’t get twitchy if they prefer to spend most of their time in their room … give them space and don’t fight it and they’ll always come back to you…

    • Hmmm – I’m beginning to think I’ve been posting about the wrong kid. My almost-11 year old bathes constantly (sometimes more than once in a day) and probably won’t ever need deodorant (genetic inability to sweat). Meanwhile his little brother started needing deodorant at 7 even after we force him into the shower (which he strenuously resists because it gets him wet). His rages are so fierce we found dents in the wall near his bed when we repainted their room. I think he was born an adolescent.

  9. Ok…my take-aways so far:
    1) I’m not alone :-)
    2) Be patient, give him space to be himself and do his moody-thing, and don’t make a big deal about it (but, don’t be afraid to tell him when he’s out-of-bounds)
    3) Cherish and celebrate his budding independence — give him room and freedom to walk away a bit, and he’ll more likely walk back
    4) Buy lots of deoderant and encourage frequent showers (right now he only gets wet every 2-3 days…that will have to change)
    5) Don’t be afraid of girlfriends — they could be my best ally
    6) Be prepared for a shift in the mother-son relationship

    I’ll be honest, number 6 is the hardest for me to wrap my mind around. My sons and I are soooo close and they are both very much momma’s-boys — I am really going to miss the little boy/mommy dynamic. For now, I’ve still got DS2 to snuggle with, etc., but in just a few years he’ll be right where DS1 is and I’ll have TWO adolescent boys to contend with. I really want that transition to happen in a positive way. I know our relationship won’t be the same, but whatever kind of relationship we DO have…I want it to be strong…I don’t want to have a strained relationship with them when they are adults…and I kind of feel like the foundations of the relationship I’ll have with them as adults is being built now…

    • you may like the new phase even more. I LOVE my teenage companion….WAY more than I liked the little girl who needed me to do everything for her.

      • That helps to think of it that way. Thanks! And, I will say, he is an interesting, interesting person to talk to — he’s into politics, art, science, comics, etc. — and can really engage in some serious, fun conversation — as he gets older, that part of him will only get more fun (I hope).

      • Me, too. My daughter is the same age as yours, and I really enjoy her. And hey, when they shut themselves in their room, that’s more time for me!

    • Worrying about the foundations for the relationships you’ll have in the future is a valid concern! I worry about the same thing. It’s good to be reminded of that sometimes when I get too caught up in the rushed moments of the day.

    • I have grown sons now. And yes, there is a difference between the relationships we had when they were small children and what we have now. However, it’s so, so rewarding to build an adult “friendship” relationship with your grown children in addition to having the parent/child relationship. And you are so right that you are laying the foundations right now.

    • I’ll be honest — that transition broke my heart. I thought I had more time with him in that very close way than I got, and it has been very hard to come to terms with.

      I don’t really have any advice for you; you got this.

      xoxox
      mamacita

    • Adding a #7, (Katie mentioned this one) they really do come back to you. They come and go over the years, but they do come back. The snuggles may be fewer, but you get in return a charming, happy, world-is-my-oyster, spark-in-the-eye, sharing-the-joy guy. It’s reminiscent of when they see snow or sand the first time; “life” discoveries.
      Hang in there:)

      • This is great, Binz. I really enjoy the discovery part. As much as I might miss some aspects of having little boys, I really enjoy discovering who they are becoming and watching them discover the world. I would also point out that while the snuggles were great, the clinginess that went with it was… not great. I feel like I can breath now.

  10. I’m enjoying it too! (Mostly!) Of course there are the difficult moments of anger, etc., and I have not figured out how to get him motivated to have any interest in school. I keep hoping that will happen one of these days, as apparently does his teacher. But I love being able to discuss grown-up topics with him and see the person he’s becoming.

    • Motivation is an issue with my DH13, too. Gah. I suspect he just hates the structure of school (sitting in the classroom all day, doing what he’s told, having little choice). He just started 7th grade, and the curriculum seems to be getting a little more interesting this year–but he still does the absolute minimum to get by. At this point in his life, he wants to be either a lawyer or an architect (he would be awesome at either), both of which require higher education, so I just remind him of that periodically.

      • Another point–I’ve really taken to heart mamacita’s point about not putting school ahead of our relationship. I still find myself nagging him about homework, but I try to keep it to a minimum and also try to make sure that I focus on reminding him of the task, not on blaming him for not doing it.

    • Maybe this will reassure you: DS texted me from a college he was visiting to say “This place makes me want to sit down with a pile of books and study.” Good thing I was sitting down, because you literally could have knocked me over with a feather.

        • Not really. He is in love with one place and they offered a nice financial package so that place makes sense. Although we just got the offer from the state U he was accepted to. We weren’t expecting any aid from them but he got a nice offer.

          He had said he didn’t even want to go and tour the campus but I think I am going to insist since it would cost us about half as much to send him there, plus we would save $ on visits since it’s in-state. It’s a beautiful campus. He’s been in the vicinity, which he loves, but it’s a pretty big school with a big bureacracy, which does not compare favorably to the small (okay, tiny) liberal arts college he is in love with.

          That said, we will probably spring for the college he loves so much since it does seem to be a better fit. And even though it’s definitely costly, it’s a little less than we had budgeted. Not to say we have completely figured out how to pay for it….

          • Good luck with it. Sounds exciting. Definitely make him visit. Small schools are great, but I also think sometimes there is more to do at bigger schools, something for everyone, more diverse. Although they come with downsides too [bureaucracy, blech] You might also want to make sure he understands the financial part and that you could maybe save that extra money for him for whatever he might want to do upon graduation. I knew a lot of folks who went to Big State U. for that reason and then got a nice chunk of change for grad school expenses.

            I’m sure he won’t go too wrong with either :)

            • Thanks. I don’t think I would save the money to give him — I would just not have to scramble as much to come up with tuition! He is going to drive up tomorrow after his academic classes, take a tour and drop in on a class or two, then come home. I think he’s going in with a closed mind because he is so in love with the other place. But at least he’s going.

  11. I’ve wondered if we’ve inadvertently stumbled upon a key to child rearing – the small home. We started the boys in the same bedroom because there wasn’t much alternative, and then discovered that our poor sleeper slept much better with his sibling nearby. When we moved to this 4 bedroom house we decided they’d be more comfortable starting off together, and we could split them later.

    But we keep seeing so many benefits to keeping them in the same room. The rooms are small and a little cramped, so the two boys more or less share two rooms – one for sleeping, one for hanging out. The second room has the futon sofa and doubles as a guest room, and also the small TV and Wii (neither of which I’d allow in their bedroom). It’s great for hanging with friends – much better than a bedroom. When they get on each other’s nerves they can split into the two rooms, and if they need to be alone they can shut the door on either. But nobody in this household has sacred, inviolable territory. Eventually, they need to either come out or let someone in. The spare room isn’t technically theirs – it’s a public room that any of the four of us can use for a little quiet and privacy.

    The reason I like this going into the teen years is that I feel like I can give them a little extra privacy when there isn’t actually any option for secrecy. They can’t shut themselves away in solitude or hide anything if their rooms are shared. And if one starts down a wrong path that he is hiding from his parents, his brother will be in a position to know. I feel better knowing that they are looking out for one another, and want them to keep doing this through high school. So I’m working hard to make the spare room solution be the one they prefer.

    Obviously the kids change and develop so quickly that we never know whether what works today will work tomorrow. Maybe this will be a disaster when they actually hit adolescence and we’ll prefer them separated. I’m sure at some point they will wish they each had a private room. But I keep thinking about my own childhood – my three brothers shared a room, and I had my own. At the time I thought I was the lucky one, but I’m not so sure that was true.

    • I would do the same thing if I had two boys or two girls! Having one of each makes that a little tougher as they age. It’s one of the reasons I was hoping for a girl the 2nd time around. Of course I love my little boy, that’s a given. He spends a lot of time in his sister’s room, but that won’t last forever. The idea that even if parents aren’t in the loop, a sibling may be, is a comforting one.

      • This is intriguing to me, as one of the reasons we are moving (or hoping to sell our house, find our dream house, and THEN move) is that we want the girls to have their own rooms. Just this past week, Lucy woke up more than one night screaming from a bad dream or crying from a stuffy nose and has awakened Clara. And while it didn’t take long to settle Clara back down, I had nowhere to put her back to bed while her sister was still carrying on about her nose. Luckily, we still had the bassinet in our room (albeit piled with stuff in it). But that won’t work in another few months when Clara’s older, and then what? I still think we need another bedroom, but maybe it could be a spare room as you describe for times when one of them needs to be alone.

        • I grew up in a working class catholic neighborhood – large families, small houses, one bedroom per gender – so the notion that each child needs his/her own room is foreign to me. And in my kids’ birthculture I’m told it is considered a hardship to sleep alone. So I guess I never worried about whether they could learn to sleep through each others problems, I always just assumed they would.

          • I could go with that if I were good at taking the long view. At 3am with 2 crying kids, though? F@ck the long view. Just tell me where I can put the baby so I can get some sleep.

            We totally planned to have them share a room throughout their childhood. Now we’re hoping we don’t HAVE to have that arrangement. If we/they choose it despite other options, that’s another thing entirely.

            • I probably just had easier kids, plus my two are much closer in age. My elder son woke us up Every Single Fracking Night until his brother came home. Then it was, “meh – that’s just my brother screaming his head off with an earache again, I’m going back to sleep.” And he stayed asleep unless we made the error of moving little brother into our room; if we pulled that stunt he’d wake up and join us.

            • We started with separate bedrooms for the boys, then moved them into the same room with bunkbeds, leaving the other as a “playroom”/we haven’t given up yet on the idea of adopting another one. They don’t mind, and they still sleep in the same bed. It’s a twin over full, so they still want to snuggle with a parent in the bottom bunk at bedtime and they wake up either there or in our bed. It won’t last forever.

    • Our house came with four bedrooms. When we moved here, we had four children. After we added more children and the kids grew older, we decided to finish the basement to make more bedrooms. Added three more in the basement so all of the older kids could have their own rooms. Rarely did the younger ones stay in their own rooms. In fact, the older ones didn’t always, either, until they became quite a bit older…we’re talking middle to late teens at the earliest.

      My late sister in law had a brilliant idea that she always wanted to do if they had ever built another house. She wanted to leave a whole floor open, and have easily movable partitions that could be used to make separate rooms as needed.

    • Yes! We did this with our boys and then, again, with the girls. I think it fosters a closer relationship. Even in houses where they had opportunities for different rooms (but shared bath) they gravitated to spending their play time in one, and sleeping in one. They were able to escape for momentary privacy if they needed it, but stay connected for the most part.

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