"I need to talk to you about this tweenage thing," my friend said to me a few weeks ago. Her voice was heavy with the need for confession. I didn't know if she was about to confess hatred for her impossible tween or some other more unspeakable act of parental frustration.
"Okay," I answered, all ears. "What's up?"
"It's just, you know...the Justin Bieber, the vampires, the glitter toenail polish..." She could barely get the words out. "I just LOVE all of it. Every single second. She's doing so well, and she's so happy about her life. Is there something wrong with me? I just can't get enough. I think it's great. Do you think that's bad?" She looked at me with the kind of worry a parent might feel after letting their teenager have a sip of champagne at her parent's 50th wedding anniversary.
I laughed. "Not at all," I reassured her. "I'm right there with you. As long as we're talking to them and staying connected and making sure we're honestly pursuing our own dreams for happiness--instead of living vicariously through our girls--I think it's fine. You're living your dreams. You're being honest with her about the hard parts. She can see all of that. I think it's great."
She sighed a deep sigh of relief and we sunk down into the couch for a long conversation, without the threat of censorship or the worry of "Good Mother" hanging over our heads. While some may be appalled and warn of worse pop culture influences to come (and believe me, I've got my eye on that horizon), there's something completely pure and innocent about being excited about the next chapter in a young girl's life. Some of these recent media crazes have taken on cult-level popularity for exactly this reason. They reflect the tension between being innocent and becoming wise. They mirror the euphoria of sometimes getting it right and the adventure involved in learning the difference.
So many of my peers were raised to be afraid of the teen years--the predatory boys, the potential pregnancies, the STDs. But what if in all of our caution and fears about what could happen, we're missing out on one of the biggest gateways to tween/mom connection--an ongoing conversation about what's good right now? What if in an effort to shield our girls from the negative messages their getting from the media, we're missing our chance to be a part of an ongoing dialogue about the things they don't want to miss--healthy friendships, really positive interactions with boys and the magic of discovering they are strong, beautiful and capable of learning the wisdom of their own intuition? Justin Bieber may not be a poster child for any of the above, but he taps into the hope of someone loving you passionately. And why shouldn't our girls expect that?
There's an old saying that youth is wasted on the young. At my house, right now, with the music blaring, the constant toe-nail polishing and the long conversations about the bright and exciting future, I beg to differ. Mistakes will be made, difficulties will be encountered, but all in all, there's something incredibly valuable about being excited about the ride. That's where I see my tween right now; that's what my friend sees, too.
We can't bring ourselves to not be excited for their high hopes--not because we haven't achieved our own, but because in so many ways we have and are doing so right now. And maybe a little late, because we lacked the courage to dive in headfirst. May our girls retain their courage and excitement for love, adventure and true happiness. May we not let our fears of the inevitable disappointments keep them from giving their all to the joys and delights that are theirs to be had.
I know this isn't the party line on raising girls these days, and I know there are dangers to uncensored media exposure. I'm not arguing that. But if you're connected and involved with your tween girl whose heart is open to you, why not be in that process of discovery together? What say you, internets? How are you handling your tween girls and the silly excesses of tween culture? On the continuum between keeping them young and letting them go, where do you fall?
And maybe more importantly, what do you think about the idea that we hold them back because we don't want them to be hurt or disappointed, the way we were (and are) ourselves?