inspired by this.

We are hitting a new development frontier over here, and as we all feel so wobbly on multiple levels, I have been keeping a little list in the back of my mind on what I am discovering along the way (i.e. mistake making turned learning lesson). So here’s to every parent of a tween boy:

1. Laugh at the fart goodness. I know we have been discouraging all potty humor since the high holy days of preschool, but the truth is, farts are funny. There is something to be said for the amazing skill of burping the alphabet, whoopie cushions and mastering the art of the under arm fake fart sound. Don’t worry, you can still hold court at the dinner table, but get down and farty with your boy every now and then.

2. Hang out in his room. While you are still a couple years away from the lines of total sacred privacy being drawn, go hang out in his room with him with no real agenda. Lay down on his bed and bounce a ball off the wall, sort through comic books and don’t even try to pick up any laundry. Being together in his space may give you new insight into the things he cares about and the ways he might want to connect.

3. Listen, listen, oh, and listen (i.e. stop talking). Whenever I see that angsty, moody look on a growing boy’s face, I just want to pepper him with questions, playing emotional detective till I solve the adolescent case. Usually just one or two questions and a lot more listening do the trick. Your boy will find his words given the chance (without rescue) and is hopefully building the ability to communicate what he thinks and feels for the future.

4. Hey there Mr. DJ! While I would happily stay on the Regina Spektor Pandora station from now until the end of time, my boy is making Grooveshark playlists with everything from Queen to Cee Lo Green. Power music? Nobody understands? No worries, everybody needs the soundtrack of their life playing no matter what stage you are in. Remember my emo phase? Oh wait, still in that one.

5. Bring on the brag. Does he want every adult in the room to know he rocked the landing at the bmx track or just unlocked a secret character on Mario Kart? Let him share, add some details yourself, let him try on being seen and sharing his power in new ways. Chances are some dude in the crowd has been dying to talk about video games since he was 11. Atari, Nintendo 64 anyone?

6. Play just to play. Even though he has baseball twice a week or Robotics class every Monday, go out and throw a ball, program a lego creation, with no performance required. In all his efforts to achieve, make the winning basket, or score the highest grade in the class, he is probably happiest just playing HORSE or sitting on the floor with 57,000 legos.

7. Hold him tight. We instituted a new 15 minute a day hold/sort of hug each other ritual after a rough patch of trying to understand one another. I threw out the idea like spaghetti on a wall and surprisingly it totally stuck. So every morning I crawl up in the top bunk or he finds me, and we just sort of hold each other, no words required. In the midst of all this growing up stuff, I forgot how much we both needed this connection. Back rubs work too.

8. Break the rules. Now is the time for a burger or pizza run at 10pm, way past your bedtime with the windows down and music blaring. Night biking trip? Forget the showers, plan a boys adventure, watch a movie trilogy and never leave the couch. Experiences on the edge bond us to our boys and remind us as parents what it was like to be carefree.

9. Learn the lingo. Is Minecraft taking over your Mac? Have you Kinect-ed yet? Do you know every last football stat for Adrian Peterson? It’s okay, I have no idea either, but it is fun to start collecting the info that your boy is storing in his head and heart. You get mad parent points when you find the latest funny you tube video or even just really listen to all the minutia and can ask thoughtful questions. We all pretty much want that.

10. It’s all still in there. While the push pull of independence in every day life is tiring for every one but all of the boy and soon to be teen is jumbled up in there together. The need to question, cry, still be a kid, become your own self, fear, strength is all pretty rad. No boy, no person actually has to be just one, he can be all the things.

11. Be in it together. There is nothing like a new developmental stage to remind you of all your own old junk. It’s okay to be awkward, stumble through, just like your tween. Everybody is learning and growing, and he probably will respect your honesty when you tell him you are trying to figure it out too. The truth is, we all are walking through this life and it is almost always better together.

*thanks Kell for #2!

Please help this mother out, add to the list in the comments! What are the ways you are kind to your kids that really connect you?

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Josiah went to the opera, before that it was the symphony, he hardly ever has that much homework and his birthday just brought him video game nirvana, a DS 3D. We wandered the park after dropping him off at the opera fieldtrip with his class…

Jack: (said with a quivering lip) Mom, when you were a girl, did you ever struggle with feeling jealous of your sisters? I don’t want to feel it, but I do.
Me: Oh Jackie-boy, I am a middle child, you have NO idea my friend!

I pulled him a little closer, he began to weep. Oh, the stories I could tell this child but mostly I am so amazed by his self awareness, it took me so much longer to even see that I was jealous in the first place. I think it was just two years ago actually, my dear boy is so far ahead of me.

Me: You know what I am wondering about right now? I think how you are feeling is really good.
Jack: Good?
Me: Yeah, maybe that little feeling of jealousy in your heart is really just a sign, a little clue that you are ready for your own adventure. Sometimes you don’t even realize that you need or want something until you see it happening to someone else. I think this is your chance to have an experience that is just yours. It feels bad now but I bet when you are doing the thing in your heart, you won’t feel so bad about Josiah. I know you love him. It’s really important that we figure this out, I know you have been talking about guitar for like forever, we should totally go this week and make some plans for your next best thing.
Jack: Thanks mom…
Me: It’s okay Jack, to feel this way…It’s kind of beautiful actually. It means something is about to happen for you, it means you care about yourself, it’s good.

….and he was still a little sad, because that moment is hard, but I think we are supposed to feel it, to know it… let it do it’s magic, even if it takes awhile…without judgement, so we can let hope creep in and grow.

So we went to dinner together and ordered fountain drinks because that is always exciting, almost as good as the opera.
“Mom, should I share this cup with the girls?” he asked. (my poor children)
“No, I think you need you your own tonight.” I said matter of factly.
“Really? Oh thank you, thank you mom!” with eyes beaming.
“It should probably be root beer too…” (the no-soda ban lifted)

…and that is all it took for the night to be big, or big enough…and yet, like Jack, I am still finding my way, everyday trying to follow my own heart, believing in the beautiful path meant just for me.