I am not sure whether my ten year-old is an aberration from the species of tweenus humanas but she has become a creature that is largely incomprehensible.
Something Changed this past year and by that I mean Everything Changed.
Although the years prior had been rife with giggles and craftmaking, curiosity and general chumminess, the Tween who now lives with me is an unpredictable force of nature.
The field research, as I understand it, runs long on this species.
The Tween, it appears, is not a creature that evolves in a way that is linear or even progressive. The Tween can be inexplicably mercurial in temperament. Sometimes she is fully independent and categorically dismisses the wearing of pink or frills, and other times she is not sure why I would deduce she’s too old for “My Little Ponies” and really — why would I think that? Tween does not often offer clues as to how her needs can be met. For example, when I say The Wrong Thing on Monday, I am not confronted about The Wrong Thing until several Mondays henceforth at which point I have blithely been thinking everything had been forgiven, all the while a large fortress had been under construction around The Threat of the Wrong Thing Being Said Again, and the fortress is now fully armed with emotional explosives that can detonate at any time.
Dear God, it’s me, Kendra. Can you hear me? Because I need you to translate some things down here on the earth plain.
In fact, Tween terrain has felt to me like utter displacement. Much like waking up one day and learning that the house you had been living in for the last ten years had been transported right in the middle of a busy intersection. The rooms and furniture in your house were still all the same, everything inside was just as you had left it, but now you would have to get used to horns blaring and sirens wailing just outside your window, and the fun daily escapade of playing frogger just to get to your front door. The vessel is the same. But the traffic pattern and the sights and sounds have changed radically. You can’t go back to your old address. You can’t move to a new house. You have to learn to live within the familiar confines in unfamiliar territory.
Instead of leaning in to my own feelings of displacement, though, I have found a more helpful posture to be that of shape shifting. I cannot expect the evolving vessel that is my Tween to explain to me what is happening with her since, hello? She is going through it. But I can try to understand what it must be like to have your feelings and hormones and body and mind all learning a new tango at once.
Recently I put Tween in charge of decorations at our church VBS. Friends, I wasn’t prepared. I wasn’t prepared for the staggering creativity and ingenuity she infused into everything. I wasn’t prepared for the feelings I unintentionally stepped on when I rearranged the fluffing of plastic bags on the waterfall. But swtiching roles, making her the boss of me in a sense was just the Freaky Friday role-reversal I needed to help me see this complex world through Tween’s eyes.
It’s a prescription — and a privilege — I hope not to ever lose.