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Raising Preteens: Realizing How Uncool You Have Become

Being the mother of a preteen is not the most ego-gratifying period of a woman's life. If you thought you were clueless about what to do when the baby was brand new, think again—this is the time when you really begin to doubt that you know what you're doing. You have far less control over your preteen children than you've ever had, because the second they leave your house they are making all kinds of decisions you may never know about.

Betwixt and Between

Expect to worry. A preteen child combines the toughest parts of teenage-dom and childhood: He's old enough to think he can make his own decisions, but he's still too young to recognize his limitations. And, to make matters worse, preteens seem genetically hardwired to believe that all parents (and especially moms) are stupid and ignorant and that somehow they have been dropped into your family by mistake.

Teenagers, you hope, have already begun the maturation process that may ultimately lead to responsibility. Preteens, however, are still too close to being children to be able to objectively see how they are presenting themselves to the outside world. And while they may want you to see them as cool and up to the minute, inside they may still be clinging to their teddy bears or worrying about the monsters in their closets at night.

The Mom's Side of Preteen-dom

The preteen years feel like a time of loss to many mothers. If you have defined yourself in any way by your relationship with your child (and who doesn't, at least a little bit?) you're sometimes going to perceive your child's behavior as pushing you away. You'll be strongly tempted to cling and try to retain some control over your child, but that's only guaranteed to make your child need to push away even harder.

Mom Alert!

The preteen's demand for independence is at least 50 percent bluff. Don't react by giving your child more freedom than she is ready for. No matter how much she seems to be rebelling against you, she's really counting on you to hang in there for her.

Oh My Gosh! I'm Turning into My Mother!

One day you are going to find yourself haranguing your preteen, trying to maintain some control, and you'll suddenly realize that you sound just like your parents did when you were that age. At first you'll probably cringe at the recollection of how uncool you used to think your own mom was—and the realization that you have now become just as uncool to your kid.

If you're wise, you'll remember what you were like when you were trying to break away and become your own person—and you'll remember that you weren't doing it just to be mean to your folks.

Your preteen is not really rejecting you. She is just trying to find an identity separate from you at a time when she is terrified to let you go. The insults and cracks are your preteen's way of making it easier to let go of your constant protection.


Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Motherhood © 1999 by Deborah Levine Herman. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

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