One of the greatest challenges of being a tween is knowing what you can and cannot do. To the tween mind, the world appears wide open. Anything kids can do is fair game but so is anything a young adult can do. The great misconception of tweenagedom is that a tween can do anything. (A variation of this, the notion that teenagers know everything and no one else understands anything at all, is extremely prevalent during the teenage years that follow, but thatís another story for another column.)
My eleven-year-old son is currently straddling that line between boy and man. Heís as strong as an ox but he doesnít know it. His trademark flying hugs (a hug that begins with a running start from across the room) are less cute and more painful than they once were. His playful wrestling with mom is bordering on dangerous. As the saying goes, he doesnít know his own strength. He sees himself still as a child but he isnít. Heís something else. Heís a tween.
On the flip side, he sometimes struggles with understanding his place in the social hierarchy. He will argue with adults because he thinks he has standing to debate decisions that are made beyond the scope of his maturity. He sees himself already as an adult but he isnít. Heís something else. Heís a tween.
Walking him down that narrow line, teaching him to how to be a man while keeping in perspective the fact that he is not yet there, that he is now a man-in-training, is my job. That means giving him freedom to make some decisions, even some that will carry potentially negative consequences, on his own. It means making some decisions for him, regardless of how unpopular that may be. It means being a parent.† Not a dictator and not a buddy, a parent.