I remember being twelve. Full of youthful confidence, I believed I knew everything, and it never dawned on me that I could be wrong, or unlikable, or really anything but sheer perfection. This was that blissful time between childhood and those ugly self-conscious teenage years when I felt I could do no wrong.
Now that I have a preteen of my own, I would like to publicly apologize to my parents and any other reasonable adult who had to endure those insufferable years with over-confident me.
Between ten and thirteen, a lot of developing occurs. No longer children, but not quite teenagers, kids in this age group are stuck in the twilight zone of growing up. I didn’t realize how hard it was until I found myself parenting a preteen.
For preteen boys, this time of development brings on new challenges as their bodies grow taller, their appetites grow larger (sweet mercy, the grocery bills will bring you to tears), and their ability to control impulses seems to die out completely.
Preteen boys teeter between sweet and sensitive, raucous and rough. They are learning the art of sarcasm, and filters seem to be washed away with the hormones that are coursing through their lengthening bodies.
Also, they start to smell…different. Where once they came in from playing outdoors smelling like sweet little dirty boys, now they smell like the inside of a locker room.
This can make a mom’s head spin.
There are three things your preteen boys need most from you in these changing days, Moms. These are the things that will protect your relationship with your little men while also allowing you, and them, to maintain a little sanity.
1.) Patience. Unending patience.
It’s important to remember that these years are as confusing for your boys as they are for you. When they walk through the room and scream FOR NO REASON AT ALL, they are as baffled as you are. Asking them why they did that will do you no good, because they don’t know!
Gentle reminders of appropriate behaviors are key. Don’t chastise them for being twelve.
2.) They need a male role model.
I’m sensitive when I write this because I know that everyone has a different family dynamic. Not all of you have the blessing of a stable husband who can guide your boy into manhood, and I understand the heartache that such a thing may cause. So hear my heart here.
It is key that boys in these preteen years have a stable man they can talk to and learn from. If your husband is there and involved, wonderful! Do everything in your power to point and direct your son to him. Let your husband dole out the discipline. Send the boys out for breakfast on a Saturday morning, and let dad tell your boy how important it is to shower and wear deodorant every day.
If your boy’s father isn’t involved, look for someone who can fill this gap. A grandfather, a neighbor, a youth leader at church, or a good teacher. If it’s in your power to get your son in front of a man who will show him how to navigate these changing years, then do it. You won’t regret the decision.
3.) Give out hugs, and lots of them.
Your boys may not be little anymore, but they are still yours. Hug them often. Tousle their hair, and give little pecks on the cheek, even if you have to sneak them in when they least expect it. Find ways to identify with your boys, and let them know that you’re still on their side, and that you have their backs by speaking their boyish language.
As they grow up, they will begin to pull away from you. Dear Mom, this is okay. It can be painful to watch, but as they drift toward manhood, your influence on them will be that of supporter, cheerleader, and chronic hug-giver.
The preteen years are new waters, and navigating them can be difficult. You remember the little guy who snuggled up for extra kisses at bedtime – the boy who called you his girlfriend and promised to stay with you forever and always as he sipped his chocolate milk.
Now he’s taller, and he smells different and acts different, and as he spreads his wings your heart will hurt. It’s okay to embrace that pain, but then you have to move past it and enjoy the journey of watching your boy become a man.
And seriously, brace yourself for the grocery bills.