Raising a Tween is serious business about magic, specifically the care of magical creatures and all things childhood magic related, and you should not be reading just any old parenting how to manual. Take it from someone who has finished raising two and is currently raising one, and is still sane enough to speak in English.
Creating magic and maintaining the facades of magical creatures roaming a parallel universe was easy when they were babies and toddlers because frankly, they will believe anything you say or show them. They see magic in anything and I mean anything, from your wet snotty sneezes to your silly faces, to the changing traffic lights to the smallest pebble in the park.
When they become a tween, the belief in magical creatures and childhood magic gradually becomes jaded with growing self-knowledge and self-importance. You will be tested every single day about your “magical knowledge” with questions like “How does one man in a red suit deliver all the presents in one night?” or “What does the Tooth Fairy really do with my tooth or all the teeth anyway?”
The tween is no-man land, stuck between the adorable toddling and the independent teens, so of course, your tween will be crabby and the Tween Parent has only one job – the care of Magical Creatures and all things magical. It is your job as the Tween Parent to preserve the magic for as long as possible and make crabby pants more live-able and hopefully, leave yourself with a little bit of sanity.
When you care for your tween, you will be caring for a whole host of magical creatures. You have to, it’s part of your job.
Prepare yourself for the weird wacky details only a tween would ask like – what time does Santa usually go to bed? What are the horns of the unicorns made out of? Why is the Easter Bunny a bunny and not a chicken?
Every festive season that comes round, out pops these random burning questions which to the tween, seems so important. Their whole Christmas hinges on whether you can tell them where exactly is the North Pole on the map. They will scrutinize and demand Santa’s delivery itinerary because they are beginning to think for themselves. Remember to think of the details and most importantly, do not mix up the details between Santa and Tooth Fairy. Tweens can smell an unconvinced parent better than a suited up lawyer in a criminal case. If they smell blood, they will come for you.
You get heart palpitations every festive season. You read up, you google and you cram, just like you would for your finals in High School. Every festive occasion is fraught with tension and you are thinking “Is this the last time we have the Easter Bunny over for a late night hop?”
Every season, you sigh with relief because you passed, and you know you have the magic of the Easter Bunny for just one more year.
The magic of childhood should not only be created with over the top imagination and passion but also fiercely guarded with white lies, conniving acts of deceit, play-acting, pretense, and mock horror (“Well, if you don’t believe in Santa anymore, then there would not be an extra present from Santa this year then”). Honestly, it is still useful to use such magical creatures to instill some order in the household chaos. “You don’t want to have a bath? Ok, I’ll just have to send an email to Santa about this”.
Santa, Reindeers, the Tooth Fairy, Fairies, Unicorns, Easter Bunny, Superheroes, Goblins add to the magic of tweenhood- let them continue in believing that the world is full of magic and have been waiting for them to take their rightful place as the Fairy King.
Remember when you were 10 and you believed that you could grow up to be an astronaut/ballerina/fireman/teacher, or run away to join the circus or become a fairy? The world was your oyster and with infinite possibilities. The magic allows them to dream of infinite possibilities.
Remember every book, every movie, every play, every song, every poem, every dance, every painting, every artwork, every prophecy is about your tween. Let him believe that it is his time. Do not forget to tell him that it is about him every time you read that book, story, or poem. Do not forget to point him out every time you look at every painting or artwork. Do not forget to call out his name every time there is a prophecy or promise of a new rebellion leader being sent out on his new adventure.
The magic of childhood is not just about Santa, Tooth Fairy, Elves, Unicorns or magical creatures teenagers scoff or adults miss, it is about playing in the park with not a care in the world, sharing a delicious joke during a meal, plunging into the river or sea with pure delight, or playing imaginary games. It is about a time when he is the Mutant Monster or she is the beautiful Princess, or he is the beautiful Unicorn or she is the kick-ass ninja warrior. Do not forget that when they are playing Princes and Princesses, Moms are Queens and Dads are Kings as well.
As parents, we are the custodians of all magical bits and bobs, of special treats, of special activities and special cuddles, that can instantly banish the childish hurt or a graze on his knee. These are the real puffs of fairy dust that somehow have the ability to chase the blues away. Remember sharing a Hazelnut Roll or Eskimo Pie with your mom or dad on the front porch on that scorching summer day? You laughed your tears away as the ice cream melted and dripped unto your sandals. Remember riding your new bike with your cousins on a cold Saturday morning as the wind wiped your nightmares away and you enjoyed the promise of a new day? These little magical bits somehow had the ability to turn a horrid day great again. Remind your tween he has that too.
Just as a tween grows, so do their hands to hold you when you are feeling sad, a mouth that will say “That’s ok, Mum/Dad.” “I love you”, “You’re the best!”, growing arms for bear hugs and a growing heart that will love you back and of course, legs that can walk to the Mall to replenish your secret stash of chocolate and chips.
The real magic is in just loving them, love them with all your heart, with warts, farts, barks and all but you know that already. What you do not know is that I lied about raising a tween being hard for a parent. I lied that it is very hard for a parent not because you are trying to raise your child but because he is actually trying to raise YOU too, to grow up into a better person.
He will remind you of the magic of movies you used to watch when you were his age, like “Stand By Me” or “Goonies” that you want to share with him. He will remind you of the magic of songs you used to listen to when you were his age, like “Girls Just Want To Have Fun” or “Billie Jean” that you want to sing with him. He will remind you of the magic of dreams you used to have when you were his age, like becoming an astronaut or an artist that you would now want to dream with him.
He will remind you of a time when you were his age and you believed in the magic of that Saturday bike ride and the dripping Hazelnut roll, the you who is a now jaded, tired or overworked you, who have just paid off the huge stack of bills, the mortgage or the rent or put away that great big pile of laundry.
He will remind you this time, and every time of the magic, to live your life with magic again because you have him to live for.
As you bend down to kiss him on his head, long after he has fallen asleep, you whisper, “Thank you, honey, for being the magic in my life now.”
He will remind you then that you have been tasked with the care of the most important magical creature in your life.
(This post originally ran on Agent Spitback)
About the author: Michelle Tan is the absurdist comic writer and certified life nonsense expert behind The Secret Diary of Agent Spitback, a fictionalized blog about a newbie mummy’s nonsense in trying to survive the world’s most dangerous place in the world — the school playground. Some call her genius, some call her dribble and some, like her three children, just call her “Mummy.” Her nonsense has also been published on HuffingtonPost and Babble. Catch more of her shenanigans on Facebook and Twitter. She is determined to be the World’s First Nonsense Blogger in Nothing Important.