Honest Motherhood: Happy Birthday to my Tween

The day this column comes out will be my daughter’s ninth Birthday. This feels rather surreal. Each of her Birthdays has felt somewhat surreal, perhaps because I can’t always fathom the fact I actually have a daughter. Let alone one turning seven/eight/..and now nine. Unfathomable. 

Still a child, not yet a teenager, and yet conversations – or to be more accurate: conflicts – over the last few months might suggest otherwise. They frequently result in me declaring that she is acting like a teenager and could she please go back to being eight years old and not fifteen. This seems to tickle her. She smiles and refers to herself as a “tween.”
“A what?” 
I loathe most new terminology, remembering how my Dad used to react whenever I used the world “cool” not referring to the temperature. It’s unsettling. It makes me feel old. 
Google kindly provides this definition for the curious word: “A tween is a child between the ages of 9 and 12. A tween is no longer a little child, but not quite a teenager. They are in between the two age groups and their behaviour and emotions reflect that.” 
I quite agree.

This year, instead of a big party, Maia politely requested a sleepover and meal with four friends. Straightforward enough, and a far cry from the sweaty “Monkey Mates” parties she had three years running. (Monkey Mates, a soft play centre in Wokingham with humble and affordable food where young children go to bounce around and parents go to sit and stare at their phones for an hour. They had strong Wi-Fi and loud but uplifting music so I never complained.)
I have already been given strict instructions to make myself scarce during the sleepover. 
“Can you just..leave us alone…”
“Well yes..I mean I’m still going to be in the house..”. 

My daughter’s growing need for just-a-little-bit-more freedom has become increasingly apparent over the last few months. There’ve been a number of occasions where I’ve had to tell her to go back upstairs and change her clothes. Not because she’s come down in a mini-skirt and stilettos, but because she quite frequently dresses for the summer when it is jumper-weather. 
“It’s non-uniform day but it’s still school Maia! I can see your stomach. You’ll catch a chill!”
“When I wore it last time you said it wasn’t okay because it was night time! Now it’s day time! You haven’t actually said why I can’t wear it!”
“Because I can see your belly button.”

“It’s cold and that top is inappropriate for school.”
“Why not?”
“It’s just not! Now go upstairs and change please we are late!”

I can understand her frustrations. It’s just a belly button. We all have one. 

The reasons and politics of why I would rather my nine year old daughter didn’t wear a top that exposed part of her midriff to school, I have not fully thought through yet. (Which became clear with my abrupt and non-explanatory response: “It’s inappropriate!”.) 
It’s something I’ve asked friends with daughters about, and an area I will continue to ponder. What is healthy self-expression through fashion and a bit of fun with make-up.. And what is too much at this innocent age? 
Tweendom. A whole new arena of parenting. Wish me luck. 


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