The Ten-Ager. The Queen’s Soapbox Confessions nailed it with this referral to her own ten year old! So much so, that I had to steal it for a blog piece of my own, because of my own experience with parenting my ten year old Ten-Ager, as well as my past experiences of nannying other’s ten year old’s.
The prequel to tweens and the first baby step to becoming a teenager, the Ten-Ager is a mysterious specimen. Moody, full of angst, and in the beginning stages of puberty, they are diabolical aberrations of the sweet little kids they were ….just last week. It’s amazing how they even manage to survive the wrath they dish out upon their households to make it to eleven. The more younger siblings the specimen has, the less likely it is that they’ll reach eleven intact. No one with kids is safe from the Ten-Ager.
In the mornings, particularly on school mornings, you’ll find yourself waking up a kid who’s miraculously found a way to mentally regress into a four year old who only speaks Whinnese. The Ten-Ager will be adamant that they’re too tired to wake up, which is completely contradictory of the energy level used for those adamantly spoken words, that only a brain at least half-awakened could produce. When you finally drag them out of bed, they’ll pout all morning. They’ll also forget how to get themselves ready. It’s as if the Ten-Ager, who now shys away from all open displays of affection, finds this an acceptable alternative to being babied. It’ll be a battle of wills and time constraints to get them to go find their own clothes, brush their hair and teeth, and for Pete’s sake…find their own belongings for school. By the time the Ten-Ager is ready to get out the door, their mood has soured from pouty to defiantly aggravated. Only a cheesy joke or comedic display can break through that tough exterior and reveal the kid you recognize.
After school, that defiantly aggravated Ten-Ager has returned with vehemence. They are absolutely staaah-rrrrving! Yet nothing is what they want. They’ll act like the fridge and cupboards are bare, because either A. They’d have to actually prepare something in some way and they’re feeling too lazy, or B. None of it is candy or some sort of crazy junk food that you’d only give them occasionally under special circumstances. They’ll go on a hunger strike for all of thirty minutes trying to prove a non-existent point, then proceed to snack on everything they are actually allowed, trying to sneak, plead, & bargain beyond their before-dinner-limit, because, again…they’re still staaah-rrrving. In between all the snacking, this ball of hormonal uncertainty will either let the mean streak loose on the siblings or friends causing chaos and ruckus that gets on everyone’s last nerve. Or they’ll sulk pitifully with heads hung low and refusing to talk about it, with occasional bouts of intense sobbing that really is all your fault, despite having reasons for these spells unknown to even them. The unpredictability keeps everyone on their toes, wondering which side of the Ten-Ager will appear that evening. Sometimes you think that, just like a toddler in a growth spurt, that they really just need some extra sleep, but since they think they are grown already, they lose more sleep than necessary fighting it every night at bedtime.
The language of a Ten-Ager is not something to be desired, either. Caught up trying to act grown again by using adult language, it tends to backfire and show off their still very childlike nature because they don’t even know the meaning of these words they spew. And don’t you think for just one moment that your Ten-Ager isn’t exploring the language art of cursing just because you’ve never heard it or seen it. They may not be outwardly verbal alongside their other classmates, but they listen and laugh, think of what they round day if they had the guts. They attempt to investigate it passive aggressively by watching or listening to entertainment sources with foul language, so it doesn’t seem as bad on their part to be so overly curious. Ten-Ager’s need to be sat down and explained to what the old mantage of “there’s a time and a place and a limit for everything,” means in relativity to self-control, as well as, how to handle peer pressure without being bullied.
Another thing Ten-Ager’s are testing the waters of, is lying. Well, more like fibbing with the degree of minority of which the subtext of the lie falls under, but still. Completely inexcusable and unacceptable. For example, my own Ten-Ager knows damn well that we do not eat in our bedrooms. He walked right past both his father and I into the kitchen earlier today. After listening to him rummage around in our snack cabinet, he came waltzing right past us trying to hold something out of our sight at his side. When his dad asked him what he had, the kid just kept walking away as he mumbled, “Nothing.” I called him back to the living room then listened as he opened and shut his dresser drawer before heading back to see me. After some good cop/bad cop interrogation from his father and I, it was determined that he had indeed lied. He was sneaking a pop-tart to his room when he knew he should have a sandwich if he was hungry, as he had been told to earlier when I offered lunch to everyone. Now he’s sitting at the kitchen table writing sentences, because no crime goes unpunished in the Angrivated House. Staying ahead of their tricks is vital to keeping the Ten-Ager on track and out of trouble later on down the road.
These Ten-Ager’s tend to think they’re entirely capable of holding their own in familiar situations and are willing to put the effort into doing things that they want to do, balking over being treated like a baby if you offer assistance or give suggestions to get the job done better. They are know-it-all’s, with knowledge of all the world’s mysteries and secrets. Then you mention chores. Those, apparently, are not something they want to do. Asking them to do their chores (that they were once thrilled to be helping you with, like, a year ago), is now the equivalent of someone trying to ask the Snowmaggedon of 2015 to have hit the middle of the Atlantic Ocean instead of the United States East Coast. Yet, these are our future leaders in the next generations to come, so, we as parents have to buckle down and ride the Ten-Ager into submission, teaching them to use those hard-taught skills that will make them for a respectable citizen one day. As long as there’s maintainable control over said child, there’s room for improving upon the Ten-Ager’s character traits and room for success in raising them, so they don’t end up running off for circus or gang life. There will be no end to the limits a Ten-Ager will test, no boundaries left unpushed, and no previously off-limits adult topic unexplored. And for every inch given, there will be a mile taken IF the reign’s aren’t held tightly enough to keep them in their place. A big head is okay, as long as it doesn’t inflate their ego.
Ten-Ager’s have a lot more to offer than all the hormonal angst raging through their bodies, though. Sometimes you get to see the empathetic, humanitarian side of them as they help a neighbor or reach out to a friend in need. They may not want to cuddle up in your arms and here mushy reasons why you love them so much, but they will sit contently next to you and hold a conversation about some odd worldly topic that peaks their curiosity. Like how it is that you have to pay for a house to live in when it should be our right to have shelter, like every other animal on the planet. Or, how they believe that kids should be able to vote if they can reach the voting booth without assistance and read the ballot. Or, how do you buy a Lamborghini when you turn 18. (That was a heartbreaking reality to tell my poor kid it was an improbably impossible circumstance.) Even the possibility of a real-life zombie apocalypse happening from something like Ebola, is a lengthy philosophical discussion with a Ten-Ager. These talks are a lot of fun with their expanded, but a tad misguided, knowledge of the world’s workings and misinterpretations of larger words. It makes for plenty of laughs that leave bellies aching, and, if you’re a mom who’s birthed a few kids, your pants a little pissy, thanks to the weakened bladder from child-birthing. The Ten-Ager has a greater sense of empathy for mankind at this age, showing real compassion for people in need, but only when you least expect it. And, if it’s not been commanded by you, the parent. They’re starting to step-up and take charge of situations with siblings and are able to be trusted with simple grown-up tasks like walking to the corner store to get butter, walking younger siblings home from school, basic cooking of things like macaroni or grilled cheese, and staying home alone for very short periods of time. Those things can be a huge help to us parents always looking to grow a second set of arms.
All-in-all, it’s a real struggle to maintain sanity as the parent of a Ten-Ager. Sometimes the good moments outweigh the bad and you’re able to truly enjoy those beginning glimpses of the adult they’ll soon become, long before you’re actually ready. Sometimes, the bad times will outweigh the good, and the day will seem to go on and on for all of eternity, like being stuck in the Twilight Zone. I can see the episode title now: Nightmare of the Time-Stalling Ten-Ager. Eventually though, they’ll make it to their eleventh birthday and reach the Tween zone, full of it’s own challenges to overcome…. and the ornery, Whinnese-speaking, tantrum-throwing, door-slamming creature that is the Ten-Ager will have phased into something just a little bit worse….. The Tween. Then you’ll be begging for that Ten-Ager, who really wasn’t all that bad to have around, to come back!