Saturday, November 9, 2013

Through the Tween Years and Beyond

My stepson turns 10 this December, and I’m slightly worried.  In three years he’ll morph into a teenager! We don’t always feed him nutritious meals, get him to complete weekly chores or take a shower without prompting, so I wonder: have we given him the tools to make his way in the world and eventually survive on his own?
My stepson and me, September 2012

About a hundred years ago, he might be a well-seasoned factory worker or farmer by now!  Thanks to the Keating-Owens Act of 1916, he is not, but I can’t help but wonder if we’re preparing him enough.  His current loves include trading Pokémon cards, riding his scooter, and playing video games like Minecraft.  He draws and writes his own comics with his friends and is generally upbeat, but how long will he stay this way?

Some of my loneliest, most uncomfortable years took place during middle school.  I felt so out of place.  As it turns out, so did most kids.  That’s because the tweenage years are when you start to find yourself.  You start becoming aware of what it takes to fit in and how much you want to.

On my journey, I shaved the hair beneath my ponytail and dyed my hair with Kool-Aid and Sun-In.  I wore fake Doc Martens until I was called out by an 8th grader, then immediately begged my parents to buy me real ones (they did).  Later, I started wearing CoverGirl powder foundation and bought a dark, moody shade of burgundy lipstick, which I never wore.  But during these years, I also won an award for playing trumpet, discovered I was an excellent speech-writer, and took my first week-long overnight trip without my parents.

Although some of my tween style choices might have been questionable, my parents let me do as I pleased. They let me figure out who I was on my own.  So that’s my plan.  I will support my stepson’s tween interests and style choices, encourage him to take chances, and I will model some healthy living along the way.  After all, many of life’s memorable moments occur not when we’re living perfectly, but when we’re going with the flow and following our curiosity wherever it may take us.

by Kemi Ogunji, Executive/Development Assistant, SC Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy

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