LG is a tween — that stage between 10 and 13 when preadolescence (which is harder to decipher than “real” adolescence) rears its smart-mouthed head, and parents are the stupidest they are ever likely to be. It’s hitting Jif and me hard. As a professional, I have coached families through every conceivable developmental stage, I have taught parenting classes, I have taught graduate students how to work with tweens . . . when it comes to my own personal life, though, I’m pretty much up a creek.
Last Friday, I subdued WTF enough to take LG to the orientation for middle school. Once we arrived and got out of the car, she said to me, pretty as you please, “Now, don’t embarrass me.”
Not wanting any trouble, I just said, “OK. What would that entail? How do I make certain I don’t embarrass you?”
“Don’t speak to me.” Alrighty, then.
Of course, she got caught up in the excitement of the moment once we were “oriented,” and she chattered to me about her schedule, and showed me how she CAN open her locker after all, and it wasn’t nearly as hard as her nightmares about it had been, yadda yadda yadda… and I responded enthusiastically.
::tangent::This is the point at which TOO MANY parents would have said, “I thought I wasn’t allowed to talk to you!” and been all huffy, etc. Don’t do that. Forget their tweenisms and let them save face::end tangent::
On Monday, LG rode a bus to school for the first time. The bus stop is only one house away from us. There are work crews all over our street now, which means there are strangers everywhere. So for now, we keep an eye on her as she goes to and waits at the bus stop. On Monday, Jif offered to walk her down to the stop, and after a moment’s hesitation, she agreed that would be good.
Well. That afternoon she told me, “You must NEVER let him come to the bus stop again! He INTRODUCED me to the boy standing there. And he kept TALKING to the boy, like making CONVERSATION. You MUST STOP HIM!”
As the story came out, when they got to the bus stop, Jif sees this 6 foot tall kid, lurking at the middle school bus stop. See, he had missed the orientation where the principal told us about all the shapes and sizes that tweens come in. So, just to make sure this kid belongs there, he says, “Hi, I’m Jif.” And the kid says, “JT.” And Jif says, “Nice to meet you, JT. You’re a big guy for middle school.” And the big guy says, “Yea. I’m in 8th grade.” And Jif says, “This is LG.” That was the crime of the century.
A couple of days later, it was still a topic of conversation. I am always stricken by the lack of social skills in these kids today (my own included), so I asked both of them, “Did, uh, did JT say anything when Daddy introduced you?”
Jif answers, “No.”
“Nothing?” I ask. “Not even a nod, a grunt, a pawing of the ground with his hoof?”
“Oh, now that you mention it, he did paw the ground,” recalls Jif.
But LG corrects her Dad (btw, this is the principle occupation of tweens, correcting everydamnthing parents say), “He nodded and said, ‘hey.'”
“Oh,” I say, very impressed with JT’s superior social graces. “And did you say anything, LG?”
Jif answers, “No. She looked up into the trees. Must have been a squirrel or something up there.”
“LG! Is that true?”
“Yea. I looked in the trees. It was embarrassing!”
Thankfully, LG still has a sense of humor, and every morning this week we have threatened her with Daddy introducing her to someone at the bus stop. She didn’t pick up her room? By gosh, she risks INTRODUCTION! She wants to have a sleepover with her BFF? That will cost her one INTRODUCTION. It’s exploitive parenting. Purely for our own amusement. And that’s just how we roll.
This is the scene on the sidewalk in front of our house every morning since Monday. Today, I captured it for posterity: