What is it about mothering an 11-year-old that you liked the most? The least?
I love 11. I know this particularly keenly now, writing three months into 12, because things feel different in a material way. Eleven felt like a golden time. I loved her company and she loved mine. Sports were important but not crushing. She was funny and smart and thoughtful and not yet moody. The only thing I liked least about 11 was that it ended.
When did you know your child was a tween/teenager?
I knew she was a tween when she really wanted Instagram. I let her have it, but our rules were (and still are) that she doesn’t post selfies, she doesn’t post group photos that might make others feel excluded, she has to ask before posting anything and when accepting follow requests. Somehow Instagram felt like the harbinger of a new season.
What do you wish you knew before you had a tween/teen?
I wish I knew that we’d make it through these famously rocky years with our bond intact. I wish I knew that before she entered tween-hood and frankly I still wish I knew that now that she’s in it. I have a lot of fear about what the next few years will bring, and I wish I could trust that on the other end we’ll be fine.
What advice do you wish you could tell your former self about mothering an 11-year-old?
Don’t sweat the little stuff. I remember people telling me tweens needed their parents more than infants and being absolutely flabbergasted by this. “But she sucks on my body every two hours. How could she possibly need me more than this?” I asked once. And it’s a different kind of need, but it’s a need all the same. It’s real and I wish I hadn’t worried so much about the baby ear infections and food introductions and all of that, because I see now it didn’t matter.
What about motherhood inspires you?
My children make me laugh every day. They say things that make me think, and their surprising moments of humor and kindness often take my breath away. They inspire me to be gentler and more positive in the world.
What do you hope readers will take with them from your piece?
I hope my piece reminds readers to take a moment to notice the details of where they are in their lives, right now. So much of motherhood—and life itself—is transient and fleeting, and the primary goal of writing for me is to capture some of a particular moment’s nuance and shimmer. If I can help even one reader do that, that’s a tremendous honor.
Purchase Brain, Child’s Special Issue for Parents of Teens, which includes the This is Adolescence Series – Eight essays from America’s leading writers on ages 11 – 18.
Read an excerpt: This is Adolescence: 12