Brain Farts and Tween Tarts

Zombie Girl ( dreamstime_s_12963894)

That’s what I call my teenagers’ relentless flakiness.  It’s not just the spaced out moments that you expect. It’s when it seems like I’m talking to a walking zombie or a headless teenager living in a sleepy hollow. Since the start of school year both my daughters have:

  • Forgotten homework on the kitchen table at least 6 times each
  • Left the gym bag at home even though she pasted sticky note reminders everywhere
  • Didn’t put her wet laundry into the dryer overnight before a soccer game for the only and only team jersey
  • Needed $20 dollars for a coaches gift immediately (and we have no cash on hand)
  • Didn’t realize the art portfolio assignment required work over an entire summer
  • Had a meltdown over “lost” or “stolen” clothing items
  • Had to have a name brand item or else she’ll die
  • Thought she told me about the bar mitzvah, sweet 16 or school social and that I was the other carpool mom for six girls. Gee thanks.

And then blamed me for all the heartache their ditziness caused.

I chalk it up to the tween brain, still porous and a work in progress. Then there are the times when the girls are left to their own devices.

When the cat’s away the mice will….

Zombie Child of Mine
Zombie Child of Mine

On a recent Sunday morning my 13-year-old (delightfully portrayed to the left) and a friend had the house to themselves. Dad was stealing another “last” golf outing of the season and mom was in another state. To her credit my younger daughter, Josie, did not give up on the ritual Sunday morning pancake breakfast just because the family was scattered. Indeed, she and her BFF whipped up a storm, literally. Several bowls were in the sink and batter dripping was crusted on the counters; flour footprints were left on the floor; the milk was left out for hours; syrup hardened like shellac on the table. This was topped off by total abandonment of the house. The friend gets picked up and Josie decides to ride her sister’s bike across town to another girlfriend’s house — without telling anyone.  Like she could be thrown off her bike on a winding New England road and no one would know for days. (This is how a mother’s brain works, as I’m sure you are well aware.)

Of course trying to bring up the “issues” with her resulted in righteous self-defense. Judgment is all she heard.

I finished my homework. I had nothing else to do. We were planning our Halloween outfits.  I did clean up. Ok, sorry about the milk. Well, Dad left his phone at home so I couldn’t reach him.

The last part was true, but there is such a thing as leaving a note, texting mom, and telling (as in talking) to an older sister at home. Options.

But tween brains don’t consider the options or how beloved family members can’t magically know what their plans are. I commend her industry of concocting a Sunday brunch and her problem solving ability (no chauffeur, got me a bike).

“Well, they are their self-absorbed selves,” my husband said to me later in the day when I asked how the weekend went. He discovered the pancake mess. I discovered the bike getaway when I happened to ask Josie who brought her across town.

So where do you draw the line?  Which battle do you choose?  I was a latchkey kid and pretty self-sufficient by age 12. Rural street smarts. I rode my bike everywhere and baked TV dinners. But I have to say: I knew to tidy up the house and leave no evidence.

Dealing with tweens IS about making choices and it is about communication, which means repeating things over and over and over… because you never know what kernel of information actually takes root in their sprouting neural networks. It also means doing so with love—since this too shall pass.


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