My daughter turned 10 last week. I tried to make it special―after all, it is a milestone. For starters, it’s double digits. Never again in her lifetime will her age be a single number. It’s also closer to the teenage years. It may seem like she’s far from that because we’ve still got three years to go. But over the past year, she’s been slowly outgrowing her childhood things. Licensed characters are out. When friends come over they make videos or talk behind closed doors. Clothes with sparkles, graphics, or bling of any kind are now in the giveaway pile. Plain is in. The emoji pillows we so painstakingly collected are now dust collectors. We’ve transitioned from Justice to Old Navy leisure wear. To be honest I wasn’t expecting all of this to happen so soon. When I was growing up I played with Barbies until Jr. High. And only then I got rid of them because I felt like I had to, not because I wanted to. So I’ve been trying to figure out what’s driving this earlier transition. I think a lot of it has to do with technology. And to that point, all she wants is a phone. But I’m still holding off because I don’t see a need for her to have one of her own just yet.
So what to get my tween for her birthday? I decided to let her redo her room, which I had designed when she was just a toddler. I like the idea of allowing her to make it her own and use it as a form of self-expression. Give her some control over something that should be hers. I definitely felt a tinge of sadness as I was packing away her old sheets and comforter. She’s outgrown the cute floral pattern and canvas prints I had searched long and hard for to add the perfect touch of whimsy to a little girl’s room. Now it’s mint green and simple – I guess you could call it sophisticated. To me it’s a sign of the times: things are changing.
My mother-in-law was over for a family party this weekend. She gave me an article from the Chicago Tribune called “Turning 10 and Dreading Growing Up.” She wanted to know if I’d seen it. I said that I hadn’t – I don’t read the paper. But she saved it for me because she thought I could relate. The article is about the angst the writer’s daughter feels about turning 10. The stress that comes with wanting to stay little. The article went on to talk about the pressure tweens face and all the expectations that are piled on them. The pressure to be a great person, look great, and be great at everything. Clinical psychologist Wendy Mogel was called in to comment. She said her patients tell her there are only 2 positions in life: ahead and behind. She went on to quote that “10 is the new 18.”
I wasn’t super stressed about my daughter turning 10. But now I am after reading the tales of woe about childhood ending and the pressure to be perfect.
So here’s what I’ve decided. A lot of it comes down to parenting. Yes, there are a lot of things that we can’t control. But there are lots of things we can. I’m still embracing my daughter’s childhood. These are fun and innocent years and I want to protect that. She has a lifetime to worry about the world’s problems. But for now, I love that she still believes in the tooth fairy. Hasn’t questioned her existence. Ever. I love that she still wants to hang out with me or hold my hand. We went to Disney this past winter and she still wanted to get the characters’ autographs. She said she didn’t, but once we were there she changed her tune. I’m cognizant of the increasing demands and expectations at school. And while I expect her to rise to the occasion, I’m trying not to put so much pressure on her and let her find her own way. I don’t expect perfection. As long as she tries her best that’s good enough for me. And I’ve shared this message with her, hoping it will sink in.
She has her days where she’s moody and wants to be alone. Or doesn’t feel like talking or sharing anything about her day. Except when it’s time for bed, which she keeps pushing later. Is she a tween? More and more each day. But she’s not a teen yet. I disagree that 10 is the new 18. I think 10 is 10. And that’s how it should be.