Free To Be Me
Filed Under (tweens)

It’s school picture time again which, in my house, caused drama and anxiety the likes of which I’ve never seen.  It seemed a simple enough request of a nine year old that she wear something other than a t-shirt.  But according to her, it was equivalent to killing her.

And so it goes, the tween years.  A sudden awakening of self-consciousness elicits a great number of behavior changes.  For my little Peach it has centered around a right to express herself through clothing that is so far off her previous spectrum that even her teen siblings took notice.  They tried, as teens will, to humiliate their sister into conforming. They even appealed to me:  ”Please,” they begged, “Don’t let her go out in that outfit!”  But the more they fussed, the deeper Peach dug in her heels.

I advise my teens to back off.  Their path is futile and will most likely have the opposite effect from the one intended.  But more importantly, tweens need space to experiment with different versions of themselves.  They are like newcomers to their own lives, having just awakened from a blissfully ignorant slumber.  With new eyes, they see choices everywhere.  With confusion and eagerness they muddle their way through, writing a brand new chapter of life.

Peach is my third tween.  In addition to discovering herself and making her mark in the world, she has the added complication of distinguishing herself from her older siblings.  She wants to be different enough to be noticed, but not so different that she will be criticized.  Tough road, that.

I suspect we’ll look back at the fourth grade photos with nostalgia.  ‘Remember when…?’ we’ll say.  Chances are, Peach will look and dress and think completely differently than she does now.  She may even be embarrassed by this phase of her life, accusing me for ‘letting her go out like that.’  But hopefully, she’ll also remember that I gave her a chance to be free.  A chance to know herself, be herself, and love herself, no matter what.

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