Although it’s a time zone my oldest daughter currently inhabits, I strongly dislike the word “tween.” It reminds me of the marketers who have been pushing her to become a teenager from the time she was a toddler. To what degree and how fast our children should be exposed to the culture at large can be a tricky subject, but we can look for clues as to what direction is healthiest for any given child.
We recently had a play date with a family that is more open to cultural influences. Their tween daughter is more in tune with the popular culture than ours in her dress, mannerisms, and conversation topics. When my slightly younger daughter pulled out the Play-Doh, the tween’s response was a snarky “You still play with Play-Doh?”—and then she proceeded to play with it for half an hour, giggling along with the rest of the girls. This is a girl who would love to slow down but needs the guidance and support to do so.
I think many young girls, given the opportunity, would continue to enjoy the more innocent side of childhood for quite some time after they are culturally pushed to move on—playing in the rain, pretending to be teachers, dressing in costume and putting on skits, etc. Our daughters are caught between living the cultural expectations of tweenhood and a lingering desire for girlhood.
Moms of tweens and teenagers: Do you think we should try to slow the pace of our daughters’ entry into teenage pursuits? If so, are there any strategies you can share that have helped you do so? Or do you think it’s more important for girls to stay on pace with modern expectations given that they must learn to live in today’s culture? Would your answers to these questions be any different if applied to boys?
Copyright 2014, Sharon Rayner