An Open Letter to My Tween Daughter


Dearest Tween, 


It has been hard lately, hasn’t it? It seems like there are more disagreements and less patience by the day. You’ve gotten more sassy, and I’ve gotten more stubborn, and that combination has not been pretty. You are growing up, and that means so many things are changing for you and for me.


an open bird cage hanging from the ceiling with a bird inside, looking at the open door


You want your freedoms, and I’m not sure you’re ready for them. You want control over all aspects of your life, and I’m having a hard time navigating these new territories and letting you go. And this emotional tug-of-war has been difficult— for both of us. 


I want you to know that I hear and I see you. And at the same time, I’m baffled by you. I don’t always understand what you need or what you want. I am often confused by your reasoning. But I’m also baffled by how you are becoming this beautiful, independent young woman who can handle so much. Sometimes I don’t feel like I know who you are, but I know it’s even harder for you as you try to figure out the same thing


Your world is changing every day. Friendships are changing, your interests are changing, your body is changing, and it’s all happening whether we are ready for it or not. And even though you’ve been changing since the day you were born, this time feels much more significant. And so much more confusing.


So one minute, you’re cuddling up beside me on the couch, and the next, you’re slamming your door, screaming that I don’t understand. I wish I could just be your friend. I know we would have so much fun together if I let go of all my motherhood responsibilities. But being a mom means making decisions. And so I struggle because I want you to be happy and independent, but as your mom, I know you’re still growing up and still need boundaries. Sometimes I have to make decisions that do not make you happy because I know the consequences of not doing so will be much worse. It seems like lately, though, every boundary I set gets the same reaction, “Ugh!”


an upset tween with her head in her hands as her mom sits on the couch beside her


Up until now, I have hated hearing it because I don’t know how to respond. Sometimes I yell, sometimes I ignore it, and other times I follow you. And it always seems like I’m doing it wrong. Remember that I’m figuring this all out right now too. And I want you to know I’m trying to be the best mom for you.


Ugh is a word I’ve come to loathe because of how often I hear it. But what does it mean? When you say it, I hear:

I don’t like you much right now!

-You just don’t understand!

-You are doing it wrong!

-I want everyone to leave me alone!


Ugh means all of these things, doesn’t it? But it also means that whether I want to or not, I’m doing my job as your mom. It means that while you may not like me now, someday, when you are a mom, you will look back and understand. I set the boundaries because I love you, not in spite of it. 


But what I think you really mean when you say ugh is: I don’t even know what to say because my brain can’t keep up with my emotions, and I’m just very overwhelmed right now; give me a minute before I explode. And I will give you your space. But then I will seek you out. I will not abandon you in your time of confusion. I will help you get to the root of those big emotions. I still might get it wrong at first, but I promise to do more waiting and listening. I promise to keep trying.  


There was a book we read when you were little. It was called No Matter What. Do you remember it? It was the one where Small kept thinking of crazier and crazier scenarios and asking Large if she would still love him. Every time, without hesitation, Large said,


“I’d always love you, no matter what.” 


a hedgehog next to a cactus with the phrase, Love you no matter what!


It’s like that with us, kiddo. No matter how many buttons you push, no matter how many doors you slam, and no matter how many “ughs” you utter, I’ll always love you, no matter what.