Smells like Tween Spirit

Tonight I learned a new word, tweenager. It means a child who is not yet a teenager but who has already forged a strong connection with the dark side. It is the pupa stage for the great transformation whereupon they will emerge from the tweenage chrysalis on their 13th birthday, spread their angst ridden wings and set forth to be moody and sew discontent. It’s another word for butthead, and I have one.

If there is one universal truth that I’ve learned of parenting it is this; just when you think you’ve figured it all out, you learn the game changed and you’re wrong all over again.

Tonight we went out for Chinese at our local favorite, China Garden. The running joke with our family is that our oldest is not allowed to puke in the restaurant because he has a history there. When he was three years old and our second was still an infant we tried to take the family out to eat and he became spontaneously sick in the foyer. As in projectile vomit everywhere. It was just bad luck but I cleaned up the mess and we didn’t return for two years. By the birth of our third son we figured they had forgotten or forgiven us so we would try to go back. It happened again. I mean seriously, what are the chances…

So we stuck to take out for a while and then finally, about a year ago we tried again and had a vomit free dining experience. China Garden was back in the rotation.

So the kids were begging to go there tonight. We had the usual restaurant behavior talk, one where we were especially firm with the younger two. We didn’t stress it too much with our eldest because he is usually our perfect little angel.

But just when you think you’ve figured it out, the game changes…

The three year old wasnt terrible, he was just a three year old. Our middle was nothing but pleasant and polite. As for our perfect little angel however… He was tweening pretty hard.

Its hard to pinpoint exactly how his behavior was bad because it’s an intellegent form of subversive rebellion. It’s not outright defiance so much as calculated disobedience. It’s eye rolls and exasperated sighs and passive aggressive, half statements used to accentuate his general aloofness.

I eyeballed him over my eggroll and he eyeballed me back over his crab rangoon. I dipped extra hard in the hot mustard just to show him how serious I was in my attempts to reestablish dominance. He wasn’t even phased.

By the time we got home I was pretty frustrated. I vented to my wife and expressed my confusion regarding his behaviour. This is where I learned the word “tweenage”. Apparently it’s a thing.

Moving forward I will now be armed with this knowledge and I have no option but to up my dad game. If he is preparing to be the “too cool” teenager than I will become the super embarassing, dork dad. I will stock up on white socks and sandals and I will drill myself with bad puns and dad jokes.

He may have won the battle, but I will win the war.