Hey, tween, which kid of mine are you today?

As the end of my son’s first year in middle school approaches, I look back in amazement at how much he has changed. Physically he is much taller and slimmer. Emotionally, his moods swing from silly to serious.

One moment he wants a hug and the next he wants to be left alone. Over these last few months, I’ve seen him trying to figure out who he is and where he fits in with his peers. The most dramatic example of this is his wardrobe. This year he has vacillated from preppy, with button down polo shirts, to gangsta, with his hat turned sideways and his pants falling down, to skater dude, with graphic tees and hat worn backwards. One day he came home from school with pink paint in his hair. Another day he wore his black-framed reading glasses , which hadn’t been out of their case in months, all day long.

Living with him is like living with Sybil. I never know which boy will show up at the breakfast table or which will come home from school. Through it all, I keep preaching for him to be true to himself. I tell him repeatedly that what’s inside is more important than what’s outside. I hope my words have some effect, but it’s hard to tell.

This phase reminds me of when I was pregnant and I tried to imagine the child inside me. I couldn’t wait to meet him and see what he would be like. As we go through these tumultuous tween years, I feel like I’m still waiting to find out.

Liz Atwood is a former Baltimore Sun features editor who teaches journalism at Hood College. She is the mother of two sons, ages 12 and 16.
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