It was the eve of her ninth birthday, and she dropped the bomb on me, “Hey, Mom, did you know I’m considered a “tween” now?!”

No. No, no, no, no, NO!! My little squishy cheeked baby cannot be trading her dolls for deodorant and her Barbies for training bras. When did this happen? Where have the last nine years gone?

It’s easy to deny the changes until you lean in to kiss her head and realize something is different. It’s not just that she’s taller or no longer wants to cuddle all the time. It’s not just the new tears that accompany long (such long) stories about rude kids at recess.

These changes come slowly, but there’s also something entirely unknown to a new tween parent that hits you fast, something . . . smelly.

And this isn’t the need-my-diaper-changed smelly, this is like forgot-the-fast-food-in-the-car smell. Suddenly you realize you actually have to write down a shower schedule because counting a swim in the pool as a shower just isn’t going to cut it anymore. Her room doesn’t smell like baby powder, and she’d better remember to bring those dirty clothes down to the laundry room every other day because you do NOT want to let those ferment for too long.

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In all seriousness, though, the body changes were expected. I’d already rehearsed in my head all the awkward talks and read the Christian parenting articles and prayed all the prayers to give me the prep I needed to face this.

What I did not expect was just how wonderful it is to watch her grow up.

I see little glimpses of the young woman she’s going to bemature and loving to her siblings, smart and thoughtful in her problem-solving. It warms my soul to see her stop and think through a problem rather than barrel in headfirst and consider the consequences later.

I see her worry and I worry too. Friends are a bigger deal now and words can really hurt. The tears last a little longer and fall a little harder. Teaching her to pray through her problems is teaching me a whole new level of dependence on Jesus. I see my own faults in her, there are times when I hear my attitude in her wordsI know who really needs to spend some time thinking in her room . . . and she’s a lot older than nine!

Somehow the grace of God covers me, filling in my gaps and helping her turn out to be a good person in spite of my many failures.

And it is this grace that will carry usme and you, fellow tween mamathrough these tough years. I pray we can stay strong through the many temptations to be the cool mom when that’s not in their best interest. I pray we can set boundaries and stick to them even if we earn the title of mean mom. I pray we can love them too much to give up or give in and that they will see this too. I pray we love them enough to really listen and set aside the other things to be a safe place for them to process their big feelings.

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There are so many bittersweet things about watching your babies grow up. Let’s stay focused on the sweet, enjoy the conversations, and build the right kind of friendship with our tweens. Let’s be the moms who say no and love them too much to give up on discipline.

Laura Watts

My name is Laura Watts. I'm just another Jesus-loving mom who hopes to encourage a few people with the things I write. I believe strongly that the most important things in life are meant to be shared, including the lessons the Lord is teaching you and the joy you have been given.