Shifting Seats with my Tween

I am not sure whether my ten year-old is an aberration from the species of tweenus humanas but she has become a creature that is largely incomprehensible.

Something Changed this past year and by that I mean Everything Changed.

Although the years prior had been rife with giggles and craftmaking, curiosity and general chumminess, the Tween who now lives with me is an unpredictable force of nature.

The field research, as I understand it, runs long on this species.

The Tween, it appears, is not a creature that evolves in a way that is linear or even progressive. The Tween can be inexplicably mercurial in temperament. Sometimes she is fully independent and categorically dismisses the wearing of pink or frills, and other times she is not sure why I would deduce she’s too old for “My Little Ponies” and really-- why would I think that? Tween does not often offer clues as to how her needs can be met. For example, when I say The Wrong Thing on Monday, I am not confronted about The Wrong Thing until several Mondays henceforth at which point I have blithely been thinking everything had been forgiven, all the while a large fortress had been under construction around The Threat of the Wrong Thing Being Said Again, and the fortress is now fully armed with emotional explosives that can detonate at any time.

Dear God, it’s me, Kendra. Can you hear me? Because I need you to translate some things down here on the earth plain.

In fact, Tween terrain has felt to me like utter displacement. Much like waking up one day and learning that the house you had been living in for the last ten years had been transported right in the middle of a busy intersection. The rooms and furniture in your house were still all the same, everything inside was just as you had left it, but now you would have to get used to horns blaring and sirens wailing just outside your window, and the fun daily escapade of playing frogger just to get to your front door. The vessel is the same. But the traffic pattern and the sights and sounds have changed radically. You can’t go back to your old address. You can’t move to a new house. You have to learn to live within the familiar confines in unfamiliar territory.

Instead of leaning in to my own feelings of displacement, though, I have found a more helpful posture to be that of shape shifting. I cannot expect the evolving vessel that is my Tween to explain to me what is happening with her since, hello? She is going through it. But I can try to understand what it must be like to have your feelings and hormones and body and mind all learning a new tango at once.

Recently I put Tween in charge of decorations at our church VBS. Friends, I wasn’t prepared. I wasn’t prepared for the staggering creativity and ingenuity she infused into everything. I wasn’t prepared for the feelings I unintentionally stepped on when I rearranged the fluffing of plastic bags on the waterfall. But swtiching roles, making her the boss of me in a sense was just the Freaky Friday role-reversal I needed to help me see this complex world through Tween’s eyes. It’s a prescription --and a privilege--I hope not to ever lose.

Boston Roller Derby: I was not prepared

3 Things for which I was prepared when we went to see the Boston Roller Derby this past weekend: 1. I bought the Groupon. Wise move, Kendra. Where else can you buy a family four-pack of tickets for your hot li'l Saturday night for $32 (!?!) whilst supporting women in sports? I ask you.

2. I also knew about the clever name game of all the players, probably thanks to Whip It!. I have to say my favorite from the Wicked Pissahs was probably Anita Pierogi. Just yelling that name out in public. Comical and probably truthful. Anita Pierogi!! Because who doesn't need a Polish dumpling? Her appellation obviously appealed to my sensibilities. Daughter liked Tara N Tula, whose acquaintance we made after the bout (see below). If I were going to be a roller derby girl, I decided my name would be Betty Rumbles, as a nod to that ol' Flintstone wifey friend, Betty Rubbles, herself.

Roller Derby

3. I was semi-prepared for the body positivity of roller derby in that I had already met the women in Chattanooga Roller Derby and they were all about girl power and the muscles and the inner strength. It was just awesome to see so many women of all different shapes and sizes able to compete with such ferocious intensity. There is a lot of teamwork involved, especially for the defensive blockers, and just watching them caused me to develop bruises all over my imagination. Like ouch, Scoob.

3 Things for which I wasn't prepared at the Derby: 1. There are honest-to-goodness craft booths at the derby. Imagine an ice rink with no ice but in the middle, a bunch of super strong women with adequate padding on rollerskates playing a dysfunctional game of ring-around-the-rosy. You picturing it? At the far end of the rink is a farmer's market but the only goods from the farm are the maple on the maple doughnuts. But around the doughnut table are all these little craft tables. Selling bits and bobs and other notions for dogs and ladies. I DIDN'T KNOW ETSY WOULD BE THERE. I was not prepared for all the merch. Also, there were a couple of great food trucks outside the rink, which is a welcome improvement over your usual sporting event concession fare. Next time I'll know before I go.

2. I was not prepared for the poor audio vibe. I don't know what was happening with the sound in the Simoni Rink but we could not hear anything from the announcer's table. I believe there was some hype music playing throughout, as well, but it was heard at a very low din. I was really hoping there would be some Jock Jams dialing us back to 1993, but we sort of had to make our own good vibrations in the bleachers with our fellow fans. That was my only critique for the event.

3. I was not prepared for how much Daughter would fall head-over-heels in love with Roller Derby, and if her heart was not fully committed by the end of the first bout, this encounter with Tara N Tula of the Harbor Horrors  pretty much etched it there in wet cement. We were both completely enamored of Tara N Tula who promptly told Daughter that she was so hungry after playing so hard that she was prepared to "eat all the pizza and hamburgers and tacos." J'adore!


We can't wait to go back to cheer at the championships in June. Thanks, Boston Roller Derby.

Chronicle of Valentine's Past

1987 - I remember room 1B, the desks aligned in rows with each student’s handmade mailbox scribbled in crayon. Danny B. includes candy in his valentine envelopes, something more exotic than the chalky conversation hearts, and he is the coolest kid in Mrs. Ferry's room. 1990 - My parents leave us little valentines at our breakfast plate, including sponge toffee from Sell’s and a kite for each of us. Hockey Boy gives me a cardboard valentine with a devil and a pitchfork that says, “You’re Hot.” I don't know how to describe the tingling feeling up and down my spine.

1992 - My bestie and I go ice skating and we see Hockey Boy who asks us to couple skate but we turn him down. I am wearing overalls with one of the straps unhinged. I am obviously too cool for Hockey Boy.

1994 - I slow dance with Morgan S. at the Student Council Valentine’s Dance. I totally drag him onto the floor, the lights are totally on, I am totally wearing a red flannel shirt with my uniform skirt.

1995 - The boys’ high school send over carnations to be distributed in homeroom. I receive one from my friend’s boyfriend, J.R. Yeah, it's not like that. It's more like a self-esteem valentine for him plopped on a thorny pity stem for me. Like, Please worship at the altar of my chivalry, as there is plenty to spread around, since I, the magnanimous boyfriend of your friend am happy to have so very many young ladies to enchant with my oft-desired carnation in the homeroom mail.

1998 - I am in Indianapolis with Big Pops and TP, on a college tour. I am finding this is so not the school for me, even though they have offered me a very handsome scholarship, and I am freaking out about it.

1999 - Freshman year of college, in love with Goldenboy. I make a comic book by hand and send it to him as a valentine. I receive a letter from him the next week indicating that he already has a girlfriend. I am numb for at least a year and a half. Whenever I find the Xeroxed copies of that comic book, I am amazed at how much free time I had in college.

2000 - After stalking a particular member of the football team for all of first semester, he shows up at my RA room while I am on duty.  I am wearing pajama pants with stars and a ’70s cardigan and Doc Martens, an ensemble that should have told him this wasn't really going to work out. Alas, he corners me in a stairwell that smells like dirty snow and Bath & Body Pear Glace body spray, and he says, Let’s give this a go. This sort of thing does not happen to me, so I am unable to absorb what is happening.  He is mashing my face and I am paranoid the entire time that, since I am on RA duty, there is a 99% chance that freshmen on a bender are rolling multiple kegs down the hall upstairs and I am totally going to lose my job, lose my scholarship, lose out on college because I am missing this round to smooch a boy. By the next week, it's clear he's not that into me and I feel a mix of relief and dread because we are supposed to go on a spring break trip together and ugh, why didn't he just turn back when he saw the pajama pants?

2001 - I am interning in DC and have dinner in Dupont Circle with my roommates. We go back to the apartment and my future husband is waiting inside, having driven from Meadville, PA to DC that afternoon. Best Valentine's Day ever.

Retro valentine

2002 - My future husband surprises me at the Safari Bar where Lori S. and Celia N. are stalling me until he shows up, Megan W. having picked him up at the Pittsburgh airport just hours before. Ben in a Box gives me a rose, which is the icing on the cake.

2003 - I am clinically depressed and think my future husband is going to break up with me any day now. My future husband and I have a subpar dinner at Harvard Square and are given a bootleg CD of Jason Mraz by some guy at a shoe store. We go back to my future husband’s apartment and dance to bootleg Jason Mraz. I can barely get out of bed the next day, I am so depressed.

2005 - I am engaged to my future husband. I have no memory of this year’s V Day.

2008 - I give my husband a valentine “from the two girls who love you the most.” We bring our 2 week-old daughter out for sushi. She does not partake.

2009 - Baby Girl and I attend the funeral mass for Uncle Kevin. Uncle Joe gives one of the most eloquent and moving eulogies ever. I am happy to be with my family, but sad to leave my valentine behind in Boston.

2010 - I receive my first handmade valentine from Baby Girl with her handprints shaped like a heart and the feeling is not unlike the tingles of Hockey Boy in the fourth grade, except these ones radiate all around my heart.

2017 - My husband sends me a box of cupcakes to my work at the all-girls school which send a very strong message that I am loved and also that I married well.

2018 - I am helping son prepare his valentines for class when we receive the memo that his school disallows food and candy being brought to school for Valentine's Day. Son walks around in a huff, referring to Friendship Day in air quotes, and proceeds to write his name backwards on all his packs of Fun Dip in the hope that they won't possibly know the source of the offending candy, stealth candy dealer that he is.