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Stick Forts and Coffee Walks: For the Love of Tweens.

Updated: Oct 18, 2023

At age 12, our son and his friends are old enough to walk themselves to the neighborhood coffee shop for hot chocolate, but young enough to bring their beverages to the woods for a stick fort building session. This is what they did last Saturday, and they played out there for hours. They're still not great at feeding themselves (I threw them a box of Cheez-its on their way to the forts), but they can build an impressive kingdom out of sticks with no adult intervention.

No longer a kid, not quite a teenager, this in-between stage is a fleeting mix of increased independence and persistence of play...and I'm here to share the bright side of it.

I've come to discover from having two tween/teens, plus hanging out with middle schoolers at my job, that they don't deserve the bad rap they often get. In defense of tweenagers, these kids are kind, comical, insightful, creative and quirky (who isn't). If you want to laugh, spend a day with a 10-12 year old.

I'm not saying this stage is free of challenges, because there are plenty - and If you want to read about the one line of advice that has helped me through countless interactions with my kids, you'll find that here. But I do believe there's beauty in the mess.

Like the piles of creative mess Henry leaves in every corner of the house. His room is another level. The Lego city he's working on has taken over every available surface. You'd need wings to safely cross it because there are, quite literally, thousands of Lego pieces to step on. And if you weren't aware, stepping on Legos is so painful that Tyler of Dude Perfect set a Guinness World Record for the longest barefoot Lego walk. I have no interest in that kind of pain. That is a job for a YouTuber who will make millions off that one walk. A millionaire who was once a creative tween, likely practicing trick shots for hours in his room.

On the days when our boys are more challenging, I return to the wise advice I got from someone, back when they were in preschool and I was teaching the same age,

"When they're giving you a hard time, they're having a hard time." This one line has stuck with me for years and always gives me fresh perspective when our kids are not at their best. I use it when dealing with challenging adults too...I think it applies to all humans at all stages of life.

I've found that the easiest way to enjoy our tween and teen, is to focus on the good stuff and try my damndest to ignore the rest. This means overlooking the mess in Henry's room and appreciating the creativity and joy he gets from adding a new neighborhood to his growing Lego city. It's way more valuable than a clean room or the time it would take to pick up all those Legos - time that could be spent building stick forts in the woods or on a coffee walk with friends. Because they're only kids once...and they should enjoy it while they're tweens. And we should enjoy them too.


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