No matter how much my tween wants to pretend the Mommy Touch is for babies, when she's feeling crappy, all bets are off: the Mommy Touch is her magical elixir, and my armpit is the only place she wants to be.

This was the case one recent Sunday when she took up residence in my bed as I mindlessly flipped through the TV channels and somehow landed on a channel in the middle of a music video marathon featuring videos I would never authorize any child of mine to watch. But rather than turn the channel, I decided to use the videos as a teaching opportunity for my tween.

So, we watched and talked and dissected and watched and talked some more. I asked questions about her thoughts on the relationship between the men and women in the videos and the song lyrics, and she responded with the appropriate answers. After hours of watching and suffering from bloodshot eyes, queasy stomachs and pulsing brains, we finally turned away from the train wreck and settled on more kid-appropriate fare, satisfied that lessons were learned.

Now, I'm no dummy; kids do have a certain knack for saying what they think their parents want to hear you know, for our protection and their self-preservation. All-too-often, though, there is no correlation between what kids say and believe and what they actually do once they're out from under you. We all know our tweens are just one unrestricted play date away from becoming frenetic, lighter-waving followers of The Inappropriate Ones.

To combat this possibility, let's just say I do a lot of talking. I cover my girls, ages 7 and 10, in a shroud of age-appropriate teachable moments that I can only hope build their self confidence and will help them face the myriad of tricky, peer-pressure-filled choices they'll have to make outside of my watchful eyes.

There are no guarantees.

I know this.

But, thankfully, there are the signs. A few weeks ago, my Mari had to pen an essay about her favorite role model as part of a writing assignment in her 5th grade class. For days, she pondered whom she'd write about a famous civil rights leader, maybe? Or perhaps the star of her favorite TV show? She just couldn't decide.

However, the night before her essay was due, instead showing me a paper about the latest teen superstar, she shoved four loose-leaf pages full of handwritten praises for her aunt, an environmental lawyer who founded a non-profit go green foundation for kids. See, aside from being brilliant and beautiful, her auntie inspires Mari.

More than any salacious music video.

More than any teen sensation du jour.

More than any fast-talking, way-too-grown-up-for-her-age tween friend.

For sure, Mari is paying attention I can see it. I feel it. The fact that she's talking about how cool it would be to have a job taking care of the environment is inspiration enough for me. So, I'll keep feeding her those teachable moments with the hope that they continue to stick and help build her self confidence.

For her sake and for mine.

For tips, confidence-building tools and stories about how moms are helping their tweens navigate those sweat-inducing moments, check out

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  1. Great post, Denene! You are so right in that there are no guarantees, per se. BUT, we can decide to be open, up front, and vigilant about teaching our daughters what we expect of them, and what they should expect of themselves and the people they consider friends. I think what you did with Mari was an excellent idea, because it showed her that her mom wasn't some eyes-and-ears-covered, "I ain't havin' it!" type mom. Instead, she knows that you're aware of what's out there, but you want her to understand context. As smart as our girls are, they deserve that as opposed to the simple "you better not" mentality.

    Thanks for sharing. This mom thing is no joke, and it's insight like this that allows me to take a breath and remember that it might just be okay.

  2. princessdominique

    My son is grown now and I am still learning things about parenting. I love your posts and website. Keep doing your thing.

  3. GYF Executive Director

    I am so honored that Mari is inspired to do more to protect our environment. You KNOW I love that (gushing!)

    Parenting really isn't easy. As you said, it is all about being open and communicating with your children. There are moments when my tween stumps me with a question seemingly out of left field. However, I now look forward to the opportunity to use questions, experiences and music lyrics/videos as "teaching moments."

    It does get scary at times!

  4. Rochelle Valsaint


    Love this post. It's oh so true. My 10 year old and 5 year old certainly get the teachable moments often. My philosophy is to stay nosy; keep 'em busy; know their friends and friends' parents. PLease keep these comin'. We parents of tweens need to here we're not the only ones going through whatever. And sharing best practices can be a help to us all.

  5. It IS such a blessing to have those moments where we realize that what we are teaching is taking root. "Train the child in the way they should go and they shall not depart from it." That is how I felt yesterday. 🙂 Well done, Denene. And yes, those popsicles were much more tasty having been made by my boy. 🙂

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