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CHAPTER FOUR: UPON THE REARING OF CHILDREN, PART THREE-- TWEENAGERS
At the age of twenty, a young hobbit enters the Tween years--that stage Between Childhood and Coming of Age--and it is at this time that a Parent’s most Difficult Task has begun.
Not that every twenty year old will suddenly change Overnight--some do not really begin to exhibit signs of Adolescence until they are twenty-two or twenty-three, while others may have begun to enter such a Stage of Life as early as eighteen. This applies to both lads and lasses, although generally speaking, lasses do tend to Bloom Early, and lads to Bloom a bit later.
However, things have now become much more Challenging for the Parent. In addition to the Actual Changes taking place in their beloved child, there will be the Expectation of Changes from Family, Friends and Acquaintances.
For one thing, most Inns will allow tweenaged lads to enter, and if accompanied by an Adult, to imbibe Ale. Most Inns do have restrictions on this, which tend to vary by location. One is always familiar with those of one’s own Hometown, but in visiting other Parts of the Shire, it is as well to inquire of the Local Custom before allowing one’s tweenager to go there.
At Home, Half an Ale or a small glass of Wine may be offered. A Young Person will need to become accustomed to such Drink. It is as well, however, to keep one’s eye on the tweens when giving a Party or other large Social Gathering, as they may--especially the lads--attempt to imbibe more than is wise. Especially in such Settings, lads are Prone to Daring one Another into doing such Foolishness, and a few of the bolder lasses have been known to engage in such Goings On as well.
Lasses generally come sooner to the Realization that lads are not such Loathsome Creatures as they once had proclaimed. This usually means that the first lads to Attract their Attention may be a good deal older than they. Some brash lasses are prone, as well to Flirting, and to Offering Temptations which are best saved for Coming of Age and Marriage. Most of these lasses, indeed, do not mean to do anything but Tease, and would not actually allow Undue Liberties to be taken. However, such behavior is Not Respectable, and is very Unfair to the poor lad, for lads are far less able to Control their Reactions than are lasses. And it does not reflect Well on the lass’ Upbringing and may indeed earn her a Reputation as a Wanton.
The Parents of such a Daughter will need to keep a sharp eye upon her. It is as well to engage the help of Older Brothers if available, or Cousins and Uncles, who may serve to assist the Father in keeping the lads at Bay. And the Mother may need to keep her Daughter close to hand during any Social Gathering. It takes only a few moments for a lass to slip away with a lad during a Dance to take a Breath of Air, and more than Reputation may be lost. It is Most Unfortunate when Young People find themselves wed before their Coming of Age because they have Put the Dessert Before the Main Course! Such is not an Auspicious start to any Marriage!
There are times when a lad and a lass come Early to the Realization that they have found True Love. If their Regard is proved to be Steadfast and Unshakeable, it may be that they will apply to the Parents for the chance to wed early. In cases such as these, the Parents need to consider how Responsible and Capable the Young People are. If one should think this is the case, then by all means give them one’s Blessing.
On the other hand, one must also be Prepared to deal with the Heartaches of Tweens who are still seeking to deal with their new Feelings about Life. Shyer lads and lasses will often believe themselves Worthless, and may mope and sigh until the Parent is driven to Distraction. It is not uncommon for such a lad or lass to develop an Infatuation with another who is not ready to Return his or her Regard. This may result in Storms of Weeping, and seeking to be Alone.
In addition, it is not Unusual for previously Biddable and Obedient children to turn Defiant, seemingly Overnight.
A Parent may wonder where their sweet Child has gone, and who this Moody and Sullen person is!
Teens who once contented themselves with the occasional midnight Raid on the Family Larder or Kitchen Garden, will turn into Tweens who seem to court the Trouble or Danger of taking their Depredations further Abroad, Trespassing on the Property of Others, and Purloining Comestibles of some value.
In addition, the rather mild Dares and Pranks of earlier years are replaced with those which skirt on Dangerous. Lads have a tendency to allow their friends to Egg them On. When caught at such Mischief, Punishment needs to be swift and Severe.
At this age, the best Punishment is Work. It is best to make certain that the Work will actually be a Punishment. It is of little Use to sentence a lad who loves Ponies to Mucking out the Stable--much better to put him to some onerous chore indoors, such as Copying Records. A Tween who has been caught Raiding the Neighbor’s Crops should not be set to Weeding the Garden where Temptation will Abound--much better to set him to Chopping Firewood. As for Lasses, a day spent in the Laundry Room seldom fails to Impress.
Among Hobbits of the Working Class, most of the lads will have already taken up Apprenticeships or be working alongside their Fathers in the Family Business or upon the Family Farm, or will have gone into Service for one of the Great Families by the time they enter their Tweens. Many of the lasses may have gone into Service, or possibly Apprenticed to one of the Crafts open to them: Weaver, Seamstress, and Cook are the main Crafts in which hobbitesses are the Majority.
An Exception is the Craft of Healer. Most Healers will not accept an Apprentice younger than her twenty-fifth year, and most prefer a lass (or the occasional rare lad) of twenty-seven or older, due to the Distressing and sometimes Difficult Nature of the Craft. Midwives will accept an Apprentice of twenty-three or older. It is as well to realize that a Hobbit needs to have a genuine Vocation for these Crafts. Healers are most Cautious about the Apprentices they will accept, and Rightly So!
Among Hobbits of the Gentry, it is well to begin Training the Heirs in the Responsibilities of their Positions. As I have before mentioned, Idle Hands are not a good thing for the Young.
Most Tweens as they begin to approach the important Occasion of their Coming-of-Age will have begun to Settle a bit. Tweens of thirty or older may be trusted for the most part with more Adult Responsibilities, and it is as well to do so as much as is Practicably Possible, for it is Unfair to allow all such Responsibilities to fall upon his or her shoulders the day after the Birthday! One should trust him or her to do such tasks as one gives them, standing by, however to offer Advice if needed or to Help if called upon.
Guiding Young People through the Difficult and Trying Years of Tweenhood is not an Easy Task. But the Rewards of Realizing that one has given the Shire a Responsible Citizen at the end of the Process is worth it. Of course one’s task is not ended--Family remains Family however old the members are. But one may now take the time to relax and to realize that now one may Watch one’s Offspring undertake those same tasks on his or her Own. Grandchildren are Delightful for many Reasons, not the least of which is that of Watching One’s Child deal with the same problems one had with him or her in the past.
Questions often asked about Tweenagers:
How should I best approach the Subject of the Facts of Life?
How should I best approach the Subject of the Facts of Life?
If one has waited until the tween years to broach this subject, one has waited too long. There are questions as to the Origins of Babies that will come up years earlier, and they should be answered in a Matter of Fact way as they arise. However, the approach of tweenhood is an excellent time to Reiterate these Facts, and to Stress the Importance of Self-Respect and of Propriety.
What is the best way to deal with a tween who feels his or her heart has been broken?
This is an Inevitable Sorrow for most tweens. The fickle Nature of their Awakening Feelings means that he or she will suffer through a number of Unrequited Infatuations.
Do not make the mistake of belittling these feelings. To tell a child that there are other fish to fry will have no effect. Simply be willing to listen if he or she wishes to Talk, or to simply offer a sympathetic Embrace. Do not try to force Confidences, however, as this will merely foster Resentment.
Why are tweens so often awkward?
Tweens, especially those in the middle of their Tween Years, usually undergo growth spurts which make them sometimes misjudge their steps or the length of their reach. Fortunately this stage soon passes.
Being the parent of a Tween is a Challenge, but with Patience and Understanding, all such Difficulties can be Surmounted.
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