At family events, preteen hangs on mom

Posted by Barbara F. Meltz  March 18, 2010 06:00 AM

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Barbara,

Recently at a post-funeral gathering, my 13-year-old daughter would come up to me and hug me or hang on me. I know I should be grateful for this positive attention, but after doing it 2 more times it got on my nerves and I felt my body tensing up. This has happened before, usually at a family function where there is more than extended family about, i.e. people she doesn't see all that often. I feel like she is doing it out of boredom and not knowing what to do with herself.  I know it is more my hang-up than hers, but it really gets annoying! I'm afraid to react negatively and do not want to humiliate her or make her feel bad, but I also don't want to let it go and then blow up at her. Any suggestions?


From: Momof3, Norwood



Dear Momof3,

Your daughter is using you as a safe home-base, a security blanket. Why should that make you tense?

Let me guess. You see this as social ineptitude. Get over it!

Here are some things to consider:

The post-funeral behavior? She was feeling vulnerable. In fact, I'd bet money she was posing a nonverbal question: "Mom, You're' not going to die, are you?" It was a potential entree into a conversation about death & dying & love & family and here's the good news: It's not too late to have it. Without referencing her behavior at the funeral, find a quiet time when the of you are together and sort of think out loud: "You know, ever since that funeral, I've been thinking about how we all die." Pause. Long pause. Then add a statement that's appropriate to your situation: "I want to take really good care of myself so I live a nice, long life, and I've decided I'm going to....exercise more/eat more healthy/ stop smoking/ stop drinking." Or maybe you can say, "I'm so glad I exercise three times a week. It's a way I take care of myself for our family." She  may say nothing to all of this.  But the message won't be lost on her: Her mom is willing to talk about tough subjects, even death.

About those other family events? Boredom? Sure. I can't think of any 13-year-old who likes family events unless there are cousins close in age and they are lucky enough to like each other. This is a difficult stage of development, when boys and girls feel awkward. You are her safety net. As long as she's not twirling your hair or embarrassing you in some way (honestly, it could be a whole lot worse), put your arm around her and let her know that, yes indeed, she can use you for home base anytime. And next time, before you get to the event, help her figure out some coping mechanisms: "Honey, I know you sometimes get bored at Aunt Mary's. Do you want to bring a book along? Your iPod? A video? It wouldn't be rude."

One last thought -- if your anxiety is reality-based -- she's socially awkward in many  situations; she doesn't have even one or two best friends; she relies on you for most if not all of her socializing -- seek some professional guidance. If she thinks that you think she's socially incompetent, it will become a self-fulfilling prophesy.

I answer a question from a reader every weekday. If you want help with some aspect of child-rearing, just write to me here.

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25 comments so far...
  1. My goodness. You're really complaining that your child loves you and looks to you for reassurance? Why on earth would you have a child at all if you find something like this so very annoying and distasteful?

    No worries. Soon enough, she'll be ignoring you completely and there will be a new letter from you about how "disrespectful" your teenager is. I'll wait with bated breath.

    Posted by Amanda March 18, 10 09:32 AM
  1. About the boredom aspect: a lot of pre-teens are concerned about not feeling cool or socially adept enough. If someone feels awkward at a social function that they cannot leave, then pretending to be bored is a pretty easy defense which allows them to not have to engage in a lot of activity and save some face. She may be feeling out of place and using this as her defense.

    For this, helping to find another way to give her something to do - such as the book or ipod that Barbara suggested - would work wonders. Sometimes just suggesting that she can help out in the kitchen, play with a young child, or another helpful chore, will give her something to occupy herself and find an entryway into the gathering.

    Posted by whoisdagney March 18, 10 11:35 AM
  1. Amanda, As the mom of 3 asking the question, I really found your comments unhelpful and rather immature. You know nothing about me and my parenting style but let me tell you what kind of parent I am.
    I am the parent who is present. I am a parent who every single day hugs and kisses all 3 of her children and tells them I love them. I am a parent who asks every day what happened in school and I ask specific questions, not just "how was your day", but how did the math test go or how are you and Emily doing. I am a parent who knows how they are doing in school and helps them study for tests or practice their spelling. I am the parent who despite working, manages to volunteer in school, attend school meetings, arrange social gatherings for all my kids, arrange for outings to plays, hikes and the movies, arrange our family vacations. I am a parent who regularly hears how nice my children are, how well behaved, how respectful they are. I am a parent who worries about their welfare and safety but am quite content that I am doing the best I can. I am a parent who ALWAYS puts my children first. I am a parent who regularly turns down social events because I want to be home for the children. But despite all that I guess I have no right to at times get annoyed and these clinging situations are one of them. I am acutely aware that she may someday not want to be around me at all, although I have to also say, she and I have a very strong positive relationship. I was looking for some guidance as to how to handle an uncomfortable situation for me. I guess I was hoping Barabara would say it was a stage or something of the sort. In retrospect, the post-funeral situation was probably her reaching out and although her and I have had death conversations before, I realize I may need to have a refresher. ( I even have difficult conversations with my children).
    Thanks for your understanding though, I will think twice before posting again.............

    Posted by momof3 March 18, 10 01:49 PM
  1. I agree with Amanda.

    Posted by mo March 18, 10 02:39 PM
  1. Momof3, you obviously got very angry and defensive about the first comment -- but reread your letter! You told us your daughter came up to hug you 3 times at a post-funeral gathering, and that she has done this a couple other times at other gatherings, and you're annoyed: so annoyed you are worried you might "blow up at her."

    That is, frankly, a really odd response to have to a daughter looking for love from her mother. I really, truly, cannot imagine why you say that this is an "uncomfortable situation" for you. What is going on with you that this is uncomfortable for you? Okay, so you are a very present mom and very involved. Getting annoyed in the situation you describe above is still odd. There has got to be something you are not really acknowledging, to yourself or at least in the letter. No one has said you have no right to ever get annoyed. We all get annoyed at our kids at times. But to get annoyed by a few hugs? Maybe your anger and annoyance are misplaced. Maybe it is not about the hugs, but about, say, that you "regularly turns down social events." Who knows. But if it's really the hugs, this your hang-up, and you really do need to just get over it.

    Posted by jlen March 18, 10 02:44 PM
  1. @Momof3...maybe if you got off your high horse for a few minutes and saw the situation from your daughters perspective people would have more respect for you.

    A 13yr old girl is a child and children got scared, particularly after attending a funeral, if you don't realize this and react with coldness and contempt you'll either solidify her fears or push her away from you down the road.

    Besides based on your post, it sounds like you're more concerned with what people think of you than on doing what's best for your daughter

    Posted by JT March 18, 10 02:54 PM
  1. "Honey, I know you sometimes get bored at Aunt Mary's. Do you want to bring a book along? Your iPod? A video? It wouldn't be rude."

    Barbara, are you kidding? It most certainly would be rude. VERY rude!

    While I certainly think that momof3 has some serious issues about her daughter "hanging on her", how about using the post-funeral gathering as a learning experience about how to be generous and kind. For example, how about suggesting that she help collect dirty dishes, offer to get more coffee or cold drinks for the elderly, or play with a toddler or younger child who needs some diversion.

    If I saw a teenager at a funeral reception with an iPod or a book, I would be seriously angry.

    And, p.s. to momof3: the clue to your problem is in your second post. Count up how many times you used the word "I". Honey, it's not all about you. Get over yourself.

    Posted by heartful March 18, 10 02:59 PM
  1. I think mom of 3 is not concerned about the hugs but the clinginess of her daughter. As a mom of both 14 and 12 year old girls I see this commonly as they are not fully comfortable in new surroundings/new people. They use mom as "home base" and this is normal. As they gain more self confidence they will be able to interact more with others instead of hanging around mom. I do agree that you should be happy that she chooses to be with you instead of sulking by herself.
    Although the Ipod/book solution is an easy fix, I don't think it is helpful in improving the self confidence needed in awkward situations like the post funeral get together where she did not know everyone/did not know what to say etc. Giving her something to do (helping out) is probably the best solution along with a reassuring hug back.

    Posted by Roxy March 18, 10 03:06 PM
  1. I agree with Amanda and heartful - Get over yourself!

    Posted by delilah March 18, 10 03:09 PM
  1. Momof3, you admit that it is more your hang-up than hers, but I don't understand the nature of the problem, probably because it's not a "parenting" issue, which is what this forum is about.

    Maybe you should talk to a therapist about it, since it's your issue, and at least you recognize it as such.

    No I'm not being snarky; that's my serious response.

    Posted by Mom of 2 Who Ignore Her at Events March 18, 10 03:28 PM
  1. Momof3: I am so sorry about the comments you are getting. This should be a place where we help each other out. I felt so sad that it compelled me to write this...my first post. I am uncomfortable when my 10 year old hangs on me and I'm sure it must be worse with a 13 year old who is probably the size of an adult doing it. Yes, it is a sign that the child is needing something but it still does not make it OK for them to do this to you. I will ask my daughter "why are you doing this" to find out what is going on.

    Posted by Momof1 March 18, 10 03:58 PM
  1. If a teenage child wants to sit in a corner at a funeral reception and read a book, I do not think that is rude as long as she acknowleges those around her when spoken to. I do think, however, that tuning out with an iPod would be rude because it sends a message "don't talk to me."

    Posted by ReadingMama March 18, 10 04:07 PM
  1. I felt the need to comment because I did this myself until my early twenties. If I could, I would still do it now when confronted with a room full of strangers (I'm only half kidding). Give your daughter a hug and try to involve her in whatever conversation you are having. Introduce her to relatives she doesn't know or hasn't seen in a while. Help her talk with others at the gathering, ideally people her own age. Providing her with a way to help out is a great idea as well.

    Posted by marybeth March 18, 10 04:21 PM
  1. Mom of 3, if I can give you a different perspective: growing up, my mother was VERY present - in many of the ways you describe. But there was never any question that she thought I was "uncool" and often annoying. I am sorry you feel vilified by the comments today. At the same time, it's hard for me to read what you wrote and not see myself as a terribly awkward 13 year old girl with no idea how to behave at public functions, clinging to my mother and having her pull away.

    Do you make an effort at gatherings to bring her in to your conversations when she comes up? Do you show her, by example, how polite people interact at social events?

    Maybe the next time she reaches for you at something like this, you will turn to her and say "oh Amy, why don't you tell uncle Fred about that book you are reading for English class."

    She thinks she's excluded and awkward. Try not to confirm for her that you agree.

    Posted by Q March 18, 10 04:26 PM
  1. 13 is such a tricky age... not yet a young adult, but too big to easily be thought of as a child.

    My heart goes out to both Momof3 and her daughter. From her comment, it seems like Momof3 gives so much of herself that it feels very difficult to still have to be essentially "taking care of the children" during a rare chance to socialize with other adults. Since she also hangs on at family gatherings and other less emotionally charged events than a funeral, I wonder if her daughter is so used to having mom "on call" that she doesn't see that her mom needs some adult time.

    I used to give my now-adult daughter one of my bracelets to wear or a scarf to use as a headband when she was going through this stage. Just as a reminder that I was right there even if she wasn't actually touching me. Added bonus: Getting to wear my things made her feel special and important. Maybe something like that would be helpful to you and your daughter?

    Posted by NannyMa March 18, 10 04:44 PM
  1. I felt kind of sadly for the LW when I read her love letter because it must have taken courage to admit that the hanging on you thing is annoying to you then.........i read your second post.
    Your need to glorify yourself really turned me off. I felt your need to prove how good of a mom you really are icky and forced. Lady listen, none of us think your not a good mom..how can we tell? your daughter was hanging on you and showing you love...she must think you are alright. Take heed to your snarky attitude, take the windex bottle and wipe clean your mirrors and really take a good look! You wrote the letter and saw the response and I REALLY THINK...the next time your daughter snuggles up to you in public, you will think of all the post here urging you to ease up, accept her loving gesture and stop being so cold!

    Posted by Judgenot March 18, 10 05:08 PM
  1. I agree with Amanda (first post) and wonder why Momof3 is fearful of comforting her daughter. It seems to me, as the mom of a daughter about the same age as the LW's, that Momof3 fears the loving, parental intimacy that is part of raising children. Your daughter will come to feel rejected by her, and if she can't trust her own mother, what adult will she trust? You're setting her up for a lifetime of abuse, and yes, your letter reeks of a kind of abuse. I thought cold parents went out with the Edwardian age.

    'Tween is a very difficult age. Try being more of a mother to your scared daughter.

    Posted by reindeergirl March 18, 10 06:55 PM
  1. I agree with Barbara Meltz response. I look at this from 2 different perspectives. I grew up in a home where my mom and dad were very loving and expressive when my brother and sisters were young, but once we got to a certain age it became cool, cooler and then cold. I also have 3 children - 2, 12 and 16. I have tried to be more physically loving than my parents because I would hate them to feel like I felt. I am aware of their space, but welcome all hugs, kisses and anything they are comfortable with and need.

    Pushing your daughter away at this age can be devastating. A distraction from boredom should be encouraged. It's normal to see kids at gatherings hovering over their ipods, etc and family and friends should take a few minutes to talk to them. Just because they are texting or playing games doesn't mean they are unapproachable.

    Posted by Karrie March 18, 10 09:35 PM
  1. Mom of 3, wow.. you really do sound full of yourself. I think alot of parents of kids this age would love the fact that their teen hasn't yet tuned them out. I understand a little clinginess can be annoying but seriously. I don't see your problem with a little. I just see that your defensive 2nd post puts it in better perspective for me. that it isn't about your daughter...it is about yourself...get over it. She'll be out of your hair in a year or two when she gets into boys and more her friends.
    Barbara yes it would be rude to bring an ipod or whatever at a funeral. that is very disrespectful. maybe at other events it would be ok but certainly not at a funeral.

    Posted by jd March 19, 10 07:44 AM
  1. barbara - i think its fine to bring something as long as the child acknowledges everyone and is social. but just tuning everyone out in the corner and grunting at people would be rude.

    LW - i'm conflicted with you. i do think this is more about yourself and your phobias than there is something wrong with your daughter. at the funeral - i'm sure she just felt weird and not sure how to act. 13 is a tough age. at 13 you're on the brink of two worlds and just trying to figure it out. if she does this at other social functions - maybe she is really self conscious about herself.
    i think you are way too defensive - you had to come back and post again. dont post a question if you may not like the answers.
    you sound like you are physically present - but are you mentally present and available? it doesnt sound like the case and maybe its hard for you to admit that?

    Posted by jj March 19, 10 12:22 PM
  1. Well, to defend the momof3, she said her kid was probably doing it out of boredom and not the need for reassurance or love. And I'm guessing after 13 years with her daughter, she can probably tell the difference between an anxious child and a bored one. Maybe using the word HUG is why everyone is associating this behavior with the need for affection.

    A couple that is friends with my parents has a pre-teen daughter (12) who also hangs all over her mom/dad at functions. She hangs, sits in their laps, grabs their faces to get attention, whines and stomps her foot. And she's not the least bit anxious about anyone, just a royal pain. I wish her parents would write to Barbara (like this mom did) and get advice with how to deal without making a scene.

    I think the momof3 probably didn't articulate herself as well as she meant to. And now she's getting slammed. And if its any consolation to momof3, go take a look at the discussion boards here on BostonMoms and see all the other totally rude and wacko discussions that take place when someone posts a seemingly innocent questions and gets taken down, BoMoms style.

    Posted by SM March 19, 10 04:02 PM
  1. I don't like to get into the middle of these discussion threads; When I answer a question, I've had my turn, said my piece, and then it's your turn. I look forward to your reactions, which are usually wise and often add insight.

    That didn't happen in this thread. The nastiness in many of these comments has surprised me.

    What motivates me to write the Mailbag is exactly what motivated me to to write my parenting column for 19 years: I try to provide parents with a developmental understanding of what might be fueling their child's behavior; and to offer coping responses that feed into their child's strengths in a way that's good for the child and for the parent/child relationship. If you don't agree with me, that's fine. The opportunity for readers to comment is an added value -- a way for someone who has been-there-done-that to tell me why something won't work, or why it will, as well as to offer personal stories, support and advice.

    As the last post says, there are plenty of other discussion boards where rudeness is the norm. Not here. It makes me sad to see that anyone regrets having sent me a question.

    I apologize to the LW for how hurtful some of these comments may have been.

    Posted by Barbara F. Meltz Author Profile Page March 19, 10 10:58 PM
  1. barbara - sorry you felt the need to intervene. i'm alittle suprised that you felt the need. yes, some comments have been straight forward and some a little edgy. but i think most people have an issue on that fact LW came back in and posted in the comments the way she did. she really comes of with a holier than thou attitude in her second post. i wish she didnt do that. also - she's complaining about her child hugging her. i think most people would LOVE to have that problem at the age her child is.

    Posted by DJ March 21, 10 11:37 AM
  1. A funeral is not a normal party. Maybe the LW could have thought about telling her daughter what would be expected of her and what would not be OK.

    I can remember funerals when I was about this age, and except for helping wash up dishes, I also felt at loose ends at some points when the adults were commiserating longer than teenage attention spans had time for. My mother responded by asking me to do something specific that was appropriate to the occasion.

    I think that the daughter did well to not complain of her boredom, and she tried to get her mother's attention in a quiet fashion. The two of them need to work out how they can communicate in public in situations like this.

    Posted by Irene March 21, 10 10:06 PM
  1. Wow, I canít believe the venom directed at the LW on this thread. I know this thread is over a week old, but I canít help but comment. I donít understand where the anger is coming from. It seems that Amanda did not understand the original letter. Either that or she doesnít have kidsÖ. Her post did absolutely nothing to add to the conversation or advise the LW in anyway. Her snide remark was clearly meant to be hurtful. I wonder if it made her feel better somehow. I am glad that Barbara chimed in. I thought on this message board moms are supposed to offer support and/or advice to those who are in need. Way to go!
    To the LW: My preteens annoy me in too many ways to count, and I love them dearly! Donít beat yourself up about it. We all canít be as perfect is Amanda :)

    Posted by leefee March 26, 10 12:51 PM
 
25 comments so far...
  1. My goodness. You're really complaining that your child loves you and looks to you for reassurance? Why on earth would you have a child at all if you find something like this so very annoying and distasteful?

    No worries. Soon enough, she'll be ignoring you completely and there will be a new letter from you about how "disrespectful" your teenager is. I'll wait with bated breath.

    Posted by Amanda March 18, 10 09:32 AM
  1. About the boredom aspect: a lot of pre-teens are concerned about not feeling cool or socially adept enough. If someone feels awkward at a social function that they cannot leave, then pretending to be bored is a pretty easy defense which allows them to not have to engage in a lot of activity and save some face. She may be feeling out of place and using this as her defense.

    For this, helping to find another way to give her something to do - such as the book or ipod that Barbara suggested - would work wonders. Sometimes just suggesting that she can help out in the kitchen, play with a young child, or another helpful chore, will give her something to occupy herself and find an entryway into the gathering.

    Posted by whoisdagney March 18, 10 11:35 AM
  1. Amanda, As the mom of 3 asking the question, I really found your comments unhelpful and rather immature. You know nothing about me and my parenting style but let me tell you what kind of parent I am.
    I am the parent who is present. I am a parent who every single day hugs and kisses all 3 of her children and tells them I love them. I am a parent who asks every day what happened in school and I ask specific questions, not just "how was your day", but how did the math test go or how are you and Emily doing. I am a parent who knows how they are doing in school and helps them study for tests or practice their spelling. I am the parent who despite working, manages to volunteer in school, attend school meetings, arrange social gatherings for all my kids, arrange for outings to plays, hikes and the movies, arrange our family vacations. I am a parent who regularly hears how nice my children are, how well behaved, how respectful they are. I am a parent who worries about their welfare and safety but am quite content that I am doing the best I can. I am a parent who ALWAYS puts my children first. I am a parent who regularly turns down social events because I want to be home for the children. But despite all that I guess I have no right to at times get annoyed and these clinging situations are one of them. I am acutely aware that she may someday not want to be around me at all, although I have to also say, she and I have a very strong positive relationship. I was looking for some guidance as to how to handle an uncomfortable situation for me. I guess I was hoping Barabara would say it was a stage or something of the sort. In retrospect, the post-funeral situation was probably her reaching out and although her and I have had death conversations before, I realize I may need to have a refresher. ( I even have difficult conversations with my children).
    Thanks for your understanding though, I will think twice before posting again.............

    Posted by momof3 March 18, 10 01:49 PM
  1. I agree with Amanda.

    Posted by mo March 18, 10 02:39 PM
  1. Momof3, you obviously got very angry and defensive about the first comment -- but reread your letter! You told us your daughter came up to hug you 3 times at a post-funeral gathering, and that she has done this a couple other times at other gatherings, and you're annoyed: so annoyed you are worried you might "blow up at her."

    That is, frankly, a really odd response to have to a daughter looking for love from her mother. I really, truly, cannot imagine why you say that this is an "uncomfortable situation" for you. What is going on with you that this is uncomfortable for you? Okay, so you are a very present mom and very involved. Getting annoyed in the situation you describe above is still odd. There has got to be something you are not really acknowledging, to yourself or at least in the letter. No one has said you have no right to ever get annoyed. We all get annoyed at our kids at times. But to get annoyed by a few hugs? Maybe your anger and annoyance are misplaced. Maybe it is not about the hugs, but about, say, that you "regularly turns down social events." Who knows. But if it's really the hugs, this your hang-up, and you really do need to just get over it.

    Posted by jlen March 18, 10 02:44 PM
  1. @Momof3...maybe if you got off your high horse for a few minutes and saw the situation from your daughters perspective people would have more respect for you.

    A 13yr old girl is a child and children got scared, particularly after attending a funeral, if you don't realize this and react with coldness and contempt you'll either solidify her fears or push her away from you down the road.

    Besides based on your post, it sounds like you're more concerned with what people think of you than on doing what's best for your daughter

    Posted by JT March 18, 10 02:54 PM
  1. "Honey, I know you sometimes get bored at Aunt Mary's. Do you want to bring a book along? Your iPod? A video? It wouldn't be rude."

    Barbara, are you kidding? It most certainly would be rude. VERY rude!

    While I certainly think that momof3 has some serious issues about her daughter "hanging on her", how about using the post-funeral gathering as a learning experience about how to be generous and kind. For example, how about suggesting that she help collect dirty dishes, offer to get more coffee or cold drinks for the elderly, or play with a toddler or younger child who needs some diversion.

    If I saw a teenager at a funeral reception with an iPod or a book, I would be seriously angry.

    And, p.s. to momof3: the clue to your problem is in your second post. Count up how many times you used the word "I". Honey, it's not all about you. Get over yourself.

    Posted by heartful March 18, 10 02:59 PM
  1. I think mom of 3 is not concerned about the hugs but the clinginess of her daughter. As a mom of both 14 and 12 year old girls I see this commonly as they are not fully comfortable in new surroundings/new people. They use mom as "home base" and this is normal. As they gain more self confidence they will be able to interact more with others instead of hanging around mom. I do agree that you should be happy that she chooses to be with you instead of sulking by herself.
    Although the Ipod/book solution is an easy fix, I don't think it is helpful in improving the self confidence needed in awkward situations like the post funeral get together where she did not know everyone/did not know what to say etc. Giving her something to do (helping out) is probably the best solution along with a reassuring hug back.

    Posted by Roxy March 18, 10 03:06 PM
  1. I agree with Amanda and heartful - Get over yourself!

    Posted by delilah March 18, 10 03:09 PM
  1. Momof3, you admit that it is more your hang-up than hers, but I don't understand the nature of the problem, probably because it's not a "parenting" issue, which is what this forum is about.

    Maybe you should talk to a therapist about it, since it's your issue, and at least you recognize it as such.

    No I'm not being snarky; that's my serious response.

    Posted by Mom of 2 Who Ignore Her at Events March 18, 10 03:28 PM
  1. Momof3: I am so sorry about the comments you are getting. This should be a place where we help each other out. I felt so sad that it compelled me to write this...my first post. I am uncomfortable when my 10 year old hangs on me and I'm sure it must be worse with a 13 year old who is probably the size of an adult doing it. Yes, it is a sign that the child is needing something but it still does not make it OK for them to do this to you. I will ask my daughter "why are you doing this" to find out what is going on.

    Posted by Momof1 March 18, 10 03:58 PM
  1. If a teenage child wants to sit in a corner at a funeral reception and read a book, I do not think that is rude as long as she acknowleges those around her when spoken to. I do think, however, that tuning out with an iPod would be rude because it sends a message "don't talk to me."

    Posted by ReadingMama March 18, 10 04:07 PM
  1. I felt the need to comment because I did this myself until my early twenties. If I could, I would still do it now when confronted with a room full of strangers (I'm only half kidding). Give your daughter a hug and try to involve her in whatever conversation you are having. Introduce her to relatives she doesn't know or hasn't seen in a while. Help her talk with others at the gathering, ideally people her own age. Providing her with a way to help out is a great idea as well.

    Posted by marybeth March 18, 10 04:21 PM
  1. Mom of 3, if I can give you a different perspective: growing up, my mother was VERY present - in many of the ways you describe. But there was never any question that she thought I was "uncool" and often annoying. I am sorry you feel vilified by the comments today. At the same time, it's hard for me to read what you wrote and not see myself as a terribly awkward 13 year old girl with no idea how to behave at public functions, clinging to my mother and having her pull away.

    Do you make an effort at gatherings to bring her in to your conversations when she comes up? Do you show her, by example, how polite people interact at social events?

    Maybe the next time she reaches for you at something like this, you will turn to her and say "oh Amy, why don't you tell uncle Fred about that book you are reading for English class."

    She thinks she's excluded and awkward. Try not to confirm for her that you agree.

    Posted by Q March 18, 10 04:26 PM
  1. 13 is such a tricky age... not yet a young adult, but too big to easily be thought of as a child.

    My heart goes out to both Momof3 and her daughter. From her comment, it seems like Momof3 gives so much of herself that it feels very difficult to still have to be essentially "taking care of the children" during a rare chance to socialize with other adults. Since she also hangs on at family gatherings and other less emotionally charged events than a funeral, I wonder if her daughter is so used to having mom "on call" that she doesn't see that her mom needs some adult time.

    I used to give my now-adult daughter one of my bracelets to wear or a scarf to use as a headband when she was going through this stage. Just as a reminder that I was right there even if she wasn't actually touching me. Added bonus: Getting to wear my things made her feel special and important. Maybe something like that would be helpful to you and your daughter?

    Posted by NannyMa March 18, 10 04:44 PM
  1. I felt kind of sadly for the LW when I read her love letter because it must have taken courage to admit that the hanging on you thing is annoying to you then.........i read your second post.
    Your need to glorify yourself really turned me off. I felt your need to prove how good of a mom you really are icky and forced. Lady listen, none of us think your not a good mom..how can we tell? your daughter was hanging on you and showing you love...she must think you are alright. Take heed to your snarky attitude, take the windex bottle and wipe clean your mirrors and really take a good look! You wrote the letter and saw the response and I REALLY THINK...the next time your daughter snuggles up to you in public, you will think of all the post here urging you to ease up, accept her loving gesture and stop being so cold!

    Posted by Judgenot March 18, 10 05:08 PM
  1. I agree with Amanda (first post) and wonder why Momof3 is fearful of comforting her daughter. It seems to me, as the mom of a daughter about the same age as the LW's, that Momof3 fears the loving, parental intimacy that is part of raising children. Your daughter will come to feel rejected by her, and if she can't trust her own mother, what adult will she trust? You're setting her up for a lifetime of abuse, and yes, your letter reeks of a kind of abuse. I thought cold parents went out with the Edwardian age.

    'Tween is a very difficult age. Try being more of a mother to your scared daughter.

    Posted by reindeergirl March 18, 10 06:55 PM
  1. I agree with Barbara Meltz response. I look at this from 2 different perspectives. I grew up in a home where my mom and dad were very loving and expressive when my brother and sisters were young, but once we got to a certain age it became cool, cooler and then cold. I also have 3 children - 2, 12 and 16. I have tried to be more physically loving than my parents because I would hate them to feel like I felt. I am aware of their space, but welcome all hugs, kisses and anything they are comfortable with and need.

    Pushing your daughter away at this age can be devastating. A distraction from boredom should be encouraged. It's normal to see kids at gatherings hovering over their ipods, etc and family and friends should take a few minutes to talk to them. Just because they are texting or playing games doesn't mean they are unapproachable.

    Posted by Karrie March 18, 10 09:35 PM
  1. Mom of 3, wow.. you really do sound full of yourself. I think alot of parents of kids this age would love the fact that their teen hasn't yet tuned them out. I understand a little clinginess can be annoying but seriously. I don't see your problem with a little. I just see that your defensive 2nd post puts it in better perspective for me. that it isn't about your daughter...it is about yourself...get over it. She'll be out of your hair in a year or two when she gets into boys and more her friends.
    Barbara yes it would be rude to bring an ipod or whatever at a funeral. that is very disrespectful. maybe at other events it would be ok but certainly not at a funeral.

    Posted by jd March 19, 10 07:44 AM
  1. barbara - i think its fine to bring something as long as the child acknowledges everyone and is social. but just tuning everyone out in the corner and grunting at people would be rude.

    LW - i'm conflicted with you. i do think this is more about yourself and your phobias than there is something wrong with your daughter. at the funeral - i'm sure she just felt weird and not sure how to act. 13 is a tough age. at 13 you're on the brink of two worlds and just trying to figure it out. if she does this at other social functions - maybe she is really self conscious about herself.
    i think you are way too defensive - you had to come back and post again. dont post a question if you may not like the answers.
    you sound like you are physically present - but are you mentally present and available? it doesnt sound like the case and maybe its hard for you to admit that?

    Posted by jj March 19, 10 12:22 PM
  1. Well, to defend the momof3, she said her kid was probably doing it out of boredom and not the need for reassurance or love. And I'm guessing after 13 years with her daughter, she can probably tell the difference between an anxious child and a bored one. Maybe using the word HUG is why everyone is associating this behavior with the need for affection.

    A couple that is friends with my parents has a pre-teen daughter (12) who also hangs all over her mom/dad at functions. She hangs, sits in their laps, grabs their faces to get attention, whines and stomps her foot. And she's not the least bit anxious about anyone, just a royal pain. I wish her parents would write to Barbara (like this mom did) and get advice with how to deal without making a scene.

    I think the momof3 probably didn't articulate herself as well as she meant to. And now she's getting slammed. And if its any consolation to momof3, go take a look at the discussion boards here on BostonMoms and see all the other totally rude and wacko discussions that take place when someone posts a seemingly innocent questions and gets taken down, BoMoms style.

    Posted by SM March 19, 10 04:02 PM
  1. I don't like to get into the middle of these discussion threads; When I answer a question, I've had my turn, said my piece, and then it's your turn. I look forward to your reactions, which are usually wise and often add insight.

    That didn't happen in this thread. The nastiness in many of these comments has surprised me.

    What motivates me to write the Mailbag is exactly what motivated me to to write my parenting column for 19 years: I try to provide parents with a developmental understanding of what might be fueling their child's behavior; and to offer coping responses that feed into their child's strengths in a way that's good for the child and for the parent/child relationship. If you don't agree with me, that's fine. The opportunity for readers to comment is an added value -- a way for someone who has been-there-done-that to tell me why something won't work, or why it will, as well as to offer personal stories, support and advice.

    As the last post says, there are plenty of other discussion boards where rudeness is the norm. Not here. It makes me sad to see that anyone regrets having sent me a question.

    I apologize to the LW for how hurtful some of these comments may have been.

    Posted by Barbara F. Meltz Author Profile Page March 19, 10 10:58 PM
  1. barbara - sorry you felt the need to intervene. i'm alittle suprised that you felt the need. yes, some comments have been straight forward and some a little edgy. but i think most people have an issue on that fact LW came back in and posted in the comments the way she did. she really comes of with a holier than thou attitude in her second post. i wish she didnt do that. also - she's complaining about her child hugging her. i think most people would LOVE to have that problem at the age her child is.

    Posted by DJ March 21, 10 11:37 AM
  1. A funeral is not a normal party. Maybe the LW could have thought about telling her daughter what would be expected of her and what would not be OK.

    I can remember funerals when I was about this age, and except for helping wash up dishes, I also felt at loose ends at some points when the adults were commiserating longer than teenage attention spans had time for. My mother responded by asking me to do something specific that was appropriate to the occasion.

    I think that the daughter did well to not complain of her boredom, and she tried to get her mother's attention in a quiet fashion. The two of them need to work out how they can communicate in public in situations like this.

    Posted by Irene March 21, 10 10:06 PM
  1. Wow, I canít believe the venom directed at the LW on this thread. I know this thread is over a week old, but I canít help but comment. I donít understand where the anger is coming from. It seems that Amanda did not understand the original letter. Either that or she doesnít have kidsÖ. Her post did absolutely nothing to add to the conversation or advise the LW in anyway. Her snide remark was clearly meant to be hurtful. I wonder if it made her feel better somehow. I am glad that Barbara chimed in. I thought on this message board moms are supposed to offer support and/or advice to those who are in need. Way to go!
    To the LW: My preteens annoy me in too many ways to count, and I love them dearly! Donít beat yourself up about it. We all canít be as perfect is Amanda :)

    Posted by leefee March 26, 10 12:51 PM
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About the author

Barbara F. Meltz is a freelance writer, parenting consultant, and author of "Put Yourself in Their Shoes: Understanding How Your Children See the World." She won several awards for her weekly "Child Caring" column in the Globe, including the 2008 American Psychological Association Print Excellence award. Barbara is available as a speaker for parent groups.

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