The two-week verdict: I'm having a great summer with Twelve. She slept in today, but when I got home from work she had jumped right in and gotten some of last night's porch sitting/cocktail party debris put away. She had helped me set out the glasses and bowl the snacks, and I have to say it's pretty cool to know that she just knows what needs to be done and can jump right in and do it. We followed our usual hosting routine: About an hour beforehand, I started running around tidying up and making the bathroom appear a little bit cleaner while Twelve did the fun getting-out-the-goodies part.
Okay, the peanut butter M&Ms really should have gone in a smaller bowl, but I make a point of letting her win certain battles: It's okay to just have the nine glasses set out because they look good that way on the tray (I'll just put out a few more as they get used). We can slice the medium cheddar cheese instead of the sharp (it was all eaten by the first two guests before anyone else got here anyway). You want to put the blue-and-red layered jell-o in the antique parfait glasses and squirt organic whipped cream on top? Fan-fucking-tastic. (They turned out totally cute.)
I also take her suggestions and questions seriously, even when it's totally unnecessary, as when she asked which shot glasses to get out: "Hmm, let's just do the tall ones. There are fewer of them and this isn't really that sort of party." Or, later: "It's totally fine if you want to arrange the beverages symmetrically on either side of the ice bowl."
"It's totally up to you" given in a matter-of-fact, deferential tone is my parenting secret weapon of choice at the moment.
If you asked me for advice about almost-thirteen-year-old people, that's what I'd tell you. I just ordered a few books about preadolescence (apparently this is what Twelve has), so I may soon have all the fancy technical terms for whatever this is called, but I'm feeling pretty confident that letting Twelve make all decisions possible and talking to her seriously about her suggestions is working.
This doesn't mean that she gets what she wants every time or wins every debate - I quite often exercise my veto power and/or talk her around to a certain option. But it means that I'm modeling logical thought processes to her AND that she knows what my thought process is when I make decisions that she doesn't like. Either way, we're talking, which I hear is apparently a short-lived state of affairs with people in her condition.
Preadolescent people also seem to simultaneously want and not-want you to be around. Case in point:
We went to the gym today for Twelve's first personal training appointment, and as we walked I coached her a bit on her goals for the training session (building core strength). She brushed me off at first, until I explained that if she doesn't want me to be involved with the session, she needs to know what to say to the trainer. We talked about it a little bit more (a classic example of how middle-class parents coach their children to navigate middle-class environs) and I concluded with, "It's my understanding that you don't want me to be a part of it at all, right?"
No, mom, I don't want you there at all.
In the preliminary chit-chat when we arrived, I explained to the trainer that I was just going to sit here and read a book on the couch while they did their thing, and lo and behold, Twelve flapped a hand dismissively (in that way she has) and said "Oh, you can come if you want." So I went along, double-checking for her benefit which column is the weight and which column is the number of repetitions, asking if she wanted to make a note that the yellow dumbbells are the right weight, and so on.
She didn't seem to mind my presence a bit - it was as if it's totally natural for a parent to accompany a child on a personal training appointment. I don't know if it would have been different if I had insisted from the beginning that I was going to be there, and eventually I'm sure she will remain adamant that she doesn't want me around, but for now I am happy to give Twelve the flexibility to go back and forth about it ... whatever the fancy technical term for that process may be.