How to survive ‘Tweens

Dan and I knew we’d be exhausted by the end of the week. But we asked for our ‘tween granddaughters anyway—ages 11 and 12. Maybe because we also knew we’d make some epic memories.


Tween granddaughters

Camping. Water play. Slime-making. The movie Annie. Facials. Manicures. Late night talk sessions. Alpaca feeding. Shopping. Mickey Mouse pancake-making.


Good morning, sleepyheads
Has anyone seen my pink flamingo?
Stand-up/sit-down paddle boarding
Can we keep him? Please, please, please!
“Look, I put whiskers on Mickey Mouse.”

If you’ve ever hung out with multiple ‘tween girls—the key words being, multiple and girls—then you’ll know that they ganged up on us. That even though Dan and I make two, these two out-numbered us.

Which means there were some challenging times.

But relationship building is made up of hard and holy moments. Because anything worthwhile requires work. And tenacity. And grace.

It means showing up. And investing our energy and time. 

It means being willing to receive instruction. So we can get it right.

There was a time when I inadvertently got it wrong. It wasn’t too long after my Ugandan-born grandsons came to America. I was left as the responsible adult in charge of six kids while my daughter and son-in-law skipped town. Alone. Together.

In their absence, some household rules may or may not have been broken. But I learned later that the best schedule for these boys is to stick to a daily routine. It’s what would help them re-gain a sense of safety and security.

Dan and I want to be on the same team with The Parents. We want to get it right.

But we won’t always.

And it won’t always be easy. Because toddlers are a lot of work. And ‘tweens come with exhausting energy and emotional ups and downs. And teens are still figuring out their own stuff.

Ann Voskamp wrote about sitting beside a woman in a waiting room. The woman, who had just buried her husband, made this comment:

This is all I know now about living: Every moment is a gift with each other—and every moment we get to be a gift to each other.

Being present is a present we give to the people we love. And you better believe it will cost us—as in, sacrifice and effort and strain and time and discomfort.

What if?

But what if we accept the challenge? And what if, in the process, we encourage and teach and impact those precious people in our lives?

Maybe embracing the hard moments is the only way to have the crazy, fun, rowdy, goofy, beautiful, over-the-top moments.




This is how they became family after loss


The pursuit of happiness … or should we?


  1. Tina Hohman

    Oh Marlys! I sure feel ya! This is my 24/7 life! The twins will be 12 Oct 3rd, and if Dan and I survive the next few years, it will only be by God’s Amazing Grace!! And this is why we (usually) have children when we are young and energetic! ;o)
    So glad you were able to have such a wonderful time with these sweet tweens!

    • Tina! I thought of you this past week when I was running low on energy. You are my hero! Blessings to you and your hubby for this wonderful thing you are doing.

  2. Gary Bonacker

    Good afternoon, Marlys –

    You’re experience with all of your grandchildren sounded like a great story.
    To have that connection is wonderful.
    When you have your own kid(s) it’s a bit different though. I have had stage 3
    antiplastic oligodendroglioma for 15 years. I look at this and all of my cancer team
    doctors are amazed with new growth that I am still alive. I work hard each and
    everyday to be as healthy as I can be. I know there are people who think that
    the doctors will do all they can do, and that is true, But now anyone with cancer
    has so many things that they can do that the doctors can’t do.
    My daughter, Frankie is an old soul. At age 8, she would be home when I had
    a seizure, She now at age 23 would know what to do, whether it was to call 911 or put me to bed.
    Now at age 23, she is pregnant and it fills my soul and love even more. It’s a girl.
    When I found this wonderful thing out, I told my oncologist that after my MRI, please
    do what ever you can and I will do the same. I guess it hit me some how.
    On another subject, if you would like to do a social distance cup of coffee
    or tea.
    Be well, be kind and love all.
    I don’t know if this has anything to do with your wonderful article.

    • Gary Bonacker

      I’m not sure what happened. I am easier to talk face to face.
      I am free all this week if you want to do a social distance
      coffee or tea, leet me know.
      be well, be kind and love all,
      Gary B.

      • Absolutely, Gary. Let’s do social distancing over a cup of coffee. I would love for you to meet my new husband … and for my new husband to meet you!

    • Gary, I can’t imagine adding the complication of ‘cancer’ to grandparenting. You are an amazing person and it has been my honor to call you friend. Absolutely, let’s do social distancing over a cup of coffee. I would love for you to meet my new husband … and for my new husband to meet you.

  3. Tanya Neelon

    The giant flamingo is hilarious! And the blog is heartwarming…made me smile!



    • Tanya, I’m glad to say the giant flamingo isn’t ours (it belongs to my husband’s son). Which means we don’t have to blow it up or deflate before launch and un-launch! 🙂

  4. Peter

    I’m not comparing notes… but our grand daughter Naomi just called round, with their 3 children, our great grand’s… Mollie – 10, Lottie – 5 & Torren (the tornado!) – 4. It was wonderful to see them pick fresh strawberries & tomatoes. You mentioned ‘time’ on several occasions, and it is the ‘using time wisely’ that counts, I/we treasure those moments in the way you described.. and, that’s what matters. Loved the read, our love, stay safe & well, God Bless, Bx P & family

    • Peter, how wonderful that your granddaughter stops by to see you with your great-grands! How many grandparents and great-grandparents sit alone, waiting for someone, anyone to visit? Blessings to you and yours.

      • Peter

        I know ONE of the reasons, other than our love for ALL the great grand, grand and sons… is that The bike man fixes their bikes…. I’m up to 34 bikes sorted during and since lock down, with all donations going to our local Hospice. Such a blessing to donate in this way. When will it end Marlys?. God Bless, Bx P & family

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