The shelves are crammed with parenting books written by “experts.”  Guides to parenting through the toddler years, early childhood development, tween angst, and teen drama.  Pages and pages and pages filled with the psychology of proper parenting.

But let’s get real.

There’s a lot more to surviving the tween years than understanding psychology and child development.  It takes grit.  Gumption.  A balls to the wall attitude that would put Evil Kinevil to shame.

As someone relatively new to the game I can only offer the bare beginnings of my action plan but, as they say, a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.  (That applies here, right?)

So!  Onward and upward.

A Guide to Having Your $#@! Together While Parenting a Tween

*  Abandon all hope of keeping track of your chargers.  Your blocks will disappear.  Your cords will disappear.  The spare charger you kept in your sock drawer will disappear.  And your tween will look you straight in the eye while denying any knowledge of it.  Just buy stock in a technology company and be done with it.

*  Accept that your household has become Ground Zero.  Cold fronts move in without warning, bringing with them hormonal thunderstorms that rival the wrath of the gods.  Category 5 hurricanes rage through the house, destroying good will and slamming bedroom doors in their path.  You will never know from one day to the next if you’ll be beloved parent of the year or the block’s most vicious dictator.  Keep a stock of chocolate on hand and be prepared to ride out the storm.

*  Sanity will be at a premium and, on certain days, a luxury you can’t afford.  Some tips to preserve a sliver in even the darkest of times: Prerecord high frequency phrases (“Did you do your homework?  Can you see your bedroom floor?  You should take a few steps back now.”) to save precious oxygen.  Buy a pair of noise canceling headphones and keep them within reach. Find a tween-proof hiding place for your special stash of whatever keeps you going.  (Buried in the produce drawer, behind the spare cleaning supplies, and inside Tampax boxes are particularly good spots.)

*  Socks will never sort evenly again.  Ever.  Accept it now.  Your kids don’t care.  Their friends don’t care.  The only people who might possibly care about your kid’s mismatched socks are the adults who show up at school in heels, a suit, and $700 worth of jewelry.  Totally not worth the time wasted fussing.

*  Shoes will multiply like Gremlins.  You’ll find them behind couches, under chairs, dropped in the middle of the freaking kitchen floor.  There will be shoes you don’t even remember buying, prompting you to search your kid’s browser history to see if she’s hacked your Zappos account.  Just buy a big shoe basket – a pretty one that won’t horrify you – and live with the fact that it will be overflowing at all times.

* Your sense of smell as you know it will be forever scarred by the aromas wafting through your home.  Damp sneakers that reek of funky feet and skunk.  Socks that singe nose hairs in transit from hamper to washing machine.  Young sweaty bodies bring their stench in at end of day, an indescribable smell that makes your eyes tear and heart long for those baby wipe days. Light as many Yankee Candles as you like – there’s no killing the smog that tweens emit.  You’ll be able to breathe freely again in about 17 years.

*  Unbelievably, you will still be asking questions you thought would be long gone by now.  Did you brush your teeth?  Today?  Did you put on deodorant?  Enough of it?  You might want to add another layer or two.  While your tween will be asserting his independence left and right, declaring himself responsible and trustworthy, you’ll still have to check behind him for basic hygiene updates.  Just do it.  Or live with the stench until one of his friends tells him he reeks – that’ll take care of it, too.

This concludes part one of my Let’s Get Real parenting guide.  Soldier on, brothers and sisters!