The Playroom: A dip into the tween years

Author: Maraya Steadman '89, '90MBA

Maraya Steadman

This past summer, the summer of my daughter’s entry into tweenhood, I rediscovered something I had almost forgotten, french onion dip.

At some point in my efforts to keep my middle-age body in a pair of jeans I already own, I stopped eating french onion dip, the ready-made kind you buy next to the cottage cheese and sour cream. The kind that elevates the entire potato chip experience.

French onion dip was not invented (as I suspected) by geniuses at some gigantic corporate food processing plant who were trying to figure out how to sell more of that dried onion soup mix they had invested so much money in. French onion dip was invented by a housewife in the 1950s, well, it was if you believe everything you read on the Internet, which I do.

I suspect our 1950s housewife didn’t feel like making dip for her 10-year old daughter’s party, since those kids couldn’t care less about anything but themselves, especially not the dip, so she dumped a bag of dried soup mix in sour cream, stuck it on a plate of crackers and came up with a legend.

1950s Housewife: “What should I serve these selfish girls who like nothing better than to instigate fights with their siblings when they’re bored because unlike Wendy in that turn-of-the-century fairy tale, this pre-teen stage is no fairy tale, this is reality and today’s pre-teen wants to get the hell out of the nursery as quickly as possible and if Peter Pan had a iPad he never would have needed to fly.”

Oh wait, they didn’t have iPads in the 1950s.

What is happening to my amazing little girl? The one I touted in Christmas letters as the world’s best older sister, ever? I can time my 10-year-old’s emergence from her bed in the morning by the squeals from her younger siblings. Yup, she’s up, and evidently her younger sister asked her to pass the syrup.

As the syrup fights in our house have escalated, I seem to be compulsively eating potato chips, buying buckets of french onion dip and drinking cocktails with a scary degree of regularity.

I’m told by more experienced parents that her behavior is normal, appropriate. My older daughter is separating from her younger siblings, trying to leave the nursery, she’s supposed to leave the nursery. Parents of grown children tell me this is nothing new, they tell me it’s difficult for her to separate from being a little girl so she’s using anger to help her transition. Evidently in her teen years, she’ll turn that anger toward me as she tries to separate from me. Great. Well at least I’ll have the good sense not to ask her to pass the syrup.

By that time I’ll probably have saturated myself with french onion dip and I’ll move on to Oreos, invented in 1912, so 1950’s Housewife and I can sit down together with a bag of cookies and a beverage and we won’t have to invent or rediscover anything.

Maraya Steadman, who lives in a Chicago suburb, is a stay-at-home mother of three children. She can be reached at