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on the shaping and the being shaped

2014 February 28
by Rachel Turiel


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Rose and her buddy Lucy. 

We’re driving to the trailhead on our new weekend program: We’re going hiking and everyone’s going to love it even if we have to commandeer our friend’s dog and stop for snacks every .01843 miles.

We pass a parked car with a For Sale sign in the window.

Rose: What happens if you’re not in your car and someone wants to buy it?

Me: What do you think?

Rose: Probably you would just leave a note that says: please leave your money in the glove box.

Dan and I erupt into the laughter of the front seat sophisticates, of the adults who Know Things About The World. Like, for instance, that money is exchanged under the context of subtle negotiation and binding contracts; or, that despite Col assuring me I’m mistaken, he will want to eventually fly the coop; or, that someday climbing into bed to sleep will hold more allure than any late-night lego rager. (Or that David Bowie DID NOT invent the bowie knife, a fact Col refuses to accept).

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Also, hard to believe, but someday Rose, you won’t beg to do dishes.

Sometimes our roles seem so prescribed. I mean, the jet stream of movement swirling through the playground is undoubtably the children. Those slow-moving and sensibly dressed people lumbering behind? Right. When Col and Rose ransack our house of sleep at 6am, begging for tickles, for books, for breakfast, I feel like a representative from The Coalition of Grown-Ups, uttering,  “just…a…few…more…minutes.”

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Fun discussion on FB re: best caption for this photo

I never meant to become so predictable, so soft and cautious, so overly fond of the bedtime hour. I could tell my kids stories about when everything I owned fit in my Honda Civic, which I piloted to Southwest Colorado, having never been here and knowing no one; or about backpacking alone from one wild mountain basin into the next; or about the time a million years ago when their Daddy asked me on the mattress of my Southside Durango rental, “Do you like to kiss?”

Undoubtedly, they’d be more interested in what’s on tonight’s dinner menu.

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Wondering who you might be without children is like not being in the forest when the tree falls. Does it make a sound? Who knows, my ears are plugged up with one kid’s incriminations against the other. Recalling Dan and my first, eight (eight!) childless years together is like watching some grainy movie with subtitles in Farsi. We’re not those people anymore. But we’re also not not them. I don’t understand it either.

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Eating pancakes on the back porch of that very same Southside rental. 1995

At a talk I recently gave on growing food year round, someone asked if I’d do things differently if I had more space (like maybe plant in tidy rows rather than cram food in every soil cranny). I couldn’t really answer because my little 1/8 acre backyard plot has shaped me as a gardener as much as I’ve shaped it.

And I like how parenthood too, is a mutual shaping. Rose taught me long ago that employing punishment as a behavior-modification tool is adding fuel to a fire that will blow up in my face. Col has led me through the testosterone-ripe fields of trains, backhoes, ships, and airplanes, while teaching me to trust that every precious flower of a child has their own timetable for blossoming. (And certainly, 4 decades ago, my parents and I began shaping each other)

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And really, these roles will never be a fixed target at which I can aim my arrow of perfect, lasting understanding. It’s more like being a soft stone in the river, forever altering the water’s path, while constantly being shaped by the water flowing over and around.

I like these ever-evolving roles, this changing partnership. Right now, we keep the kids in green vegetables, encourage them to hike a bit further, and to refrain from leaving money in people’s glove boxes. And they remind us to crawl through the snarly oak brush to investigate the hole under the boulder that they’re absolutely certain is a bear den.

17 Responses leave one →
  1. Kathy permalink
    February 28, 2014

    Oh, Rachel, I so wish I had been thinking when my daughters were this age. Or perhaps I was and have forgotten (more likely the case, since I consider myself thoughtful and full of thoughts).
    One day Sarah (adult daughter with Down syndrome, for your readers) was doing something (have already forgotten) and I realized much of what she does in her personal routine is to keep her sanity in this so very changeable world. She does worry more than she admits and she keeps to her own counsel, but her vulnerabilty shines all the time. And so does her inflexibility. Is that what we do when we become grown-ups? Stick to the plan in spite of ourselves?
    At this age your children’s world is so flexible, full of experiments and results. They can work and learn in a stable framework of their not-so-confident or secure parents. As I look back, my children were more stable than I, more predictable and secure. And they still are, it seems. They taught me, and I am just now understanding the lessons.
    Thank you for sharing their lives and yours, your growth as a family and individuals. I really am certain I never thought as introspectively as you do, at any time in my life, until now. And you have demonstrated how I can do that.

    • Becky permalink
      February 28, 2014

      I so agree that I wish I had raised my boys as Rose & Colin are being raised instead of my structured way – we do as we were taught – however, my boys are raising their children in less structure and for that I am a happy Nana.

      • Rachel Turiel permalink*
        March 1, 2014

        I’m sure I will have regrets someday too. In fact, I often think: what will we all know in 20 years that we’re blind to now?

  2. Bree permalink
    February 28, 2014

    A sigh… and a smile…. this is lovely and so true.

  3. Nancy permalink
    February 28, 2014

    Ahhhhh another wonderful chapter in my favorite (never ending, right?) ‘book’! Thank you.

  4. February 28, 2014

    I just wanted to drop by and say that I love this post! I love how your writing is so relatable! (is that a word?) XO

  5. nan permalink
    February 28, 2014

    I wish I had given my son more creative freedom and not worried about messes and schedules so much. I am very glad I found your blog now tho, because I have a do over. My first precious grandson. I make sure we enjoy every moment we spend together ( and leave the worry of messes and schedules up to his parents). Thank-you for your insight.

    • Rachel Turiel permalink*
      March 1, 2014

      Nan, my parents are much more skilled in “enjoying every moment” with Col and Rose than I am. I think it’s the special priviledge of grandparents.

  6. Andrea permalink
    February 28, 2014

    oh sweet love.
    my heart feels awesome right now.

  7. Caraway permalink
    February 28, 2014

    Love it Rache!
    I love all of it, but I’m especially fond of those memories of you and Dan in 1995; I remember how cute you guys were as youths, getting to know each other and bonding over writing, hiking, and wilderness. And now what an amazing childhood you’re providing for your kids! So blessed.
    Lots of love,

    • Rachel Turiel permalink*
      March 1, 2014

      I know!
      I love you.

  8. March 1, 2014

    I love that you contrast gardening the way you do to raising your kids the way you do. It’s a good truth to remember that the things and people we shape also shape us. Thanks for your always inspiring writing and for bringing this truth to the forefront of my mind today.

  9. March 1, 2014

    Oh Rachel, this post is so deeply touching for so many reasons that I don’t even know where to start. For one thing, every sentence is carefully crafted and yet rings simply True. And what you describe here, this reciprocal process of shaping and being shaped, is one of the most beautiful mysteries of life. And love.

    Thank you for sharing this picture of you and Dan, where you almost look like kids – for the delight you share in each other’s company, in the simple act of eating pancakes together in the sun, and in the perspective of all the adventures to come – and at the same time, it is this same loving energy that radiates from every picture, every story of your foursome duo. So to speak.

  10. Melissa permalink
    March 3, 2014

    Oh wow, suddenly Col is all grown up! I haven’t read you for a while and he has just grown into a young man in a blink. He has a very wise smile and I’m quite sure he knows more than most of us adults do!

  11. March 3, 2014

    Ahh, Rachel! Your writing is so delicious… so unique. It is such a treat to read you and to feel very connected to what you live because I am so being shaped by my wonderful girls.

  12. March 3, 2014

    haha the bowie knife.

    the river stone phrase sounds like something out of the tao te ching. xoxo

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