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smells like tween spirit

2017 February 21
by Rachel Turiel

Col is skiing with a buddy, turned loose on the slopes without an adult. Rose is cruising downtown Durango with a friend, “window-shopping,” their hair swept into high ponytails, ears weighted down with hoop earrings, conflating perhaps, tweenhood with the 1980’s. I am at the grocery store, alone.

The woman in front of me in the check out line is simultaneously cradling a baby, loading groceries onto the conveyor belt, and putting down her toddler’s small revolt over bunny-shaped gummies. She apologizes for the chaos, for the extra time she’s requiring, but I am 100% charmed and have to refrain from advising her to enjoy this fast-moving stream of early childhood, because soon that bundled baby-daughter may be cavorting with her cronies, unsupervised, like an extra from a Cyndi Lauper video.

Col and Rose, ages 12 and 9 1/2, are inching ever farther from the home base of us parents, seeking their identity in the world, in their peers. They’re muddling around in popular culture, in dystopian novels, in PG-13 movies, trailed by the slightest whiff of hormones.

It’s wonderful, this growing up, watching the kids develop autonomy (neither Dan nor I alpine ski nor do we, er, window shop). And it’s terrifying, letting them slip into the stream of society, vulnerable to every passing marketing fad; trusting them with their cabinet of tween advisors, each with similarly undeveloped pre-frontal cortexes.

Last Friday night the kids picked up spontaneous sleepovers and Dan and I found ourselves unexpectedly alone in the house. It was lovely to spend time together (Scrabble, wine, etc, etc…) and also the house echoed strangely, loudly, with the absence of the children.

“I guess we’ll be getting used to this,” I said.

“Right, because it’s not like it’s going the other direction,” he replied.

So, we stand on the precipice of something new. There’s freedom and risk. The kids, like all of us, have a tremendous need for belonging, but will mistake ‘fitting in’ for true belonging several hundred times before it all comes clear. Their choices won’t be my choices. Rose’s lovely lashes have been coated in something dark and clumpy lately. If I get to drop Col and his friend at the rec center to play pool while I take a glorious, solo run on the river trail, then I may return to them snarfing something with 55 lab-made ingredients, dropped from the exotic mechanical arm of a vending machine. And I will say nothing, because autonomy is a like a bird; cage it and it withers.

Sometimes I picture handing the kids the baton of their own life and cheering them on as they run. But wait – there I am showing up a mile down the track with a refreshing drink and some protein. Because this separating is not exactly a flipped switch, but a certain forward motion. Or a dance. In which the children take two steps—sometimes graceful, sometimes stumbling—out into the world, and one step back towards home.

Everyone’s back from their adventures. We reunite with hugs, then the kids zoom into their shared room and crank the pop radio station. I make dinner, gliding around to my Pandora station, about 40 years behind the times. Rose comes out as Joni Mitchell sings: I remember that time that you told me, you said/“Love is touching souls”/Surely you touched mine ’cause/Part of you pours out of me/In these lines from time to time. Her words goes up my spine, into my heart and out my throat. Rose and I swoon over Joni’s holy magical voice; we dance together, and then she funnels like a retreating tide into the tween-den, called back by Rhianna, Justin Bieber.

This is the way of all things. Larvae to pupa to butterfly. Change and growth. Leaving, returning, and leaving again. You trade in the intoxicating feeling of being the very sun that your children’s planets orbit to something a little more, well, sustainable. Something like each family member harnessing their own planet, always in and out of each others’ gravitational pull.

Related posts:

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The fun chaos


19 Responses leave one →
  1. Baba permalink
    February 21, 2017

    That was a wonderful blog. My only comment is that the relationships with your children
    That you described so well continue to change forever. So many opportunities to deepen.

    • Rachel Turiel permalink*
      February 21, 2017

      Spoken like a grandfather who’s been at it awhile. xo

  2. Ellie permalink
    February 21, 2017

    Rachel, so very beautifully written. Just what I need on a rainy winter day. Thank you.

  3. Molly B Wieser permalink
    February 21, 2017

    This should have a trigger warning for parents of kids 6 months behind yours. Not ready. Beautiful essay.

    • Rachel Turiel permalink*
      February 22, 2017

      I know! Cover your eyes and ears. The world is out there.

  4. Tara Frazer permalink
    February 21, 2017

    …is the person in the first paragraph Zoelle?

  5. dale permalink
    February 21, 2017

    “Sometimes I picture handing the kids the baton of their own life and cheering them on as they run. But wait – there I am showing up a mile down the track with a refreshing drink and some protein.” This sums it up perfectly!

    Go get the annual Grammy CDs from your library and download (optional) into your iTunes. You’d be surprised how someone so enamored with the perfect harmonies of The Indigo Girls can be equally enamored with Rhianna.

  6. Susan S permalink
    February 21, 2017

    I’m always impressed with the way you can make such crystalline images so perfectly describe the watercolor ebb and flow of life. Genius! :-)

  7. Carol Harr permalink
    February 21, 2017

    Sweet. Bitter. Again and again and again.
    Beautiful. Thank you.

  8. February 21, 2017

    yup.
    solid observation, acute writing as is your hallmark; using your (this forum) engaged Witnessing Self as a public tool, to tool your own Vipassana higher…

    watching Dewa alongside Rosie coupled with what little yet potent influence ilg has of you and Dan? reMinds feeble ilg of what Rinpoche Trungpa drilled, droned on and on upon during my years at Naropa during my Bardo Training, “When I see my future parents in union
    may I see the peaceful and wrathful Buddhas with their consorts;
    with power to choose my birthplace, for the good of others,
    may I receive a perfect body adorned with auspicious signs…”

    head bowed,
    spirit vowed,

    know-nothing ilg

  9. February 22, 2017

    i saw the title of this, and thought you might have been referring to the fact that kurt cobain would have turned 50 years old, just the day before you posted. speaking of time flying by.

    and tomorrow my kid turns 10. so much yes to all of what you expressed here.

    • Rachel Turiel permalink*
      February 22, 2017

      Ten!
      Happy birthday, Quinn!

      • Rachel Turiel permalink*
        February 22, 2017

        P.S. Didn’t know that about Kurt Cobain, but pretty cosmic anyway.

  10. February 22, 2017

    How beautiful! Thank you!!

    “You trade in the intoxicating feeling of being the very sun that your children’s planets orbit to something a little more, well, sustainable. Something like each family member harnessing their own planet, always in and out of each others’ gravitational pull.”

  11. Annie permalink
    February 24, 2017

    Ahh, Case of You, one of the most beautiful songs ever written. Always amazed at the way she can write music that so perfectly touches our emotions.

  12. Chi-An permalink
    February 28, 2017

    Oh Rachel, once again your wondrous writing has me nodding and smiling and tearing up. Exactly like this. Only instead of the slopes, my 13 year old is riding the bus around SF with his friends. I am simultaneously thrilled and terrified as my kids are off on their own adventures. Thank you for this.

  13. Solyssa permalink
    March 2, 2017

    This post has been left sitting in my inbox until I finally found some time to read it. I agree with Chi-An above, I found both laughter and tears. I always look forward to your posts, and if it isn’t a good time, I save them for when I need a juicy morsel of life to read. Thank you!

    • Rachel Turiel permalink*
      March 2, 2017

      I love you guys! All of you.

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