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2019 March 8
by Rachel Turiel

Far, far away a millionaire lawyer is testifying against a (supposedly) billionaire president while myriad news outlets cover the shockingness of it all, though our collective sense of shock seems to have been hammered and deadened. Nearby, a democratic presidential nominee is proposing a 2% tax on people whose assets are worth over 50 million, which seems a bit like someone’s very distant Monopoly game.

And here, in Tupperware Heights, snow is melting, robins are singing their hearts out, and siskins gather in the ash tree at 7:30am like spectators waiting for the game to start, belting out their collective buzzy zhreeee, sounding very urgent.

Inside, 36 tiny tomato seedlings perform sun salutes through the muted window. We listen to Tattoo You on cassette and the kids can’t believe people used to just wait for tapes to rewind. Rose is amassing a PhD on slime. Col is selling used lego minifigures on Ebay, making frequent solo trips to the post office to mail out tiny packages. I have been mending wool socks and jeans, sewing up, with minimal skill, heel holes and knee blow outs and feeling unexpected happiness about reviving a pair of winter socks with a needle and thread.

Col and Rose are also babysitting weekly AKA receiving teachings from a 3 year old who told us sagely last week, “Sometimes I’m nervous to go to ballet class because I really just like to stay home and play and eat snacks.” We were all stunned quiet for a second and then were like: thank you for giving voice to the truth.

Dan is lasered in on the neighborhood bucks, in their season of dropping antlers. He’s tuned into their daily perambulations, and will send me texts from work: “Can you check on Longbeam? Last seen at the crabapple on Eastlawn.” “Still antlered,” I’ll text back.

Last week in the neighborhood Col and I saw a big buck with one antler, and called Dan at work to describe it to him. “Okay, so he has a notch in his right ear?” Dan asked. “And some patches on his upper side? That’s Obsession Buck. He had both antlers this morning.” You could hear the suspense music cued up in his brain.

Longbeam, Quirky-tine, Obsession buck and one of the ‘small-mediums’ during the week we got three feet of snow:

Longbeam holding steady, and his antler-less buck posse.

Three years in a row of Obsession Buck’s left side antlers. In background: slime studies.

It snowed a little in February.

I got a really lovely award: The Durango Women’s Resource Center Extraordinary Woman of 2019: champion of Peace and Nonviolence. Article here. Wow. Though the honor brought up enough stress in me that I had to book a therapy appointment, I am now feeling even more strengthened and bolstered to stand in my own power as I walk the path of nonviolence. Please check class listings for upcoming classes. And if you don’t see something that works for you, make a request! (Also, a reader from Honolulu has offered technical support for an online nonviolent communication class, so look for that offering in April).

Being highlighted and recognized by a room of 150 people is a few galaxies out of my comfort zone. 

My sister-friend-collaborator-cheerleader Kati Esperes-Stevens speaking about my work and saving me from speaking about my work:

One of the central practices of nonviolent communication is to speak honestly with the most care for the collective, while listening for what core needs (like belonging, safety, meaning, autonomy) are underlying others’ opinions, judgments and behavior. When we can see what’s truly at the essence of our and others’ behavior and words, we can soften to them and ourselves, opening up to infinite possibilities for collaborative resolution.

Sometimes it looks like this: (told with kid-permission, cause that’s where we’re at in 2019).

Rose is getting ready for soccer practice when Col comes home with a friend and the friend’s dad (who is picking something up from me) and Col immediately kicks Rose’s soccer ball out from under her. She protests. He ramps up, keeping it away from her with more force and effort. Col’s friend, watching, laughs. Rose is getting annoyed because she’s trying to get her soccer gear together and get out the door; I am feeling embarrassed because I want this dad to see me as a competent mom and my kids as good people. Suddenly the kids start tug-o-warring with the soccer ball like toddlers with a toy truck. Annoyance and embarrassment increase! Col’s friend continues to laugh, though I detect some discomfort in his voice. I get Rose to help me get stuff together for the friend’s dad and then everyone leaves except me and Col.

I approach Col in his room with some victim narratives and punishment fantasies running through my head. I can’t believe he did that to me! I’ll take away his screen time! (hint: punishment is a strategy we use to assuage our own anger; it doesn’t address the actual issue, so the issue will resurface).

Me: Hey Col, that was really hard for me. I felt really embarrassed because I want people to see the best in you, and to see me as a good parent. (Already, I feel some relief in naming this, owning my reaction). And Rose felt really annoyed. She just wanted to get out the door with ease. I’m wondering if you were trying to make your friend laugh by dominating Rose?

Col: Yeah, I guess so.

Me: Okay. And what do you get through his laughter?

Col: He thinks I can dominate Rose.

Me: Yeah. And what does that get you? (because dominating your sister isn’t a true need).

Col: He thinks I’m better than her.

Me: Okay, yeah. And if he thinks you’re better than your sister, then what do you get?

Col: He admires me.

Me: (I let his words be, though I internally translate as him wanting to be seen, appreciated and belong.) I totally get that. I want you to feel admired, too! You want your buddy to think you’re cool, and funny and that you have some power in this household. Is that right?

Col: Yeah.

Me: Do you see that your strategy has a high cost to me and Rose?

Col: Yeah, I don’t want it to have a cost to you. And I don’t want it to have a cost to Rose. (I feel tremendous relief and celebration hearing this, and have almost completely softened to Col).

Me: Can you think of some other ways you can get that admiration from your friend that doesn’t have a cost to us?

Col: I could show him some of my art, or tell him about my eBay sales.

Me: I love those ideas. Do they feel doable?

Col: Totally.

Because we are interdependent beings, when we trust that our needs matter we are more willing to meet the needs of others. And if we know we can contribute to others without sacrificing our own needs, we are more likely to choose this because, well, it feels damn good to contribute to the well being of others. We’re wired for that!

“Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach.” Clarissa Pinkola Estes

All the love,


12 Responses leave one →
  1. March 8, 2019

    Thank you for always sharing these parenting interactions here. You give voice to things I can see using in the future rather than going for the quick “make it stop.” It’s definitely a work in progress, but I parent better thanks to you.

    Now if only I could actually start in on those socks that need mending rather than letting them sit in a pile…

  2. Pam permalink
    March 8, 2019

    I’m crying. So lovely. Now to read the article!

  3. Michele permalink
    March 10, 2019

    Like Pam, I’m feeling extra touched by this post today! Thank you for sharing. Logan (11) lost screen time last week because he keeps putting his backpack on the mud room floor, causing a tripping hazard to the entrance to the laundry room. I will say, while serving his time, he still did the backpack thing twice BUT last night he put on the most magnificent magic show. So while the desired behavior didn’t change, the punishment of losing screen time did bring out some creativity. We will definitely have a conversation about that.

    Also, tell me more about your beautiful curls. I’ve not been very nice to mine and need to embrace them. Any specific method to the preservation of their integrity?

    Any more online writing classes coming up?

    • Rachel Turiel permalink
      March 10, 2019

      Dear dear Michele,
      It’s so exciting and reassuring to see what will blossom in kids creativity when they aren’t on a screen. I’ve been known to text my parents to say “Col and Rose are sitting around JUST TALKING TO EACH OTHER.” i.e. I get a little overly exuberant about it.

      It might be interesting to talk to Logan about what it felt like to reach through the void of no screen time to create this “magnificent magic show,” and to share what it was like for you. Maybe you’ll find that you both very much value creativity and imagination, which could lead to some new agreements on screen time.

      And if you haven’t already, maybe coming up with some strategies to remember to hang up the backpack, like a reminder note he writes to himself and puts on the front door, or tying a bright pink or otherwise noticeable ribbon on the peg that the backpack goes on, or, I don’t know, but I trust that there are infinite strategies to get needs met, in this case, order and safety.

      And as for my curls, they really only come out in humidity, and I’m always grateful for a little humidity around here.

      No online writing classes in the works as of now.

      Love to you, Michele!

  4. Pamela Marshall permalink
    March 10, 2019

    First of all: Own that award, Sister! You, and what you offer all of us, are amazing!
    The whole blog post was delightful and thought provoking, as usual. Learning from the three year old is a great bonus to the babysitting gig. I hope Col is making good money with the legos. I hear they are quite valuable.
    Over the years, I have become less reactive, and a better mom-daughter communicator, but wish I’d have developed better skills, much earlier! I am not proud of many of our exchanges, when she was little, and now she’s a senior in high school. Woulda-coulda-shoulda taken a N.V.C. parenting class with you, back then.
    Much love,
    Pam Marshall

    • Rachel Turiel permalink
      March 11, 2019

      Dear Pammy, I have the sense that parenting interactions/skills/empathy/support will continue to be a big part of your life for many decades to come. :)

      And, thank you for the acknowledgment and appreciation!!!

  5. Pamela Marshall permalink
    March 10, 2019

    P.S. I know this town has no shortage of Extraordinary women to honor, but you are extremely deserving of that award.

  6. Solyssa permalink
    March 11, 2019

    I love reading your real parenting examples of nonviolent communication. It is so easy to be reactionary and use punishment or some other threat. So often, I find my son actually has some underlying reason for his behavior if I can be patient and dig in to what is behind the behavior. I also find solace in the reminder that even for someone like you, who writes and teaches about these topics, the challenges of daily parenting are not magically ‘fixed’ so that everyone lives in perfect harmony. It is a daily practice that we have to meet every single day. Congratulations on the award – so deserved!

    And….I never get tired of hearing about Dan’s obsession with antlers and how he knows each unique animal and keeps track of them over the years. His skill with animals, hunting and processing is so amazing. 3 left antlers from the same buck – wow!

    • March 12, 2019

      Thank you for this comment! It’s a relief to realize that having some tools of conflict resolution doesn’t mean conflict won’t happen! It does make conflict a *bit* less scary though.

      And yes, Dan and his deer! I asked him “how did you identify that these 3 antlers were all Obsession’s?” And he kind of looked at me like “how do *you* identify that you’re folding Col’s clothes and not Rose’s?” Like, duh.

  7. March 11, 2019

    First, congratulations for this great award. What an honor, indeed! And can I thank you for sharing these real-life moments with us? It is so useful. Even after yeas of non-violent classes, nothing sticks as well as real-life situations examples for me. So thank you. And thank you for making me smile and laugh. I love reading you.

  8. Melly permalink
    March 21, 2019

    NPR article about the use of non violent communication and empathy and storytelling in parenting in inuit culture. Mentions so many of the same things you do!

  9. April 16, 2019

    Thank-you for this. I always feel refreshed after reading about your life and the nature around you, and I always learn something new about communication and parenting and kids. I appreciate your writing, and your award is well-deserved!

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