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the tactical role of raising teens

2019 November 20
by Rachel Turiel


The leaves are going up in fiery, breathtaking flames. We amble around stupored and awed, recycling appreciative phrases from every past autumn, which feels reassuring and maybe like humanity at its best. 

I’m at the thrift store with Rose, because here it’s easier to say yes to all the things she “needs” like black leggings and nice sweatpants. 

We meet up and her cart is full of non-sweatpants and it’s like a game show, getting past her fast talking challenges while tracking my own thoughts. 

“This doormat is so cute and would last a reallyreallyllongtime!”

“We have two doormats already.”

“I know but it’s so cute and wouldbereallyfun!”

“I’m not going to buy that.”

“Okay, these pants are a little big but half off and…”


“This sweatshirt?” (that she’s already wearing)

“Don’t you have one just like that?”

“Yes, but not this color.”


“So, these shoes,” which she is also already wearing, “would be my exhibition shoes (school presentation) and theyfitperfectly!”

“Whoa. Those have a really high heel. No. I’m not comfortable with that.”


“Well. My take on high heels is that they were developed to accentuate women’s sexual appeal and I’m not comfortable with you putting that message out there at 12.”

Meanwhile I text Col at home, remembering that he’s been biking to school in sub-freezing temps with no jacket because he’s outgrown his and hasn’t taken any steps to replace it.

“Can I get you a jacket at the thrift store?”


(There is one really warm jacket in his size. I buy it. He loves it. End of Col shopping).

Dust bunny and the Witch:


Next, all those flaming leaves float to the earth, coating the ground and when I let the dog out to pee at night, I track him by the crunch crunch crunch.

I’m in the kitchen, recalibrating my role as parent. Turns out parenting a 12 and 14 year old requires more of a special ops tactical role. Like, I’m here making dinner if you want to tell me anything, like anything about the boy you’ve been texting, not that I need to know or have any opinions, I’ll just be here chopping onions. And then it’s my job to tamp down all the questions that are actually igniting a bonfire of curiosity and just casually chop the onions.

She says, I wish there was something between having a crush and actually dating.

I say, do you mean like just being friends?

She says, Mom, you don’t understand. 

Just keep chopping onions.

It’s a weekday morning, that time where paradoxically we all want to move slow, savoring drinking coffee, snuggling the dog, and yet we are on speed mode, dashing around, all of us inefficiently clogging the kitchen, except the boy who waits for food and winter jackets to be delivered.

Me to Col: Would you be open to either putting away dishes or doing dishes this morning?

Col: Sure. Whatever would help you more.

PAUSE to re-hinge my jaw.

Me: Oh, honey! I come towards him with outstretched arms.


Me: (Tactical response): Ok, cool. Thanks for helping.

Most days, if he’s not working a carpentry job, I find Dan in the solarium, engaged in some ancient art. “So, about that thing I was telling you about over breakfast…” I start, following him outside as he moves a bucket containing an elk hide soaking in a slurry of brains. “I’m wondering if you have time to give me some empathy about that interaction last week…” Now he’s applying sinew to a bow with warm hide glue. “cuz, I’m still so confused..,” Now he’s softening a deer hide by hand. Now he’s grinding up pinyon sap with mortar and pestle.

Applying pinyon sap and turpentine with heat gun to a bow to…um…strengthen it?

Sinew-backing a bow (after pulling tendons out of deer legs, drying and pounding them, then pulling them apart into thin threads) to increase bendiness.

We’re playing bocce ball in the back yard when Rose notices the roadkill deer hanging from the back shed. She is horrified, despite the fact that she is made of roadkill deer.  Perhaps she’s imagining a brigade of middle school girls showing up and seeing the weirdness that is her dad, who hands out his card to people who regularly commute on county roads. If ya happen to see a deer down…

That same night Rose devours grilled deer tenderloin, and the next night ribs, announcing “these are the best deer ribs I’ve ever had.”

I’ve been facilitating empathy sessions amongst the clients at our local soup kitchen. We meet for an hour weekly to “share struggles and celebrations and be held in care and support, while practicing tools of listening without judgments or solutions.” I know, when you don’t have shelter, empathy seems like placing a ragged bandaid on a gaping wound. And yet, people are making a point to come weekly, leaving happy to have been heard, to have their humanity seen. Seeds are planted.

If things look different it’s cuz we moved back downstairs, after 16 years upstairs, so the kids could have their own rooms and Dan and I could have enough space for TWO cutting boards on kitchen counters simultaneously.

There’s big snow in the forecast, the kind that puts the whole town on pins and needles of expectation. The root cellar is stacked with potatoes, carrots, apples and winter squash. Dan and I butchered the deer while the kids were at school, with precision, celebration and multiple coffee refills.

Last night I found Col eating candy corn from a half pound bag in bed. The tactical move was to swallow down every judgment, crawl into bed with him and ask for a piece.

Rose has been wanting to decorate our new house, thank goodness, because the rest of us are hopelessly utilitarian. She’s put up rotating seasonal decor in her room. Puffy, foam autumn leaves are on their way out; snowflakes coming in. She wakes me up talking about living room rugs. Or, “that bathroom linoleum is so old, you just can’t get it clean. How bout a new bathroomflooroverThanksgivingbreak?!!”

Dan has been out on his November “buck drives,” (November is the rut, meaning a lot of exciting animal dramatics). Yesterday he saw both “eastside obsession” and “westside obsession.” Living with him is so fun.

It’s all so good, really. Not in an I love every second sort of way, but in an I’m in for it all, the whole wild, magical and bittersweet journey.

Rose borrows a pair of shoes for her school exhibition. Turns out they have a substantial heel on them, as do every other girl’s shoes in her presenting group. I am reminded that she’s her own person, finding her way, and doing a beautiful job. And I make the tactical move of breathing in the full, gorgeous mystery of life. 

10 Responses leave one →
  1. Nancyt permalink
    November 20, 2019

    My heart grows bigger and I feel a bit wiser every time I read one of your posts. I wish I was your neighbor!

    • Rachel Turiel permalink
      November 21, 2019

      Aw, thanks for this feedback. :)

  2. Pam in Minnesota permalink
    November 20, 2019

    All of these Laugh-out-louds and the sweet conclusion are balms to my heart today – I just love this post! It may be my all-time favorite…

    “Well. My take on high heels is that they were developed to accentuate women’s sexual appeal and I’m not comfortable with you putting that message out there at 12.”
    (There is one really warm jacket in his size. I buy it. He loves it. End of Col shopping).
    PAUSE to re-hinge my jaw.

    I’m in for it all, the whole wild, magical and bittersweet journey. – thank you for this reminder. xoxox

    • Rachel Turiel permalink
      November 21, 2019

      I love you Pam and love being known by you.

  3. Caraway Timmins permalink
    November 20, 2019

    Thanks for this wonderful update, Rachel! That family photo could not be better. And, congratulations on moving downstairs! We miss you guys. Love from Oregon, caraway

    • Rachel Turiel permalink
      November 21, 2019

      Miss you too, Caraway!!

  4. Valeta permalink
    November 21, 2019

    The family portrait says so much, Rachel.
    While I’ve been way on the periphery: Col’s valiant and precious journey from birth, by devoted resiliency…then the courage to widen into Rose tumbling into a completed foursome.
    Well, yes the well-metaphor, illustrates the depths of my humbled respect and merciful admiration waving through you and Dan. (Please hug him for me)
    Thank you for giving your reader more than ‘we’ may ever give you. 12 years living in Oregon and I still miss neighbor-ing. Love, Valeta

    • Rachel Turiel permalink
      November 22, 2019

      12 years (!) and you’re still very much in my heart. xo

  5. gretchen permalink
    November 22, 2019

    i’m in for it too, rachel.
    i love how you blaze the path, making embracing it all seem like exactly the only thing to do. thank you!
    save me a piece, please.

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