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no one is ever alone anymore

2020 May 14
by Rachel Turiel

Outside, the flip just switched from spring to summer. Fruit trees got all dressed up, partied hard, and now are disrobing in thousands of pastel teardrops. A male house sparrow wakes up the neighborhood at 6:32am, a lusty, one-note symphony on repeat. Tiny wild mustards sing their yellowness on the shale hillsides.

Pre-drop:

Post-drop:

This is our new puppy, Arlo. He’s da best baby buddy boy.

Inside, there are so many people. People who are stressing about isosceles triangles at 7am. Other people who remember at 8:30pm that they didn’t actually start their past-due humanities assignment. Some people have set up work stations in the living room, hissing at family members who are “making disgusting noises” while online math meetings are in progress. And all these people are constantly eating.

And I am in my office bedroom offering support and coaching to a parent hundreds of miles away, trying to be somewhat professional. Outside my door, someone is spelunking in the cereal box and asking very loudly, “scalene triangles have no equal sides, right? RIGHT?”

Which is to say, everyone’s world has shrunk to this small space, and no one is ever alone anymore.

“They never leave anymore,” I cry to Dan after three mother-child conflicts before 8:30am. “Make them leave!”

For a week, I sit in a bathtub of grief, fear and anger. And I know that if I don’t care for these emotions they will metastasize into aggression towards myself, my family, the world. How do I know this? Every time I open my mouth, something ugly and judgmental flies out. My kids duck. I cry.

Snapchat notifications ping into our shared space like children, issuing urgent pleas for Rose’s attention; it seems Col could play video games until he loses circulation. I’ve lost touch with what I’m supposed to be doing. Protecting kids from the ways social media erodes their self-love? Accepting that social media is how kids communicate these days? Finding the middle ground? From where I stand the middle ground looks like a crevasse.

I meet with two friends who once worked for a local wilderness therapy program for adolescents. They tell me that the biggest common denominator in families whose kids need treatment is the parents inability to set and hold limits. 

I think of how so much on the internet offers a drop-kick of dopamine to our brains, or a shiny distraction to sitting with ourselves in fear, grief, boredom, awkwardness. Or even, the illusion of connection and belonging, needs so integral to humanity it’s no wonder we mistake “likes” on a post for being liked. I think of how setting limits for ourselves, for our children, is an act of love, of protection, of valuing their time, creativity, emotions, connection with themselves.

At a certain point, I meet what is with as much love as I can. And, this is what is: My children are teenagers exploring society and their role within it, while being raised by two people who thrive outside of many societal norms.

We start to talk. 

I have cared enough for my grief, fear, and anger that I no longer come across as a predatory animal, striking with fear-driven agendas and demands. Now, I can come with curiosity and care. Rose tells me that even though she “snaps” with some girls several times a day, it doesn’t seem like they’re actually becoming better friends.

Col shares that video games distract him from boredom; and with friends less accessible, he’s not always sure what to do with his time.

We keep talking.

Rose tells me that when she sees people commenting “you’re gorgeous” on a friend’s Instagram selfie, but not hers, she wonders if she’s pretty.

We set some limits together, and I can actually feel the kids relax. I feel all of us relax. The next day Rose deletes Snapchat; she whittles down who she follows on Instagram.

We all commit to shutting down devices for the evening as often as possible, which feels like freedom, not restriction.

Today is day 60 of quarantine and bizarre things are happening. Col invites Rose to take a walk around the neighborhood kicking the soccer ball. They bicker and insult each other all the way to the door, but walk out together.

Col is illustrating the headline Chimp seen Sucking Brains from Monkey. He plays Black Sabbath, both of us singing along to War Pigs. All this, at 11:30am. Later, I tell Dan, “it’s OK that I don’t like all of Col’s art, right? I mean, I like that he’s doing art.

I like that he’s *doing* art…

In the garden, it’s the season of leaves. Spinach, chard, kale, bok choi, lamb’s quarters. Everything else is under cold frames, dreaming of their future. 

Lamb’s quarters – like spinach, but free!

Chard plus smoothie

After spending all week together, we often go hiking on the weekends, together!

We celebrated Rose’s 13th birthday last weekend. Rose wrote a menu for the day and Dan performed a parody (on the tennis racket guitar) to the Flaming Lips song “She Don’t Use Jelly”

Well, I know a mom, her name is Rachie

When she gave birth, she was happy as can be

Cuz she didn’t want a puppy

She didn’t want fleas

She didn’t want another boy

Or any of these

She wanted Ro-oh-oh-sie

She got Ro-oh-oh-sie

By the end of the night, full of spaghetti and cheesecake, we all gather in the solarium. Rebecca, who lives upstairs, and sits exactly between me and Rose in age, bridges our worlds. She serenades Rose on guitar, playing Taylor Swift, seasoned with earthy funk. Rose throws her smooth and strong 13 year old legs over my unshaven and strong middle aged legs. And I feel the power and love we are, intertwined, mutually influencing each other. 

I think this is called homeschool P.E.

Love,

Rachel

p.s. If you are a parent wanting support in communication with your family, let me know. I’d love to support you in caring for all the emotions that get triggered in these weird times so you can respond with love, creativity and wisdom to your children.



9 Responses leave one →
  1. Mollie permalink
    May 14, 2020

    Love this line: (seems to sum it all up) I have cared enough for my grief, fear, and anger that I no longer come across as a predatory animal, striking with fear-driven agendas and demands. Now, I can come with curiosity and care.

  2. Autumn Lerner permalink
    May 14, 2020
  3. Autumn Lerner permalink
    May 14, 2020

    <3

  4. Julia permalink
    May 14, 2020

    So lovely, Rachel. Thank you!

  5. Janie Dalton permalink
    May 14, 2020

    Rachie,

    I love you. You are doing such a great job, and you are such an inspiration. I feel like I am ditching out more during the shelter in place, just so I don’t bite off my kids heads. It is rough.

  6. May 15, 2020

    Really liked the bathtub of grief and anger paragraph. Yep.

  7. May 15, 2020

    Awww! It’s comforting to know that even the NVC masters have their moments of struggle. These days, I find that I need a lot of time every day to attend to my own emotions so I can be available to my girls. It’s quite the roller-coaster, even for us seasoned homeschoolers used to live in a bus altogether… Grief has many faces for each and everyone of us. And yes, being teenagers with parents that live outside of societal norms is challenging. Even more in a time like now. Talking about our feelings and our needs, how to meet them, crying, laughing, being in nature together every day. We can do this.

  8. Solyssa permalink
    May 24, 2020

    Hi Rachel, I saved this post until I had time to properly read it in a morning moment of quiet, so this response is a bit belated.
    It’s always oddly encouraging to hear the struggles of a NVC parenting professional so thank you for sharing your moments of short circuiting!
    ‘My children are teenagers exploring society and their role within it, while being raised by two people who thrive outside of many societal norms.’ I think this same thing so often (while I am out in the garden and my son is inside playing Minecraft). Sometimes it feels hard to find shared interests but then I think that is probably the story of every generation, ever. We think that in our wisdom we have found a good way to live, but just like we did, they have to find their own path; trying everything society has to offer, then choosing to embrace it or let it go.
    Your kids are so grown up looking, which makes me realize how long I have been receiving your blog. Thank you!

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