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and I will

2020 August 12
by Rachel Turiel

Col and Rose scoping out a herd of mountain goats across the gulch.

August is coming in hard and fast, each evening reclaiming a sliver more of daylight, and everybody is feeling it: Rose, who has two potential ‘back to school’ outfits in the works, the intergenerational house sparrow flock thundering their invasive selves around the yard, the garden tomatoes aiming for ripeness.

The clouds just paused after a generous monsoon season, the meteorological IV to every living thing in this high, arid place. For a couple weeks I became bystander to the magic, the rain coaxing every garden plant to be its best self; there was nothing I could have improved upon despite my big primate brain and ersatz tools. Please, more of this.

It has been a weird and wonderful summer, as usual, but more so. I can see myself on the spectrum of parenting—having begun at you are responsible for keeping this child alive every second and moving at a rapid clip towards some other point on the trajectory, like, outta the way, this is not your life.

Col actually sat me and Dan down recently and said, “I want you to trust me to make my own decisions, even if you don’t agree with them.”

Long pause. Inhale. Exhale. Whomp.

Part of me was like, You go, beautiful teenager! Love the clarity and self-advocacy of your expression! Yes, tell me what you want!

Another part was like, Well, does this include when you leave for the whole day to jump off cliffs into the Animas river with no food, towel or water bottle…?

Col’s request has actually created a threshold question for me, which I ask myself 50 times a day: “do I need to interfere here?” (Interfere, meaning: suggest, remind, correct, advise). I was surprised to realize that approximately 48 times a day, the answer is no. (And, the last 2 are debatable).

Sometimes I make deals with myself. Ok, Col’s camp starts in 30 minutes (he’s running a very small neighborhood summer camp) and he’s still not home. I will do my childbirth breathing while waiting 15 more minutes before I text a reminder. In he saunters 14 minutes later like the king of timeliness.

Some of Col’s recent art (you are invited to follow him at artbycolhinds on Instagram):

Tupac Shakur

Eazy E

The King

For the last month Dan and I have been stationed in the kitchen, pitting cherries, freezing serviceberries, cooking apricots down to a splattering orange gruel. Meanwhile, the kids come and go, earbuds in, social micro-dramas swirling in their heads. Sometimes, someone will sit down, chow some fruit and tell us about their lives. We take any morsels given. You can talk to us about West Coast vs East Coast rap and we will give you our full attention. You can tell us about how confusing texting with friends can be and we will turn towards you, cherry-stained and empathetic, wanting to understand your world.

Cherries + earbuds

We will do our best to empty the pockets of our parental fears and frustrations with each other, so what’s left, dear teenagers, is the spaciousness to see you and give you the acceptance and understanding you crave. We will fail; and we will try again.

There is a hummingbird sipping from the Rocky Mountain bee plant, the gorgeous native that planted itself amongst the tomatillos, which I couldn’t pull, even if they took a little something from some future tomatillo salsa. 

Everyone is stretching into new territory, though I think Dan and I have grown the most this summer. Somewhere between wanting to live off roadkill/apricot kabobs and trying to see the world teens live in, we said yes to smartphones (for the kids, we still have our flip-dinosaurs). We’ve applied firm limits (thank you Screentime app) and oodles of trust. And it’s surprisingly fine. Yes, you can tell if Col’s home by the presence or absence of rap music coming from his room, and there are Instagram-stimulated emotions that arise for Rose, but I’d rather be available to support those emotions than bubblewrap the kids or force them to live in my world. They know my world, they’re always welcome there. I want them to visit willingly.

Dan tells me, after pitting thousands of plump cherries, “I think this is the most human thing you can do.” Next day, I wake up with a long legged teengirl nestled into me, asking, “Will you pay for the headphones on Amazon?” (“We’re done with $%#@ Amazon,” I tell her, wishing it were true). Both kids are studying teen culture like they’ll be tested on it. Then, at night they skateboard down to our neighborhood park where kids and dogs meet up and play games, games that require their full presence, their bodies, their unstoppable energy (cell phones set aside in the wood chips), the same games I’m certain kids have been playing forever.

Selfie gen.

Every day a handful of tomatoes ripen. I push myself to savor them exactly right now, even though I want a pantry full of tomato sauce in December. This savoring is sort of how I feel about the children. Although they no longer orbit the planet of my doting motherhood, I don’t want to get lost in savoring what is no longer true. Today Col invited me into his room and played me snippets of NWA and Wu Tang Clan, offering his commentary. “They’re really good storytellers,” he says about the lyrics which make me wince. Rose spent this morning texting a million people like she was president of her own small country, periodically including me in her emoji-filled missives, from 20 feet away in our house. I loved every minute. This is what’s here to savor now. And I will.

P.S. Chi-An, you won the book giveaway. Please send your mailing address!

P.P.S. Loved these 3 fiction books: Sea Wife, Homegoing, Separation Anxiety 

17 Responses leave one →
  1. Sharon Ray permalink
    August 12, 2020

    The perfect parents with the best ever teenagers– so refreshing. I have a theory that all teen rebellion stems from the fact that (as is celebrated in Native cultures) children become young adults at age 12, yet are treated like children for another six years. What they need is to be given adult responsibilities and work, et voila! Much better. I’m so impressed that Col is doing this naturally, heading up his own summer camp! Go Mom! Go Dad! It’s great to see them out loving the wildlife all around. You have done an amazing job. Can I be your kid next lifetime?

    • Rachel Turiel permalink
      August 12, 2020

      Dear Sharon, I so agree with you about teen rebellion. Teens are physically, emotionally and developmentally growing into adulthood, and yet our culture doesn’t respect their needs for autonomy and purpose so we continue to impose all sorts of constructs and control upon them. No wonder they rebel!

  2. gretchen permalink
    August 12, 2020

    thank you! love you!

  3. Valeta permalink
    August 12, 2020

    Big love and gratitude, Rachel.

  4. Pam permalink
    August 12, 2020

    I love reading you. Thank you so much. And the photos! Especially that double rainbow over the mountains. <3

  5. Ellen permalink
    August 12, 2020

    Such wise parenting! And what great braids. I also loved Homegoing and Separation Anxiety. Haven’t read the third one —yet. Also liked Afterlife by Julia Alvarez and Anne Tyler’s latest.

    • Rachel Turiel permalink
      August 13, 2020

      Thank you for the book recs! So helpful now that I can’t browse my library shelves anymore :(

  6. Pamela J Marshall permalink
    August 12, 2020

    I agree with Sharon Ray…can I be your kid, next time?
    You guys are doing an amazing job at parenting and gardening (and savoring).And
    I always love your writing and photos.
    I only wish the monsoons were as generous with us, out on “the dry side”. The
    little bit we got was wonderful. But it was not nearly what I – or the garden or trees –
    was hoping for.
    Love, hugs, and hoping to run into you before too long…

  7. August 12, 2020

    Well, this was a treat for my inbox today. Thanks again.

  8. Michelle Shutty permalink
    August 12, 2020

    Your writing is amazing and inspiring, as always. I aspire to parent like you and Dan. And I always love your book recommendations. Thank you!

    • Rachel Turiel permalink
      August 13, 2020

      Realizing that in full transparency I want to say that it has taken a lot of mourning and receiving empathy to come to a place of trusting my teens to navigate our culture. I have a lot of fear and despair about the messages our society perpetuates. I’m still vigilant (and in frequent dismay and sadness) *and* choosing to prioritize staying in close communication rather than banning the whole damn popular culture from them…which was my preferred strategy, though you can guess how skillful that was. :)

  9. Brenda permalink
    August 16, 2020

    Oh, I love this, probably because it resonated with me. I am a grandma, with ten grandchildren, 13 years-7 months, and I just am so happy that you are raising teens that are allowed to make most of their decisions. When we were raising our kids (in the 80’s and 90’s),( yes I am that old), we pretty much told them they could make their own decisions from age 13 on. It was terrifying, but mostly for them. :) We figured we could save them from stupid choices and decisions while they were still living under our roof….if they learned the ramifications of THEIR decisions and choices maybe they would be more careful and deliberate in what choices they made. I’m not sure I’m making much sense, but suffice to say, we had the same philosophy you do….it all starts actually when they’re about two years old, and you let them choose between “this” or “that”. :) Our kids never rebelled (we had three), and they all said it was scary for them to make their own decisions (we did have the ultimate say if we thought they were going to hurt or kill themselves!), and it forced them to take responsibility. They have grown up into great adults that are raising wonderful kids in this crazy world. Thanks Rachel and Dan for doing such a great job with your kids! I love to peek in at your life and family once in awhile. Keep up the good work!

    • Rachel Turiel permalink
      August 23, 2020

      Thank you for sharing some of your story, Brenda! And glad to hear that your parenting experiment worked out so well! ;)

  10. Gaynor Evans permalink
    August 19, 2020

    I bookmarked this article to read later, which turned out to be this morning 12 hours after a huge discussion with my teenage son. Perfect timing and such a great help. Thank you.

  11. M moon permalink
    August 19, 2020

    I am about to be parenting a teen and I am terrified about being able to keep a connection with her.
    Thank you for an example to try to emulate.
    Gotta keep myself open.

  12. Erin permalink
    September 13, 2020

    Thanks for the book recs. Please keep them coming. I am finding you a reliable source for books I will like!

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