It was 11 years ago – a baby affixed to my postpartum body and a toddler ricocheting off my person in search of random dogs’ mouths to investigate – that I dreamed up the idea to write this parenting column.
In truth, I was a bit overwhelmed with the frantic urgency of motherhood, while paradoxically bored with a daily schedule that included cutting food into teeny tiny pieces while small people agitated for another reading of “Go, Dog. Go!” And woven throughout everything was the tender poignancy of raising two new humans.
There was something about writing this column that provided enough distance from my life to see and appreciate its inherent chaotic beauty, while also recognizing that every stage of childhood was temporary, both of which boosted me as I sliced another grape into its lowest chokable denominator. And, as time did its surreal dance of stretching and compressing, writing this column seemed to pin moments in place – like an iridescent butterfly behind glass – so I could examine and marvel over the way the sun glinted off the wings of our intertwined lives.
As the kids grew, I felt less overwhelmed physically and more stumped emotionally. At one point, it seemed that the well-being of everyone’s future rested on my ability to get the kids down for daily naps. Later, that same well-being seemed to rest on my ability to respond to Col and Rose’s disappointments, anger and jealousy in a way that built compassion, wisdom and resilience. The convenient solutions (punishment, reward, distraction) to behavioral challenges passed down in the annals of parenting were temporary and desperate balms, none of which recognized the power of connection and collaboration, and the inherent desire of all humans to contribute to one another.
I began to study what was possible, doable and effective. I am deeply influenced by the practice of nonviolent communication, which was inspired by Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. and facets of world religion. You may have noticed my columns became less about being saved by coffee, more about being saved by empathy. (Though honestly, a certain portion of my empathy may be fueled by coffee.) If you treat a child with dignity and respect – requesting rather than demanding when possible, setting aside your agenda to hear what is important to them – you’re modeling a world in which they know they truly matter. This is still my most compelling work.
This is my last column, No. 194. Thankfully, nothing ever really happened outside of ordinary life, which can be infinitely extraordinary when you pause to see it more clearly. Raising children is wondrous, and at times, scary. For many years, Col and Rose’s work was trying to figure out who they were in our family; now, they are trying to figure out who they are in the world. Stakes are higher, and societal messages are not always friendly to their developing identities.
Thank you for reading these stories, some of you for more than 10 years. Thank you for emailing me with appreciation, for approaching me in the produce aisle to share how something resonated for you. If you would like to continue following along or learn about my communication classes, please subscribe to my blog, 6512 and growing, or send me an email.
No matter how many grandmas at the bank warned me that “it goes so fast,” hearing that is like reading stories of a foreign land; you may believe in teenagers, but they seem more like fanciful characters of science fiction while your kids are still scampering around sticking their flower-bud hands into the jowls of dogs. Well, now I know about teenagers. You can only really be where you’re at. Thank you for traveling with me.
Rachel Turiel teaches nonviolent communication to groups and individuals. Contact her at [email protected] or check out her blog 6512andgrowing.