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Conversing With Our Teenager.

On the Farm . . . what's happening this week -12/17/15.

Lately field work consists of checking the plastic on our low tunnels and greenhouse to make sure the wind doesn’t tear or blow it off. We’ve found from experience that it is much easier to preventively tighten it all up than to repair a 10ft x 100ft piece of plastic flapping in a 20 mph wind.

Animal chores are a year round task for us. However, since we don’t raise meat animals in the winter, it doesn’t take long to feed and water the goats, laying hens and rabbits. The hens have cut back on production of eggs - typical of the time of year, or they have found a really good hiding spot. Even Aidan and Marlee, our expert nest finders, are stumped.

Other than harvesting and packing boxes twice a month, most of our farm work is being done in the house. We review the summer season by looking over member evaluations and revisiting our field notes. We discuss and contemplate both immediate and long-term direction of the farm. We also attend farming workshops and read about soil health and best growing practices.

This is also the time when we can turn more of our focus toward our children. We have more time to help them with their projects or to problem solve ways for them to gain experiences they wish for. Together we play games, read books, solve math problems, talk and even watch movies. It feels good to be mindful of our time with them. Well . . . most of the time. I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t admit that sometimes it can be challenging.

I enjoy conversations with our teenager on all kinds of topics from planets made out of diamonds (I didn’t believe it either, but it’s true – google it), to religious violence, immigration, climate change, and comedy routines. But sometimes I struggle under the weight of striking the balance between just listening and feeling responsibility to temper his strong opinions with other viewpoints. I want him to realize not much in life is black and white; gray, while more complicated, often makes a person more empathetic, wise, and caring. Influencing his opinions was easier when he was younger. He more readily accepted my slant on topics. Now on the verge of adulthood, he’s ready to verbally challenge me. I’m proud of his intelligence but not used to my sometimes untested beliefs being called out by him. It can make me uncomfortable and frustrated. I start to wish he would just put his headphones back on and wander off, listening to audiobook, when just moments before I was enjoying our conversation.

It certainly makes sense: he is becoming his own person with his own opinions (I suppose he’s been doing that his whole life). He is no longer content accepting our beliefs without researching and trying on other ones. It’s hard for me not to feel judged by that process and sometimes coming up short. The gig is definitely up, he’s on to me. Even though I’ve always told him his dad and I are human and make mistakes, I can see in his eyes he truly believes it now. That knowledge is both a relief and disappointing. I don’t want to let him and our other children down. Parenting is the most important thing I do; I want to give them my best.

As I write this, I think maybe I have to trust that’s what has been happening all along. In my imperfect way, maybe I have given the best I could at the time. And maybe children are forgiving enough of their parents missteps as long as we are honest and present with them. Maybe my discomfort in our conversations proves he has become the articulate, self-confident individual, willing to question commonly-held beliefs in an effort to hone his own, that he is supposed to be. After all life will present him with opportunities to see different sides of issues. Maybe I needn’t worry. Maybe I can just listen to his thoughts, recognize their importance to him and discuss them with him without worrying about him. The next time I start to get my ire up, I’ll take a deep breath and relax because it’s all good. Wish me luck!

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