Independence (Not Just One Day)

Even if patriotism isn’t much on my mind these days (a day to celebrate world peace, yes) independence is, as in how to nurture and encourage and support independence, especially when living with two (insert gasp here, I sure am) teenagers.

I really don’t know how to do this. If you are looking for answers, you probably need read no further.

In a way, though, raising a three-year-old simultaneously is instructive. She who has a wee bit of the hitting-biting-pinching-affliction that sometimes befalls the toddler-to-preschool set has been working really, really hard to find other avenues to express her frustration (and she’s doing an amazing job, too). Helping her to find words for those disappointments is important. So is helping her to see that her lashing out affects others.

Both these tools are actually critical for the teenager set.

The only moment the just-turned teen seemed to listen to me yesterday occurred when I said something about my feelings being hurt (in regards to a backpack that had seemed nailed to the floor in the kitchen after being nailed to the car floor—neither floor the one in his room where a heap of stuff could feel at home, amongst the other heaps of stuff).

To his credit, he found another place to go (our friends-really-more-family household conveniently located on our street).

To his credit, too, in a softer moment, he did hear my saying there’s no cure for being a teenager, that it’s an occupational hazard of the age. I think I was trying to acknowledge—for him and for myself—that we kind of have to expect some bleak, crankiness of a nearly existential order.

And the backpack still has to come upstairs, at the very least. Just like the tot’s hands cannot fly across another person’s face.

Put another way, we may have a long summer o’teen on our hands.


Last night, our beloved babysitter put Saskia to bed (well before dark!) while we went out to supper (Japanese, if you wondered). A date with my dear spouse didn’t even make it on my summer wish list (people are enjoying this post, and thanks to all who have told me so) maybe because 1) I forgot or 2) that seemed too much to ask for. Call it number 74. And check (we had a lovely time).

Before our very first date some nearly 21 years ago, my friend Elizabeth’s father heard (from Elizabeth, looking for weekly phone conversation fodder) I was having dinner with Leonard Baskin’s son. Her dad said, “I hope he’s a charming dinner companion.” From then on, this became—to me, to Elizabeth, to anyone I might share the story with—a good wish for a first date, the charming dinner companion. Lucky me that he remains a charming dinner companion (and spouse and co-parent and pal) this many years on.

About the list: for me, the way more than I’ll ever do nature of my way-too-long wish list isn’t so much daunting as a way to offer myself a bunch of reminders about how much I could want to do or see or experience. Truthfully, the fact that we did some good cleaning up around the house yesterday and I slept eight hours is enough. If that was all I did all summer—clean the house and sleep more—I would probably be thrilled. However, I got to walk at night and go to the Carle Museum studio, too, yesterday, so, bonus hoorays all around.

Sarah Werthan Buttenwieser

Author: Sarah Werthan Buttenwieser

Sarah Werthan Buttenwieser's work has appeared on the New York Times, Salon, and the Manifest Station amongst other places. Find her on Twitter @standshadows

Share This Post On

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Sign up for our daily newsletter!

You don't want to be left out, do you?

Sign up!

You have Successfully Subscribed!