This morning, driving with my kids, I couldn’t help but notice Arayla (14) seemed a little forlorn and distant sitting beside me. Slightly concerned, I asked her, “Everything okay Babe?”
Her eyes conveyed tension, and she shrugged sadly, responding, “Yeah, I guess. I don’t know…”
I placed my right hand gently on her leg, asking, “Hmmm…I can tell something’s bothering you. Did something happen you want to share?”
She sighed deeply with an air of annoyance, and responded sharply, “No, I don’t think so.” She turned away from me then, looking out her window, staring off into space. I took my hand off her lap, honoring her expressed boundary, and we were all quiet as we continued driving along.
I felt into Arayla’s energy with curiosity and wonder, silently empathizing with what must feel in moments like a super confusing time of multi-layered metamorphosis.
Then suddenly Ezra (10), from the back, mimicking my serious line of questioning, yet with a tone of wry humor, asked his big sister, “Arayla, are you a teenager?”
LOL. His silly question made us all giggle. I noticed the light-hearted medicine of his inquiry.
Then Arayla turned around towards him, nodding with genuine relief. She said, “Yeah, I’m a teenager. That’s totally IT…”
Leave it to Ezra to name it so succinctly.
Then Arayla took a deep breath, as she vulnerably confessed to both of us, “I actually think I have a serious case of teen-itis.”
I squinched up my face towards her in sympathy, “Oh gosh, really? Teen-itis? Ugh… that’s the worst!”
She said, “I know. Sorry my energy is so off, guys! I seriously didn’t know anyone could feel so awkward inside their own skin, soul and personality—all at the exact same time! It’s amazing, actually.” She shook her head in miserable disbelief.
My heart swelled with tender love for her, feeling nothing but awe for her wondrous self-awareness.
I said, “Oh I feel you, sweet girl. And it’s OK. You are rocking this. We love you just the way you are.” She softened, smiling a little, taking this in. I glanced back at Ezra in the rear-view mirror, looking to him for a little big-sister-loving back-up, prompting, “Right, Ezra?”
Silence from Ezra.
And a moment later he said dead-pan, “I’m still thinking…”
This made Arayla totally crack up! The thought that her little brother had to think about whether she was loveable just as she was—teen-itis and all—totally broke the spell. She laughed hard and I laughed along with her.
Ezra chuckled gloriously too, clearly pleased with himself. Ten points for humorous sibling rapport.
Our car-ride had transformed from being laden with weighty teen angst to one of playful family intimacy.
We arrived at Ezra’s friend’s house, and Ezra quickly opened his car door, eager to get to his playdate, running off as he tossed back cheerily towards us, “See ya!”
Arayla beamed at him: “Have fun!”
With immense fondness, I yelled after him, “I love you! See you later…”
Arayla and I drove onward. And inside myself I made a careful, grateful note of the tiny, mundane, easily-overlookable ways we get to show up as nourishing medicine for these ones we love. How truly easy it can be to catalyze deeper closeness and trust, simply through being ourselves.