Parenting teenagers

A couple of weeks ago I  spent a week with my daughter’s class from the local Steiner School.  We had a class trip to the Isle of Erraid.    Although none of the children were officially teenagers at the time of the trip, a few of them will be thirteen by the end of the summer, and all of them will hit that crucial teenage number by next year.

Boating to Erraid

It was an interesting time being a “fly on the wall” watching these youngsters, just on the brink of being teenagers and the dance they have between childhood and adulthood. Boating them from one island to the next.  Being around them I felt on the cusp of something new and exciting.  pre teens at the top of iona Dun I

I didn’t know what to expect as a parent helper.  I shared a house with four girls (one of whom was my daughter) and of course we had visits from the other children so often I found myself retreating to my bedroom to remove myself from their chatter and shrieks of laughter.  At one point I was ushered out by my daughter, another point asked to leave by one of the boys as he wanted to share something which he said he didn’t want an adult to hear.class on beach

This sense of them being guides and helps to each other, no longer needing the adult guiding hand is what calls them into young adulthood and independence.  However I felt I had to apologise at the end of the week for being such a “nag”.   In my house I was constantly asking – could someone fetch the water, we need more milk, have you washed your breakfast dishes,  I don’t know who left a wet towel, but it’s now outside on the line… etc etc.  For all their independance it seemed like they were still children when it came to practical considerations.

pre teens making music on Erraid

Meanwhile they were happy jammin’ each day ending with a musical session.  Sometimes with one of the island residents Steve, who recently produced his own CD of music, joined them.   Watching the group play with the drums, guitars and harmonies of voices was very moving.  They indeed seemed to move like starlings sometimes, all flying off in the same direction, then suddenly turning and changing back, together.

pre teens on the trampoline erraid

They bounced on the trampoline just as they are bouncing through life.  The energy was amazing to watch.  At times I felt old and tired.  I felt I was  watching the future come at me, and I could feel it was not my future but theirs.  I felt left out in a way (and even got left out one evening when I didn’t hear the dinner bell!)

pre-teens on the wishing stone Erraid

As they lept off the wishing stone, it was done like they are leaping into this new phase of their lives.  More risk, more independance, more finding their own way, more reliance on friends rather than family

Pre-teens walking off the boat to Iona

And more just hanging out… aaah the life of a teenager, the challenge for us who are parenting teenagers.  What better place to begin this life of being a teen on the Isle of Erraid – such a magical place, wild, raw and yet warm and homely.  A small island with the vast ocean around.  View to Iona and spiritual connections.  Warmth of real fires.  Simplicity of carrying water and chopping wood.  The laugher of friendship and support.  The harmony of music.


thresa, james & bella in hammock

Whatever the future brings to these young people, and their parents who will be parenting teenagers for the next few years, my wish is that this time on Erraid stays with them throughout their lives.