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Dear Amber,

I have a tween daughter and I love her so much. I recognize she’s between a child and an adult brain and all the emotions that go along with that. What’s your advice to navigate these choppy waters when it’s new uncharted territory for both of us? 

Lost in the tween tide, 

SOS Ship Captain

This is part three of a three part answer. Part one. Part two. Enjoy!

Dear Captain, 

This scene takes place in the Fire swamp, which is a metaphor in and of itself that describes raising teens. You’ve heard all of these terrible things, but you don’t know if they’re real. You enter the Fire swamp with trepidation. There is a little flame spurt, but it wasn’t too bad… you start to learn to stay on your toes and pay attention to the signs of flames spurts so you can avoid them. This is the tweens, figuring out the emotional stuff.

Just as you think you understand the hazards of the Fire swamp/tween years and start to let go of your kid, they get pulled into lightning sand. It might be a really bad friendship or romantic relationship, sexual assault, drugs, cutting, an eating disorder, depression or even a suicide attempt. The thing is that lightning sand swallows your kid SO FAST that you can’t even see it coming. They’re just gone.

It’s not your fault. You’re doing everything you can to protect them, but you’re in a Fire swamp, there are real dangers out there that even if you have a list of all of them, you don’t know the signs until it’s too late.  

Because you love them so much and have loved them as long as you’ve known them, you don’t even have to think, you just grab a strong vine, tie it around your waist and dive in. It feels like you’re holding your breath for an eternity down there, feeling around in the dark with your eyes closed for the kid you know is in there somewhere, until you can grab onto them tightly enough to pull them out to safety. 

You will make it out though. I promise. Even when it feels like you’re drowning in sand. 

When you make it out you think you’ve figured it out. You know how to avoid the fire spurts, you’ve learned to recognize lightning sand and the ROUS’s? Well, those surely don’t exist…

Sigh. They do exist and they’re nasty. But you’ve learned to trust each other more and you work together to defeat it. You’ve escaped the Fire swamp together. The metaphor falls apart in a lot of ways at that point in the movie…1 but I’m sure the rest of it will apply better to the 20’s… which I don’t have experience parenting kids through yet. 

I don’t want to scare you, but the teen years do feel a lot like walking through a Fire swamp with danger around every corner. Keep talking to your kid the entire time. Show up and keep talking. But don’t just interrogate them, share in return. Tell them about your life, your struggles, your triumphs and the things that make you happy and sad. Be a whole person so they don’t feel alone in the things they’re feeling and the struggles they’re facing. Who would want to be in the Fire swamp alone?

The thing I noticed, as I watched this scene several times, was that Westley spends the entire time in the Fire swamp reassuring Buttercup just how much he loves her. He’s never ruffled as he fights all the things for his Buttercup and his love can’t compare to the love of a mother. You’ve got this friend.  

XOXO, Amber

P.S. This newsletter contained three different sections that functioned well as stand alone posts, so I broke them up into three parts. You just finished part two, part one is more… professional, and part two is about the Dread Pirate Roberts.

  1. If you haven’t watched the Princess Bride in a while it may be time to revisit it. Currently you can stream it on Disney+ and Hulu»