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Tea and Empathy: A Teen’s Take on Coming of Age

Published on: March 05, 2014

Pouring Tea

Growing up. We celebrate it in so many different ways: in ceremony, in dance, in rituals, in song.

I belong to a multigenerational coming-of-age circle that meets four times a year during the equinoxes and solstices. The mom of one of my friends started the group for her daughter and her friends.

In this group, we are celebrating growing up. We celebrate in our own unique ways, honoring the women in our past and present and welcoming our minds and bodies into one place. We are a community of women and girls nurturing ourselves.

We sing our way into our gathering circle. My friends and I know the songs from our time at Wilderness Awareness School. My friend’s mom wrote one of them from a poem. As we sing, we share things that mean the most to us. Each person explains why she brought this object or tells us about a sweet memory of it. I chose a blue bird I made when I was 4 or 5; it’s so abstract and beautiful, filled with innocence and little fingerprints. Other people share a necklace from a grandmother and a photo of a loved one.

Then the adults tell personal stories about growing up. A mother tells a story about her first boyfriend, making it funny. We giggle and cry when she finishes.

My friends and I talk about our ideas of growing up. Some say they are scared. Some are excited. I am in between. Both feelings are possible, and I open my arms to them.

Being part of this circle helps me think about the ideas and possibilities of growing up. This circle feels like a safe place to think and talk about how my body, ideas and feelings are changing. I know that in this experience of becoming women, we are learning who we are. The group helps me accept differences and embrace changes in myself and others.

The last time we met, we learned about how nettles are useful. Then we went nettle-picking in the late afternoon. The light flickered through the trees as we chased each other around the yard and up the stairs to the house. We talked and sang together in the kitchen as we boiled the nettles for tea. Then we poured tea for the mothers, grandmothers, aunts and family friends.

This Teen Voices essay by Cyanna Sjerven is a companion piece for "Rite of Way: Coming-of-Age Rituals for a New Generation."

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