No Longer Pliable

(the narrative for my new work)

I have three teenagers—an 18-year-old boy and twin 13-year-old girls. I find these ages remarkably interesting and truly exhausting. I’ve recently come to the realization that my job now is to be a loving witness to their struggles/successes and lend a sympathetic ear when there is an invitation to do so. They are indeed no longer pliable.

I feel like the world sees teenagers a certain way for a convenient narrative. I think we perceive young men as far less complex than their female counterparts because of their generally stoic nature. However, I would venture to say that the angst of this age knows no chromosomal boundaries.

I’ve been thinking about my own upbringing in South Dakota in the 70s and 80s. My parents were young and growing up with us. It seems to me that our generation is parenting quite differently since we are having our children later in our lives. I was 29 when my son was born and 33 (considered advanced maternal age) when my twin girls were born. Those extra years of living must have had some affect on my own parenting style.

Do we put more pressure on our children because we’re older and
further removed from our own teenage experience?

My parents were pretty involved—we had a lot of freedom and thankfully every test score or extracurricular activity wasn’t monitored with hawk-eyed precision. Looking back I think there was some benefit to more freedom. It seems like we took more risks. We weren’t focused on careers and the future so much. We just figured stuff out.

Do we really need College Fairs in 8th grade? Good grief.

By creating this new work, I realize I needed to honor the transitions happening in my family. This is my son’s last year at home before college and my girls will enter high school next year. I’m no longer the parent of young kids. The age in my eyes and the grey in my hair are constant reminders of these big transitions. I would enjoy hearing your observations about teenagers or the work.


All work and no play make Jack a dull boy.
What is the job of a teenager? Is it to become a member of a civil, engaged society or become a receptacle for parent’s unrealized dreams? It bothers me that we pay so much attention to competition and not nearly as much effort into healthy relationships, caring for others and “soft skills” like empathy and being a good listener. I believe we should take the long view that “soft skills” have a lot more to do with a successful life than SAT scores, your alma mater, your GPA or your bank account.

Unfinished Teenage Boy (and brain)

Lillibridge, dakota 1966, teenage boys, art, vermont, burlington, frontal cortex

Here is a snapshot of one of my new paintings about teenagers. It needs a lot of work, but I can see this finished painting clearly in my mind’s eye. My nearly 18-year-old son helped me with this piece. I get to work on the writing for this series today while Ellis recovers from getting his wisdom teeth out. If you have some ideas you would like to see explored about teenagers or just general thoughts or stories, please send them to me. I would love to hear from you. Have a great Friday wherever your adventures take you!

ART About Teenagers at UVM

Lillibridge Dakota 1966 ouch painting

Lillibridge, Dakota 1966, Love RAge Fear girl

I am working on a whole new show to hang at the University of Vermont’s Continuing Education administrative building next week. Here are snapshots of a few of the new pieces. I have wanted to do a series about teenagers. Being them and raising them in these ridiculously complex times. I can’t wait to write the narrative to accompany this show. My friend and partner in crime—Maggie Pace was my editor today. She helped me settle down by picking out/eliminating pieces, helping me determine what was still needed and allowing me to say out loud what is dancing around in my head. Thanks Maggie! A very productive day indeed.