School has started with its "getting back to the grind" and its "mama has a chance to breath without interruption," so I've been able to hit the refresh button on my parenting mindset which always always always leads me home to this poem that happened upon me during my pregnancy with my oldest daughter and has been my parenting model ever since.
Every season that passes through us, I am able to digest and integrate a bit more of this. It slowly seeps in and becomes me, and yet, I need its constant reminder on my refrigerator.
When my heart is raging at the cost of mothering and it seems my eardrums have only to burst from the strain of pressure, I turn to it and see through the waving water before my eyes and allow it to restore me. To remind me.
That there is a point where I stop and they begin. That my job is to remain steady and flexible, which I manage to do only when I am fierce about caring for myself.
Ultimately, though, that parenting is something that comes from the soul.
I think most of you will already know it, but there is never a wrong time or place for this, so once again...
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.
Once upon a time, I gave birth to a highly sensitive child. When she was born, she roared, red faced, and full of rage. An angry lion, I said. The cord was wrapped around her neck twice, and yet she came without showing signs of struggle.
By the next day, I was wondering if the crying would ever stop.
It hasn't yet.
That was 6 1/2 years ago. As she struggles through every day, as she needs, and needs, and needs, I begin to learn better ways of responding, providing, and comforting in ways that don't leave me brittle, which mostly requires me to restrain myself from "fixing" all the time.
I have lived through periods of bitterness so deep, especially in the early days, when her feeding routines left me with only half hours of sleep and my world seemed to be slipping through my fingers, and then when she was a toddler, still not sleeping, and I spent my days and nights in the fog of fatigue and unknowing, I thought I'd been consumed.
With her around, there was no room for me, until I learned, at long last, to take care of myself, because there is only so much a mother can do. The sorting of my responsibility from her responsibility was a drawn out, and difficult process.
Today, I'm looking at a 6 year old with bags under her eyes and a heaviness about her spirit. She's not yet learned to carry her sensitivity, to nurture her energy. I want to make her focus on the positive.
I want to cheer her up and coax her and give her whatever will make her happy for a change.
I want to tell her life is hard and you don't always get your way, but it goes on and she has to, too. I want to tell her to cheer up already, because her constant negative energy brings the rest of us down.
Instead, I let her be. I do energy work, and I say prayers, which are basically the same things. I ask for protection and release; for providence.
For her, and for all of us,
because in the deepest hollow of my mother heart, I know, she was born this way, and she's still working out how to be herself, and that my constant struggle to "make things better" just got in the way of her doing her own work of growing and accepting and being in a way that feels good to her.
I have to laugh at myself for thinking that I was given children so I could mold and shape them into some form of perfection, not that I ever thought of it that way. I just thought I was trying to be a good parent.
I even have to laugh at myself for thinking they need a perfect childhood.
I think we all can acknowledge that there is a lot of pressure out there to be a perfect parent who produces a certain kind of child, and while I released the mainstream idea of perfection a long time ago, I replaced that image with another, which was just as harmful.
My new focus revolves around being devoted to acceptance, trust, imperfection, joy.
Acceptance that there is only so much I can do, and there is only so much they can learn at a time.
Focusing on what I can do, and trusting that it is enough.
Knowing: I must make my mothering choices from my heart, regardless of how they or I or my children appear and compare to others, because we are us and
We are all complete just as we are.
I am beginning to believe that the only thing we are here to do is to be ourselves.
Believing that has transformed the way I live and parent in a huge way, especially for my little lion girl.
I don't doubt that she will figure herself out and live her purpose beautifully in good time. I never have.
It was learning to trust in the present that had me tripped up for a while,
but it's working its way through me.
.....me and my lion girl.
All is well
I'm on vacation with my girlies while Oliver is at a Local Government leadership summit (his name was on it's own banner downtown--"surreal" he said--still getting used to this wonderful work he's doing, I think).
Right now it's raining, and it's supposed to rain for the next three days, so instead of the great hike on the dunes, the island galavanting, the beaching, and all around big time play, we're sitting in our room surrounded by the craft supplies we acquired on an early morning Jo-ann's run.
Yesterday, as we were road-tripping here, I was a grumpy mess. "Pms" I kept saying while Oliver shot concerned glances at me and I tried to stuff all the anxiety I was feeling back down to where it came from.
What I didn't realize until just now, though, was where the anxiety was coming from. See, when I was young, my parents took us on amazing, and amazingly scheduled vacations. Just the thought of them make me quake with the inferiority I feel when compared to the "vacations" I take with my family.
My girls are beyond happy to be watching cartoons and coloring in giant coloring books on the floor on a rainy day. My parents, come hell or high water, would have braved the day and taken us to museum after museum, theme park after theme park, National forest after...you get the picture. We would have posed in front of every statue and,
There it is,
pounding heart, smothering guilt.
Why am I not better at this? Why would I rather go to a yarn store and buy (a-n-o-t-h-e-r) H crochet hook and (more) yarn than see the sights!?
I should have them at the children's museum, even if it did look like a shack...and I should take them to the opera house, even if Jules would make a scene.
I should have stayed at the lakeside playground longer this morning, and why didn't I just go to the Pirate Cove, even in the downpour, like the other families that looked miserable standing next to the closed down rides with their mini-golf clubs.
WHY didn't I plan better and then stick to those plans...hell or high water?
Get the picture?
Truth is, I appreciate all I saw and learned because of my parents. It is one of my deepest gratitudes.
Truth is, my children have plenty of time to see sights, to learn, to explore.
Truth is, they won't remember this trip anyway. I barely recollect Disney World at 6.
Truth is, this is about so much more than feeling like an inadequate trip planner.
It's about all those feelings of just not being good enough; at parenting, at planning, at follow through.
It's about feeling like less than enough.
It's about that feeling of not accomplishing enough.
I'm pretty sure we all feel these things sometimes, especially we perfectionists in the midst, and I'm no stranger to them.
This time, instead of analysis, I will trust my body and my heart to gently remove anxiety's grip on my wrists.
I'll let fun and creativity and snuggles do the work of processing.
This time, instead of pushing to be better, I'll trust that I am already okay, that this too shall pass, and that what feels perfect to us right now is exactly what we need.
Hoping your day is filled with what feels perfect to you and nothing else.
I feel like I want to write something beautiful today; to dredge up golden, sunlit memories. I think they will surface soon. I've been spending so much time with the ugliest memories that were stored away in my brain. Writing them, reliving them.
The time for that remembering is passing quickly. So much processing has come out of the compiling of my memories, and I am grateful for it. The most valuable lesson I've learned through it, though, has been in the art of self-care.
Nurturing myself through these past months has been the best gift I've ever given myself, and I intend to continue it. This coming new moon feels significant. Like a clean slate for the mid-year. Like a shift from the deep dark inner work I've been doing toward something that feels better.
This last moon has felt like a great rest, somehow. I wasn't moved to be terribly productive, and yet I got a lot done. Mindful activity is coming back now, and a persistent realization of the necessity of making plans and digging in to the physical manifestation of things long held in my head is walking into my life with the assurance of a wild woman.
This moon I am setting the intentions of fiercely mindful and intuitive living, and of living toward my purpose without wavering. No different in words than my intentions last month, but much different in nature.
Tomorrow is my baby girl's third birthday. Three years. She's changing a lot, and the next few years will bring about so much change that at the end of them we'll leave behind the "little years" altogether. Even with that, I no longer have a baby to care for and in less than two months I'll have a space of time each week all to myself at home to work toward my dreams and my calling.
It's funny how our children's birthdays can bring up so much. Sometimes I think we forget how important our children's birthdays are to our own life's story. Of course we acknowledge that we were blessed with a wonderful gift, but we don't always acknowledge our own process in birthing that child, the marking of the time span of our motherhood that it lends us, and all that we have grown through because we have taken on the role of the nurturing mother.
To me each birthday that my little Jules celebrates is a marking of both her independence and mine expanding little by little until she's ready to cut the tether. Her birthday is a celebration of the beautiful gifts she brings to the world and to our family, and also of having one more year under my belt. One more year of experience, of memories, of growth. One year closer to the completion of these demanding years of mothering.
Stitching together each moment of stillness I can gather today. Watching, feeling, the moon wane. Marveling at little Jules and at the wonder of it all.
Wondering.... What's it all for?
Deciding.... It doesn't really matter.
The living is what matters.
Anna Turner is the woman behind Little Hearth. She's an ordained interfaith minister, a writer, a believer in purposeful living and healing, a perpetual student, and a full time feminist mother.