Lavendilly Story Time: The Ringing Bell

Little Garden FaerieThis is the story of my Little One’s caesarean birth. I wrote this to tell at her 4th birthday party, although I told a simplified version. My Little One sat on her birthday pillow, inside the silk rainbow circle, and I told this story with only a little bell as a prop in the story. At the end I put a rainbow necklace with a bell on it over her head. She felt so special.

THE RINGING BELL

Written by and Copyright to Jennifer McCormack, July 2014

In a little house by a creek there lived a family of fairies. There was Mumma and Daddy fairy, and Brother and Sister fairy. Mumma was a water fairy, Daddy was a wind fairy, Brother was a fire fairy and Sister was a song fairy. They were happy together, each one unique, each one interested in different things, but all living harmoniously together.

One day Mumma thought she heard the jingling of a little bell. It was only faint, but it jingled on and off all day. “Do you hear that?” she asked Daddy. Daddy couldn’t hear it at first, but after a while, if he listened carefully, he could make out the sweet faint jingling sound.

It wasn’t long before Brother and Sister could hear it too, and the sweet jingling, ringing sound grew louder every day. “I know what it is,” said Mumma Fairy, “a new little fairy is going to join our family!”

The whole family heard the jingling sound for many months. Some days it was strong, and some days it was soft. Sometimes they heard it at night, and at other times it woke them up in the morning. “Sweet Little One,” they would say, “when are you coming?”

Day after day the fairy family would make their home ready for their new Little One, and the ringing grew louder and louder! Everyone was very excited.

But one morning Mama Fairy woke up because the jingling sound wasn’t loud. It was very soft, and it didn’t ring very often. As the morning went on, the sound stopped all together. Mumma could feel her Little One in her heart, and deep inside her womb she knew her baby fairy would be coming today, but she couldn’t hear the clear ringing of her Little One’s bell at all! This worried her.

“Oh dear!” thought Mumma Fairy, “I need some help! It’s time for our baby fairy to come, but it seems to have gone away. Come little fairy, come! Wake up Little One!”

They all tried to use their talents to help their Little One come. Mumma the water fairy rocked and danced like the gentle waves of a river. Daddy the wind fairy spoke words of wisdom and bravery, encouraging Little One (and Mumma) to not be afraid. Brother the fire fairy used his fire talent to make their home warm and welcoming. Sister the song fairy sang to their Little One a song of love and joy, calling for the sound of the bell. But no bell could be heard. All was still and quiet.

They needed some more help. Daddy called a Healer Fairy to come and help them call their Little One in.

The Healer Fairy listened to Mumma’s story, and listened carefully for the bell. She put her hands on Mumma Fairy’s belly and gently called out to the Little One:

“Baby Fairy ring your bell, 

Jingle, tinkle, ring it well!

Your birthing day has begun

Come join your family, Little One”

All was still, even their house was quiet, as everyone listened carefully for the ringing, jingling sound. Still the baby fairy’s bell remained silent. The Healer Fairy told Mumma and Daddy that she would need some more help, and they would need to visit the Great Healing Hall because the magic was powerful there, where lots of healer fairies worked together.

Many fairies were already waiting at the Great Healing Hall. They were singing and chanting together, songs of love and birth and healing and the music entered the Healing Hall on sweet drifting strands. Mumma and Daddy Fairy heard their friends sing and felt strong, brave and loved. The many voices making music together was part of the healing magic. The healer fairies gathered around Mumma and Daddy and called to the Little One to ring her bell … and … after a while:

A faint, sweet jingling. There it was! They could all hear it!

The healing fairies rested their wands on Mumma Fairy’s brow and asked her “Are you ready for your Little One to come?” Mumma held Daddy’s hand. She was ready. They were all ready.  It was time and they could hardly wait.

The healing fairies rested their wands upon Mumma Fairy’s heart and asked her “Are you ready to receive your Little One with love and openness, however your Little One arrives?” Mumma Fairy was ready. Her heart was now bursting with the sound of her Little One’s bell. A soft feeling, almost like sleep swept over her as she relaxed, ready to receive.

The healing fairies rested their wands at Mumma Fairy’s womb and asked her “Are you ready to open the door, to help your Little One come through?” Mumma Fairy was ready. She put her hands on her womb and listened for the ringing, jingling bell. She could hear it and feel it growing stronger. She whispered the Healing Fairy’s special words to the Little One over and over:

“Baby Fairy ring your bell, 

Jingle, tinkle, ring it well!

Your birthing day has begun

Come join your family, Little One”

The fairies outside the Great Healing Hall kept singing and chanting. Daddy Fairy and Mumma Fairy held each other, and held their breath with anticipation. They could hardly wait to meet their Little One. The healing fairies drew a line with fairy magic across Mumma Fairy’s womb with their wands, and a door opened. From this door came a bridge of rainbow light – and a loud clear ringing sound filled the room as a little baby Rainbow fairy came through the door, lifted over the bridge of coloured light, helped by the healing fairies, landing snuggly in Mumma Fairy’s arms. Their Little One was perfectly well, perfect in every way, and slept in Mumma’s arms safe and sound, ringing gently as she breathed.

The healing fairies waved their wands again and as the door in Mumma’s womb was magically closed, the bridge of rainbow light disappeared. All was still, all was quiet, and cloaked in peace. Only the sound of singing from the fairies outside of the Great Healing Hall drifted in through the windows. Everyone smiled.

Brother and Sister Fairy were delighted to meet their sister, Little Rainbow Fairy , and they took turns holding her and talking to her. Brother Fairy warmed her and Sister Fairy sang to her.

“You silly little fairy,” crooned Mumma,” We were worried about you, and here you are, perfect in every way. If this is the way you come into our family, I can see that you will have plenty more adventures, and come out of them just fine every time.”

And do you know, that’s exactly what happened. Four years have passed, and the Little Rainbow Fairy still wakes up every day, ringing and jingling happily, finding adventure every where she looks.

* * *

She was a plannedLittle One's Birthday Ceremony. LH home birth, but it seems our Little One had something else in mind. In the end we went to hospital because our baby was very quiet and still, with a faint heart beat. It just so happened that on this same day many of my friends and community were outside the hospital attending a rally in support of the re-opening of the Gold Coast Hospital Birth Centre. They were singing and chanting together and I could hear them from my room. It gave me great comfort to know they were outside while I was inside with my husband and our two wonderful midwives, who were really looking after me. Caesarean was exactly what we were trying to avoid, but in this case I felt supported in the decision to go ahead.

In the end our Little One was perfectly fine, the little cheeky little thing. A picture of perfect baby health. We have just celebrated her fourth birthday and she has grown into a bright, cheery and chatty little thing – always ready for the adventure each day brings.

I thought that I had already processed her birth, and found myself ok with how it unfolded, despite our worry about her at the time, and my very ordinary recovery after surgery … but writing this story brought me more joy on another level, and I found a new kind of acceptance and peace with my experience. I hope, if you have experienced an unplanned cesarean, that you find some solace and beauty in my story too.

You may be interested to read more about my reflections of this experience:

A Mother Blessed – a poem about my unplanned caesarean birth (this one!)

Cold Birth: Reclaiming my Labour – my immediate reflections about this birth and my thoughts about what it was like to give birth without labour.

xx Jennifer

Advertisements

Breathing In and Out: planning a family rhythm

linden in stone spiral

I first experienced “Rhythm” through my work in kindergarten.  I LOVED this term when I first heard it, and more so once I experienced it and began to incorporate it into my teaching, my own life, and later in my parenting. As an early childhood teacher I had been using rhythm for a long time, without naming it as such. I am referring to the flow of the day where one thing comes after another in a predictable manner. I had been calling it “Routine” but rhythm is a natural flow rather than one that is scheduled (you can read more about it HERE and HERE – this is part 3 of a series of articles on rhythm). After living a scheduled life, and teaching to a schedule I felt the freedom that rhythm offered as a cool, relaxing breeze through my day.

My favourite moment was when I noticed how the two kindergartens worked together in their rhythm. Without even checking clocks our two kindy rooms, side by side, breathed in and out through the day together. One class would be playing outside on an out breath, while the other would be inside, and then a natural swap would occur and the energy and breathing would be exchanged. After lunch both kindy rooms breathed quietly in their own rhythm as they rested and pursued gentle and calming activities before the out-breath that occurred at home time. And within each kindy room our children would move through the day without even asking what comes next: they would always know. Indeed, some days children would often start singing the pack-up song just at the same time we sensed it was time to draw playtime to an end. Our days were simple, uncomplicated, predictable and safe.

Do you know why it worked? It was because our rhythms were purposefully designed to meet ALL of our needs, our activities were timed for the part of the day when we had the right energy for it: highly creative, thoughtful and active moments at the start of the day, flowing through to quiet, reflective and more individual experiences in the afternoon. We were not trying to fight against the children’s natural interests, energies or capabilities, and our rhythm changed subtly as the children grew older. Presenting our daily activities in the same way each day offered predictability, which children find incredibly soothing, which in turn meant that they felt safe and relaxed. Held gently in this predictable space they could find the freedom to follow their interests, develop their skills and grow with each other.

Because the children felt so safe, every now and then we could mix it up and offer a surprise, a challenge, or a new adventure. A change to the rhythm! Rather than causing anxiety, our secure children rose to greet their challenges with enthusiasm. Our weekly rhythm would also offer a bit of variety, still maintaining that predictability .. and our seasonal rhythm would move us through the transformations of the year (and our own developmental transformations) with respect and reverence.

Once I became a parent it was a natural thing for me to bring rhythm into our family life, and every now and then we review it because while there is safety in predictability, we can also stagnate if we don’t find flexibility with our changing needs.

How do you breathe through your days? Being aware of breath, to me, is the essential part of creating a rhythm that works. There is no point planning activities or jobs at a time that I or my children would naturally be resting, or scheduling a barrage of activities without considering time for quiet moments and reflection. Being aware of my needs, and the needs of my family are key.

Our Daily Rhythm flows like this:

Morning: Get dressed, breakfast, make beds/tidy rooms, make lunches, go to school

Mid-Morning: daily task / errands (little one is with me)

Lunch

Afternoon: quiet activities such as craft, reading, cooking or gardening. School pick-up

After School: hang up bags, lunch boxes in the kitchen, afternoon tea, play, tidy up, wash hands/bath

Evening: dinner, wash up, teeth, pyjamas, books, bed

It just happens the way it happens.  For us, at this time of writing, this tends to be a typical 6am – 7pm daily rhythm for the children. We try not to schedule too much.  As the children grow older there are a few afternoon activities to consider, but kept to a manageable minimum so that MY needs are met as well as the children’s.

Our Weekly rhythm flows in much the same way, but is designed to get things done! Again, I keep mine as simple as I can. I tend to get interested in a lot of things so my week needs to be fairly flexible. As I still have a little one at home with me, I try to do only ONE big thing a day, and do that in the morning, so that we have the afternoon free to flow as it will. Throughout the week I am also careful to schedule as much home time as I can, because afternoon activities and morning jobs can mount up and keep us busy. It is important to me, and to my children (especially on school holidays!) to have a full day at home after a busy day out. My weekly rhythm looks something like this:

MONDAY –  Morning: house cleaning and exercising. Afternoon: baking

TUESDAY – Morning: playgroup. Afternoon: craft / reading.

WEDNESDAY – Morning: laundry, errands. Afternoon: writing/work tasks

THURSDAY – All day:  work day (little one at family day care)

FRIDAY – Morning: exercise, groceries / errands. Afternoon: writing / study / work. (little one at family day care)

WEEKEND – family cleaning, gardening and tidying tasks. Family activities.

There are other ways of celebrating a weekly rhythm: with colours, food, activities, awareness of planetary influences … I’ve written about them HERE. They are just other ways. There are many ways, and as we have discussed, the way meets your family’s needs is the way that is right for you. YOUR rhythm is unique and it is up to you to arrange it the way you need to.

A Seasonal rhythm honours the passing of time, growth and transformation. In our family we honour a seasonal rhythm by celebrating significant seasonal days and festivals, keeping a reverent space in our home to acknowledge our current season, enjoying the gifts our season through gardening, walking/exploring, song, craft and story. We enjoy coming together with community – and of course enjoy celebrating anniversaries such as birthdays.

Seasonal rhythms keep us connected to our immediate environment and our community and lifts us from the limitations of our daily predictability. Sometimes we get stuck in a rut. Seasonal rhythms remind us that all things must transform and grow, give us the opportunity to review our needs at this moment, and give us something to look forward to, and wonderful lasting memories.

Breathing in and out, through the day, through the week and through the year …

… happy breathing …

 

Creating Family Rhythm: Planning for Needs

What do I REALLY NEED?

We recently posted about Room for Wiggle: 6 reasons you need rhythm in your family life. It’s not an article about the colourful Australian children’s performing group (although they do indeed bring rhythm into the lives of many families!), rather it is about living a rhythmic lifestyle together as a family: allowing room for the important things, meeting family and individual needs, and having breathing room to have time for play and keep stress at bay. The Room for Wiggle article sung the praises of rhythm, but it didn’t say how to do it.

So this article is about how I BEGIN creating rhythm in my family home.  I can only write about this from my perspective, so this article is not intended to give advice, it is offered in the spirit of sharing experience. For me, creative a rhythm is not just a process of drawing up 7 columns to the week and filling in the spaces!! That’s a sure way to create something that looks wonderful but may not be practical – or realistic. Before I even get to drawing up columns (and I do love a well-planned week!) I think about how I can best use my time and energy, because when it comes down to it, it is MY time I am planning here.

What are MY needs?

It’s no accident that this question is first. Whenever I review our rhythm I become aware of how essential I am as a parent to all parts of our day and week. This discussion on needs is the core component to our Effective Parenting Weekends.  How can I possibly meet the needs of others if my own are not being met first?

I have to consider what I need to feel like a complete, functioning adult who can make rational decisions and approach life with joy because if these needs are not being met then any planned rhythm that follows will naturally try to adjust itself, regardless of what I try to put in place. If my week is scheduled around meeting only the needs of others then eventually I will experience burn-out … expending a lot of energy upon others takes its toll. So I ask myself:

How do I naturally move through my day?

When do I need rest in my day and in my week?

When do I feel my most energetic?

What are MY interests?

What do I really need to keep myself healthy and joyful?

What are my FAMILY’S needs?

Each person in our family is individual with a unique set of needs in terms of age, health, interests and energy. This is an opportunity  to consider each person in my family and spend some time connecting to them, identifying what they really need to be healthy, happy and live harmoniously together. How often do we devote time to really sitting in thoughtful love about our family members? Spend time in meditation, drawing, writing – and BEING with each one – enjoy this process!

Now I look at my lists again – how does this feel? Do I need to simplify even more? Are we over scheduling? How do our needs as individuals weigh up against our needs as a family? Are my expectations of my family members appropriate and realistic? Do we need to have a family conversation (in an age appropriate way) about how we can meet everyone’s needs together? (Again, I have to admit, Effective Parenting has some wonderful ideas about how to do this!)

What are the OTHER priorities? 

Now we think about what else HAS to be done. There are some parts of my week that involve non-negotiable commitments. For me, these are things like school, work and regular weekly commitments such as playgroup.

After these come the sorts of things that have to be done to keep my household running: thing like cooking/grocery shopping/laundry/gardening/cleaning/ paying bills/ filling the car with petrol …

Even if these things are not all my responsibility, they still need to have a place in the week so that they happen. Trying to leave these things out is another reason why constructed rhythms may fall apart. I have to make time for the essentials (even if I do not want to).

Being Realistic

At this point, after listing all the things that have to happen I sometimes begin to start feeling overwhelmed! It is another wonderful opportunity (life is FULL of wonderful opportunities!) to consider what is REALLY important in MY life. Can I possibly manage all this on my own? I may need to have a think about how these things happen in my home, and whose responsibility they are. Perhaps it is time to begin teaching the children some new household skills, have a conversation with other adults in the household about roles and responsibilities, or ask for (or employ) outside help from others.

If none of these are an option for the moment it may be time to review some personal expectations. This is also a wonderful opportunity to consider my values! Keeping it simple, I ask again: What is really important? Are some of these essential parts to my week perhaps not so essential? Do I notice a clash of values between what I believe, what I want, and what I do? We have created an entire section dedicated to needs and values in Effective Parenting, and I have drawn on this work in my parenting many times since.

Putting it all together

I’ll continue this discussion about creating rhythm in another post – one where I talk about moving naturally within a daily, weekly and seasonal flow. This is the fun bit – and the bit I always want to skip to first … but it never works properly for me without doing this reflection first. When we are living in conflict with our needs we are living in stress. The wonderful thing about living with rhythm is the opportunities (there’s that words again) which present for us to get to know ourselves better!

Room for Wiggle: 6 reasons you need rhythm in your family life

I need routine. I need to know what to do and when to do it otherwise my week with three young children and work can become so haphazard that we end up in a frenzy on Sunday night or Monday morning excavating Mount Laundry for clean clothes, negotiating a hazardous path through a minefield of household debris on the floor, no food prep done for the week, bills unpaid, important documents lost … and don’t talk to me about cleaning toilets.

Routine is an important and essential part of my family life, but I like things to flow as well. I do hate being tied to a strict time frame with no room for wiggle. Life is not fun when it is ruled by the clock, and lived according the number of responsibilities one must take care of by a certain time. I want to be able to float through my mornings not worrying about what I achieved by when … but still getting everything done – and without stress. This feels like a clash of values because as a mother there is always stuff that has to be done – and with children around it almost always has to be done NOW! Plus with children there is also the spontaneous factor. You just never know what is going to happen next and sometimes you have to drop everything – what happens to your routine then?

If I just did what I felt like (and sometimes I do) I would do no more than make a cup of tea, allow the children to dress themselves by fishing through the remains of Mount Laundry (that usually suffers a landslide and starts creeping over the basket and down the hallway), suggest the children forage in the fridge for breakfast while I read my book and then rush around for tuck shop money before school begins. I can’t do that every day. I also want to savour and enjoy my days, particularly while my children are so little. This is the time of life to value and remember because as I grow older I am pretty sure I will have oodles of time to savour the moment but by then my children will be older too and their delightful years as youngsters will be a vague memory of the past.

So where is the middle ground? How to balance our need for routine and our desire for freedom?

In Waldorf circles this balance is known as RHYTHM, the process of flowing between what has to be done and what we create and enjoy in the meantime. Rhythm is a heartbeat, it is our breathing room, it is the music and creative flow of our day and it is another expression of ‘work is play’. Here are six reasons why I value rhythm in my family life.

1. Rhythm is the flow of movement from one thing to another, and in terms of creating a rhythm that works for the family it is the order of events that is important. Naturally there will always be a place for routine. I have to get out the door by 8am on school days with children who are fed, dressed, wearing shoes, with lunches, hats and all they need for the day. So there are things that need to be done and schedules that need to be kept in a day, but even this can flow in a predictable manner, and this flow is what gets us out the door (with a mumma who is conscious of the time)

2. Rhythm honours what is important – Rhythm is concerned about your priorities. First things first! Some things have to be done: meals, shopping, housework. Some things need to be done to keep us healthy: exercise, down time. Some things are important because they feed our soul: creative work, hobbies, play time – all those things which call to our soul expression. All of this is important and needs a natural place within the daily, weekly, monthly or seasonal rhythm. I can’t get everything done all in one day. I could try to do a little of everything every single day, but then every day I would be cooking, cleaning, washing, gardening, shopping, writing, crafting, exercising, studying … and when do I spend time with my family? Or have time for myself? No I prefer to find a time for everything within the week … and let the daily rhythm flow around only the most essential points of the day: meals, work/school and bed time. The rest fits into our weekly rhythm – or the monthly one if you flow with seasons too.

3. Rhythm is predictable and safe – knowing what comes next is one of the most important things for children. When I was teaching and running my family day care I always enjoyed watching the children find solace in our rhythm. Sometimes they would tell me all the things we do in a day – in the right order – and then sigh with happiness when I confirmed they had it right. I loved watching 2 year olds instantly take their plate to the bowl of soapy water for washing after lunch, and then go to read a book while the others finished eating, without being asked to. A little song about rest time and they’d go and make their beds. I’m not saying they all slept, but still I never even had to tell them it is rest time (unless it was an off day, and we all get those from time to time!)

I find security in predictability too. It speaks to my personal need to pre-plan the big things, have time to mull over what I am going to do next, to plan my time and sort out my priorities. One thing at a time. For children, knowing that one thing happens before or after another means that you’ll encounter less arguments merely because that is the way it is always done. Any more disagreements can be countered creatively with a story, humour and imagination and if that doesn’t work it is time to look at finding another time for that particular event, reviewing the rhythm altogether or start asking what is really happening here? And this leads us to point 4.

4. Rhythm balances everyone’s needs – Here I am talking about individual energy levels, personal interests, family values and health requirements. A good rhythm makes time for everyone. My eldest and my youngest wake at the crack of dawn and my middle child would sleep until school starts if given the opportunity. The morning rhythm is the same for her as it is for the others but they are likely to be dressed and ready first. So long as she know what happens next she can get organised in time (with a little patience and support from me).

5. Rhythm highlights our health. If predictability in rhythm is important does this mean that children in a rhythm won’t cope with spontaneity or suddenly changed plans? Not at all, unless their needs are such that predictability means the difference between health and high stress, such as very sensitive children, children recovering from illness or children on the autistic spectrum. Otherwise you’ll find that children who are used to a usual way of doing things will welcome the odd surprise with delight and great flexibility.

Rhythm flows in a way that supports all your needs – thus it should support your family’s health. Your rhythm can speed up or slow down from time to time, just so long as it DOES return to a rhythmic, predictable state before stress becomes a factor. If your life commitments become too rigid or too full then the rhythmical nature doesn’t flow and becomes frantic. This is not living in a space of good health. This introduces stress which will impact on children’s growth and development, not to mention their happiness. Arguments, headaches, stomach aches, nervous illnesses and defiance will start popping up in a family that lives a frantic existence zooming from one thing to another without adequate rest.

Likewise, it can work the other way: a daily or weekly rhythm that has no responsibilities, no time frames, no predictability will also not support good health. There needs to be just enough predictability, with room for just enough flexibility to keep a healthy family moving along together in harmony. One may say that living with no schedule is living intuitively. I challenge this. Nobody can live a healthy life without purpose. Rhythm celebrates our unique purpose, stops us drifting and encourages us to stay connected to our more natural rhythms and seasons, stay intuitive to our needs and take the time to do what needs to be done, and still have time to do what we feel.

6. Rhythm has room for wiggle. Had a bad night’s sleep? Baby thrown up all over you just after you got dressed? Been sick for a week? Have an assignment due? Your rhythm should have enough wiggle room to shift things about. As I mentioned earlier rhythm is about flowing with time rather than fighting with time. There is always time for everything that is important right now. And if there isn’t? How important is it really? Could you ask for help or delegate some tasks?

Rhythm gives us time and flow and room to wiggle. It helps us to focus on our health and safety. It brings security and organisation into our lives, especially for our children. And if we can’t fit it in by ourselves it is time to ask for help … and that is ok too.

So how do we put this rhythm together? That is another post. Coming soon …

This article is also posted at Sacred Essence – where the Sacred Moments of Effective Parenting is celebrated.

Sacred Moments, Sacred Families

20121231_144825I have to tell you about this awesome course – yes it is one of my mine 🙂 At least, I am one half of this course. Melissa and I have been writing this and living this for well over a year together. We made it come alive last year at Silkwood and now offer it in bite-sized chunks, because we know every family has different needs.

Sacred Moments is a parenting course offered on the Gold Coast as a monthly playgroup at Nerang, a monthly evening discussion group at Finger Prints Children’s Centre, and as the Effective Parenting Weekend at Silkwood School, on the Gold Coast. We are currently working on offering it as an e-course for those who live further away. What will you gain from the Sacred Moments Parenting Journey?

This course offers a framework and skills to support your decision-making as parents. Parenthood is a unique experience for each of us.  Sometimes we experience parenthood as a gift, while other times (even on the same morning), we can feel totally swamped and want to escape all our responsibilities.  This course is designed to help you equip yourself, as an individual, for the occasionally wild ride of parenting, to help you feel more prepared as a parent, better nourished, and a whole lot more inspired to be creative about your parenting so that you can enjoy the journey.

You will gain the skills to discover, honour and support your own pathway as a family. This course presents family life as a shared experience between parents and children, based on the understanding that there is no ‘right way’ to be a parent or a family unit, and no magic answer that will fix each and every family dilemma. The process of parenting is a rich, deep and dynamic process that allows us to be present with, honour and ENJOY all that life with children has to teach us.

You will gain a framework to support and ease your everyday family experiences. The framework we are presenting may even help to dissolve those tricky and exasperating moments before they become a big problem, negating the need to find that ‘quick fix’ solution. It will allow you to plan ahead, creating wonderful memories together and smoothing the ruffles in family life as you go.

You will learn techniques to review and reflect upon your parenting experiences while you are parenting on-the-go. You learn how to be present to your parenting and monitor your own effectiveness in the present moment. The ability to reflect with clarity is key to the process we are presenting. It will assist your own personal learning and help you in knowing when it is time to seek more information, more support or use other professional services. These techniques will also help you work through experiences of guilt and anger in a manner that honours your experience and your learning.www.

You will gain a support network of parents. For those attending Sacred Moments Parent Child Group it is anticipated that as we work through this course together and share our experiences that we will emerge as a group of parents able to support one another positively through the processes of family life when needed.

To find out more, email us at mj@liveyoursacredessence.com

Parenting: The Celebration of Transformation

060I was an early childhood teacher before I became a parent. It now seems like a previous existence! I entered family life with a background of theory about small children, years of classroom experience, and just a little knowledge about babies … and was to quickly find out that theory is all very well, classroom experience is only useful in the classroom, and the little I did know about babies still equated to knowing nothing at all. I will never forget the day our midwife made her last post-natal visit: I was gripped with fear and overwhelmed with the responsibility of caring for this little tiny person my body had produced (what do you mean this is your last visit?) I just couldn’t fathom the idea that she thought we’d be fine. She smiled, and gave me a kiss … and left. I looked at our brand new son and thought that being a mummy is easier with the baby on the inside!

I was stunned at how much I had to learn – from scratch. Breastfeeding was harder than I thought it would be. Sleeping was a mystery. Teething was distressing. Fevers were frightening.  Food and decisions about health care were whole other issues!  I felt overwhelmed by all the advice that people shared with me, out of the goodness of their heart, and a little confused at the vast array of parenting styles and methods to choose from.

Despite feeling so unprepared, my husband and I still must have had some form of composure about us: our little guy was a ‘good’ baby who didn’t cry too much, a cute little thing who smiled at everyone and an inquisitive chap who was interested in everything (and therefore got up to quite a bit of mischief). The first year of his life was full of life lessons for all of us. It was wonderful and exhausting all at once. In reality we were as fine as any other new parents – stumbling along and finding our way in our re-defined relationship as a family of three. We had a go at every idea in the book (and devoured every book in the library), and then threw it all out the window and just went with what ‘worked’. We breastfed, didn’t use a dummy, co-slept, wore him in a sling. We used NVC and baby sign language. We used natural cloth nappies, and had a go at Elimination Communication. We did baby-led weaning and fed him only home-cooked meals.

Some of it worked, some of it didn’t. Our son knew what he wanted, we knew what we wanted, and it took some experimentation and some occasional compromising from each of us, to find a happy medium.

I have often marvelled at the bravery of the first child for being the ‘guinea pig’. They open wide the doors of parenthood and thrust us through them, willing or not! They are the trailblazers who will grow up and move on to the next developmental challenge before we feel that we have really mastered the last one. They test our patience, our creativity, our energy levels, our values and our relationships. They make us wake up to ourselves! I have found that parenting has been the single most effective way to learn how to listen to my own ‘truth’. I have learned more about myself on this journey than any amount of personal development I may have done before my first birth!

I have my favourite parenting books, and my favourite parenting ‘experts’ but I do not rely on them for all the answers. Since becoming a parent, I now interact with families socially through playgroups, mothers groups and women’s groups. I have shared my experiences and learned from my friends as they travel their own parenting journeys beside me. I have learned enough to believe that nobody can claim to have all the answers, because we only know for sure about our own experience with our own families, and all the rest is theory until it ‘clicks’ with you. I am inspired and interested in finding out more about what will enhance my understanding of my children, and thus our family life. It is exciting when we become our own teachers, and are forgiving of our mistakes.

Parenting has empowered me as a woman, a mother, a wife and a teacher, and I have learned that:

– parenting involves acknowledgement of the value of pain as a teacher (frustration, tiredness, disappointment and worry!),

– whichever way we parent it needs to come from the place of our own truth and intuition,

– parenting is a journey of discovery and learning, but is most inspiring when we keep looking and keep learning, rather than searching for THE answer, and

– for parenting to ‘improve’, it should be regarded as a sacred celebration of transformation.

We can get bogged down in the day-to-day elements of parenting and family life. I have found in my journey that the thing that keeps me going is to celebrate (daily) the sacred, the beautiful, the funny, the quirky, and the clever, but also to not overlook the ugly, the scary, the annoying, the angry and the frustrating. All these moments cycle in and out of focus but are ever-present in our parenting.

Written by and Copyright to Jennifer McCormack, May 2010

First published by Kindred at www.kindredcommunity.com

Please do not reproduce without my permission

All I Ever Really Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten

I was rummaging through my “filed” papers (read papers that were put in a file – about a year ago – to be further sorted and filed!) for some bits and pieces to read up on as I prepare for the Storytelling For Young Children Workshop, coming up on the 8th October – and of course I got a bit lost in all the other wonderful things I found in there … including this gem, which I can almost recite by heart, I love it that much. It is written by Robert Fulghum, and I would cite the source if only I knew it. I recommend reading Robert Fulghum’s writing, particularly if you are a dad. Parenting from a dad’s perspective is so important.

 

All I Ever Really Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten

Robert Fulghum

Most of what I really need to know about how to live, and what to do and how to be, I learned in kindergarten. Wisdom was not at the top of the graduate school mountain, but there in the sandbox at nursery school. These are the things I have learned:

 Share everything. Play fair. Don’t hit people. Put things back that aren’t yours. Say sorry when you hurt somebody. Wash your hands before you eat. Flush. Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you. Live a balanced life. Learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work everyday some.

 Take a nap every afternoon. When you go out into the world, watch for traffic, hold hands and stick together. Be aware of wonder. Remember the little seed in the plastic cup. The roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that.

 Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even the little seed in the plastic cup – they all die. So do we.

 And then remember the book about Dick and Jane and the first word you learned, the biggest word of all: LOOK. Everything you need to know is in there somewhere. The Golden Rule and love and basic sanitation. Ecology and politics and sane living.

 Think of what a better world it would be if we all – the whole world – had cookies and milk about 3 o’clock every afternoon and then lay down with our blankets for a nap. Or if we had a basic policy in our nation and other nations to always put things back where we found them and cleaned up our own messes. And it is true, no matter how old you are, when you go out into the world, it is best to hold hands and stick together.

Waiting is a Gift

When I came to the Gold Coast to teach, 10 years ago, I was very fortunate to have a number of mentors who guided me in my teaching and my ability to work with parents. These people also opened my eyes to the practical rather than theoretical applications of early childhood training. It was so exciting to find a new way of actually using all the ideas that I’d learned about at uni, and experimented with in my first 2 tentative years of teaching.

I think the single greatest concept presented to me in this time was one particular phrase, which has stuck in my mind ever since, and completely influenced the way I have since begun parenting my own children. It was a phrase offered as a summary of an activity presented in a parenting class at the school, run by one of my mentors. In answer to a question about appropriate times of life to introduce adult and abstract topics and behaviours, her reply was: “Waiting is a gift.”

When is the right time for girls to wear makeup and dress like women? Waiting is a gift

When is the right time to begin teaching focussed literacy? Waiting is a gift

How do I work with my young child’s impulses? Waiting is a gift

It seemed like the answer for everything and it totally transformed the way I approached my teaching. At the time I was working with 4 – 6 year olds, and there were quite a few children in the class who were used to having their own way … NOW! This was a behaviour that I detested, to be honest, although now I realise that this is partly part of a child’s development and partly due to social and environmental learning. I began applying my new motto in my classroom, and stopped responding to every request, every question, and every demand from the children.

Sounds rude doesn’t it? I didn’t do it rudely though, I would just wait for a while before responding to questions, pause for a moment before I would go to attend to a child, finish my current task before turning my attention to the child tugging on my clothes. Even I would not respond immediately if a child had tripped over, dropped something or accidentally hurt someone else (emergencies and serious accidents not included – you should see me move then!), definitely I would not respond straight away to tale-telling and complaining about others. It was challenging and confusing for the children at first but after a couple of weeks the children would begin answering their own questions … or asking a friend. They began to either wait quietly for me to come to them, or try to solve their own problem in their own creative ways.

There were of course many children of temperaments not suited to this treatment – those who were naturally impulsive, spontaneous, excitable, demanding, or not used to being ‘ignored’. These children were about to embark on a long journey exploring the ‘practice of patience’ with their teacher – and it ended up being one that bonded us very closely together over the two years I was their teacher.

When our baby son arrived, I continued to encourage him to wait. By not responding straight away to his cries or his falls, he developed a relationship of trust with my husband and I: of course we are here for you, we know when you need us and we will keep you safe, will not let you become distressed, hurt or afraid, but at the same time it is important for you to learn about the world yourself. This is not to say we ignored him, but as I described earlier, I would pause before responding and not rush to console him. Both our children pick themselves up when they fall over, they cry when they need to, and know we are always watching out for them, but also have become prepared to take a risk in their play. A few scratches, a trip over, a bump, these are everyday things.

Over the years, the phrase ‘Waiting is a gift’ has popped into my head when in the supermarket I see my own children walk past the sweets and lollies without asking for something (But instead longingly suggesting that it would be nice to have a special treat today!!). I saw it when they stopped asking me constantly if they could watch a dvd (we watch one once a week), and when I heard my son tell my daughter: “Mummy will come in a moment, she just wants to finish her job first” and “I could help you instead!”, and “after you have had lunch, then you can have a cookie”. I have by no means cured my children of impatience though!! But I am so pleased when I notice these little developments.

My son wanted a play sword, but I didn’t feel that his level of play was ready for a sword yet. I told him that he had to be five years old before he could be knighted and earn his sword: knights have to learn how to use swords properly after all! While he waited to turn five, every now and then he would ask about knights and we would talk about what they would do: good deeds, go on quests, help others, and fight dragons. We talked about how knights behaved: with courteous ‘golden’ manners, beautiful speech and caring for their appearance and their possessions (you can’t use a rusty sword!). He turned five, his Dad made him a wooden sword, we painted it silver, talked about how it could be used, and then knighted him with it. I have no issues about sword play now, because in the waiting he learned that the privilege of having a sword comes with responsible use. At all times when he uses his sword he must remember how knights behave. His knighthood has been withdrawn a couple of times, but never without the opportunity for it to be bestowed once more! In this case, the gift was worth waiting for.

More than that though, the whole idea of waiting implies that there is a time for everything. We are used, as a society, to having our needs met NOW. All advertising is designed around this idea. Why wait, when you can have it faster/cheaper/brighter/better … NOW! Advertising has really zoned in on what children like: colourful, cheerful images with lots of colour and movement. This grabs children’s attention, then it suggests that there is something that they NEED to have, and so, due to the nature of young children, needs become physical desires. They HAVE to have, and children have begun to get used to having their parents jump to it and supply their wants: food, toys, clothing, entertainment, social activities … and this has had its impact on childhood in so many ways!

In the 12 years or so that I have been working with children and families I have noticed a distinct lack of boundaries in children, and also a lack of manners. Yes, I am generalising here – I have noticed it as a trend amongst my own community, and noticed it as a common topic of discussion among my colleagues. Children are so used to having things, that it is nothing for them to accept things without the need for thanks, or to throw things away without any thought except that it will be replaced. Children are also losing the ability to play with their own imagination. Many a child came through our classrooms that we had to teach how to play, because they were so used to watching tv, playing electronic games, going to the movies, and being shuffled to three or four different types of after school activities each week. When could they possibly have the TIME to use their imagination or exercise their own stagnating creativity?

Little children dress like adults now. Mini-me outfits for kids are cute – occasionally – but I don’t want my daughter wearing a pair of knee-high boots with a mini skirt when she is two years old. I want her in overalls and gumboots! Make-up parties for 6 year olds? Sure, if it is a bit of fun at home with mum and some friends, but a full-on make-over at a salon, driven to and from in a limousine? I kid you not, these parties exist! Kids acting like grown-ups because grown-ups think it is cute.

I’m not suggesting these activities are not ok – I’m saying there is a TIME to do them. Teenage activities and concepts are for teenagers. Adult activities and concepts are for adults. Childhood is a time that is too precious to rush away by responding to our children’s desires for better / faster / older / more … they are only children for at the most a tenth of their life! And these are the years that we are the major focus in their lives. Why hand these years over to adulthood?

I think it is time to re-instate rites of passage in our communities. Knighting our five year old son was a rite of passage, it was a beautiful way for him to feel good about having to wait, about having to show us that he had learned and therefore earned something. Little moments like this should not be wasted! The things we gain for ourselves through time and patience and our own effort are not taken for granted. Waiting is a gift not to be wasted.

Thank you, Nansi, for teaching me this wisdom.

Starter Cultures

You may have noticed that a lot of my posts recently are about the role food plays in my life. I like food 🙂 Ever since attending the early childhood/biodynamic workshop with Sandra Frain in the beginning of the year I have been getting interested in starter cultures. Experiments with sour dough and yoghurt have meant that little containers of cultures have been sitting in my kitchen, full of future potential. Unfortunately I am once again (or probably have been all this time) sensitive to gluten and dairy – so the exciting and flavour-some experiments with sourdough breads and yoghurt have come to a bit of a stand still. I could continue them for my family … but I’m still looking into alternatives because I consider my family to be gluten and dairy free by default now :). Which means, essentially, that I can’t be bothered preparing meals based on two different diets, and right now I am looking into what is possible and healthy for ME.

I have found a recipe on the Weston A Price Foundation website for sourdough rice bread, so I will begin playing with that in the next few weeks, and I have come to learn about other cultures such as kefir and kombucha. I did come across them in my Nourishing Traditions cookbook, but I didn’t really understand what they were. I have to say they sound SOUR, but the comments I have read from people who enjoy these foods are positive. I guess it is about shifting your expectations of taste – which is a shift one has to make when embracing a diet that has many restrictions. Once you stop comparing the taste and texture of your food to the food you are used to then you can begin to appreciate the special qualities of the food you are currently eating (I have yet to learn how to love polenta but I’m coming to grips with buckwheat!).

But I am running off track – my thought this morning was about starter cultures … and like most of my thoughts, this one has started with one idea, then grown into another that is seemingly unrelated after it has been tumbling about in my mind for several weeks before forming into some kind of idea that I can write about.  When I was attending Sandra Frain’s workshop we were given a starter culture for COMPOST from a local intuitive gardener – that is right! COMPOST! Mine is still lovingly wrapped up and waiting in my temple room for the day we move into our next house so that I can prepare it properly (it needs to be buried for a year). As the weekend went on and we played with the idea of saving something in order to create more of it later, my thoughts began applying the idea of starter cultures elsewhere.

All cultures begin with a ‘mother’. The starter culture for kombucha is reverentially referred to as a mother, and people tend their Big Momma cultures lovingly because the babies they produce can be used to make more culture, or can be used to make a health-giving probiotic drink. It is all born out of love. Cultures can be grown and literally kept forever – a few changes here and there, and an ‘essence’ of each ‘generation’ is left behind each time the culture is fed and used and put aside to rest and regenerate. Cultures will change over time, but when treated with love they continue to produce indefinitely, with an essence of the original culture kept alive. When they are neglected they will die.

I am entranced with the idea that growth is born out of love. Love cannot help reproducing itself.

And here is another idea I was treated to last weekend. We were present at out mother’s birth. Yes, I was there as an egg in my mother’s ovary. Not only that, I was within my grandmother as an essence of myself and I carry an essence of her and an essence of my mother within me. In fact I carry an essence of ALL my past generations within me! Not only that … if I am carrying a daughter within me right now, then an essence of my granddaughter is also present. I’m not sure if the same thing works for sons – are they born with all their sperm just as girls are born with all their eggs? If so then I could be carrying my grandson as well 🙂 Each generation is a starter to the next. We are created from love, cared for through love, brought into life through love and then we continue the cycle. If love is present we thrive, if not then we do not thrive, but either way the potential to continue the culture is still there, and what a shame to waste it.

This thought has sure changed the way I think about what I pass on to my children – what cultures do I want them to continue in their lives, and in the coming generations?

Don’t Explain, Just Trust

I receive a little daily email update from EnjoyParenting.Com called the Daily Groove. These little updates are great, and unlike my posts they take 30 seconds to read and they get straight to the point!

I loved today’s message – it supports the post I tentatively put up about our journeys through parenting the other day. This “Daily Groove” post says for us not to bother explaining our parenting to others. Don’t justify it. Don’t defend it. Just do it.

I like that.

You can read today’s Daily Groove HERE