Welcome to the July 2015 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Summer Fun
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have talked about how to get out and enjoy the warmer season as a family.
I have wonderful memories of summer when I was a child. School summer holidays felt like they went on forever. My earliest summer memories are of making mud pies and grinding “flour” of grass seeds. I remember sitting cross-legged weaving daisy chains whilst chattering to the fairies. When I was a little older summer heralded great freedom. I usually left the house after breakfast and returned in the evening for dinner. Days were spent with other children who lived on my street in the woods or the park, perhaps creating a den to play in or hanging upside down from monkey bars. There was a small piece of land at the bottom of a lane that we called “The Island” which was covered with blackthorn and which would be defended from potential intruders by bombarding them with not yet ripe sloe berries. My younger brother tagged along with me just as the younger siblings of my friends did and our eight or nine year old selves were fully responsible for the wellbeing of these younger children and we ministered to any mishaps, using dock leaves to ease nettle rash and stemming the flow from cut knees. We somehow knew how to find food for ourselves and neighbours could be relied upon to supply a horde of feral children jam sandwiches before we set off for more adventures. We swam at the beach, we swung on ropes hung from trees and we covered many miles. In the long summer evenings the adults came out into the street and the road became the venue for epic games of rounders or cricket, teams of children taking on the groups of parents with games abandoned when the last light of the day seeped away.
Those summers of my childhood are long gone and I now have my own family made up of three almost grown young adults and a five month old baby. Grown up life with all of its responsibilities meant that for many years my partner and I worked long hours and our children when not in school went to childcare to make our jobs possible. Evenings were taken up by the various organised activities that our children participated in. Our day typically ended about 10pm when we would drop into bed exhausted and I would attempt to find sleep quickly as I would be up again at 5.30am and off to work a fourteen and a half hour shift in my job as a midwife in a local hospital. In recent years summer has become a time of relief for myself and my husband. An opportunity to reduce the constant ferrying our children from school and from one activity to another whilst my husband had a break from teaching that enabled some semblance of order to be created albeit temporarily in the household. This is the way it has been for more years than I care to count and something had to give but although we talked often about how things could be improved when you are stuck on such a roundabout it is so very difficult to work out how to jump off.
In the past year our lives have been overhauled. It began with our decision to have another baby sixteen years after the birth of our daughter. Discovering that I was pregnant was swiftly followed by our sixteen year old son who plays rugby league at a national level gaining a place at a prestigious academy where he would have the opportunity to further his sporting career whilst studying. Suddenly everything was changing. Our son was not ready to go his own way in the world and we knew that we wanted a simpler way of being for our new child. A decision was made; we would move to Glastonbury, a town which we had visited regularly for years and which was close enough for our son to commute to the academy. We had talked about it often but there had always seemed to be too many reasons not to move.
My partner has left teaching (at least for now) and taken a job with a small charity which enables him to walk to his work which is just five minutes away. My eldest daughter has just completed IGCSE exams as a home educated student and has a place at a very good college for September and my eldest son and his girlfriend have also moved here and live just five minutes away. All of my children have local jobs, and me? Well, I am on maternity leave right now but have made the decision to stay at home with my new baby. I wrote my resignation letter just a few days ago. For now I will not be working outside the home but I have a seedling of an idea for a small creative business which I eventually plan on beginning from home, enabling me to give my youngest daughter a childhood free from childcare facilities and to educate her at home when the time comes for that. In the space of a year our lives have changed enormously. Where we were spending a minimum of £300 per month on fuel to just get to school, work and activities we now rarely use the car at all. Our days are simpler and we have free time for ourselves and time to spend together as a family. It is such a relief.
Having a baby in the home again has given us the chance to really look at our priorities, to consider what sort of life we want to provide for her. My older children are wonderful people. They are intelligent, interesting and caring. I did my best for them but inevitably I am a different person from the young mother I was to them in my early twenties when I was driven by career and academic ambition. For my youngest I want a simpler life. I have been deeply inspired by Waldorf which is as much a way of life as an educational approach. Waldorf calls for simplicity, natural toys, a gentle childhood allowing children to play freely, delayed (by standards we expect now) academics and gentle rhythms – which brings me back to summer.
Rhythms are the patterns which make up your day, your week, your seasons and your years. In Waldorf you will hear about breathing in and breathing out times as part of the rhythms of the home. This means that children go through alternative periods of concentration and expansion, like taking an in-breath and out-breath. The Waldorf home life should be developed with this in mind and the rhythms which you create whether this be daily or seasonally should contain a balance of both kinds of activities. Summer time is an invitation to breath out. The days are long and are a call to play, to rest and to rejuvenate the tired spirit with plenty of sunshine. See your children’s days as they might and think about how you might bring a balance of in-breath and out-breath activitiesinto daily life. One element of rhythm is tradition. What summer traditions do you want to create for your family? How do you want your children to remember their summer days when they look back? Family traditions for the summer might include trips to the seaside, barbecues, picnics or hikes. It could be setting up a paddling pool in the garden or visiting an outdoor pool. You might like to go kayaking or canoeing. You could have a late night family trip away from the lights of town to view the night sky through a telescope or perhaps go berry picking. Create traditions for your family that reflect your interests.
Summer of 2015 heralds a new opportunity for my family. We have been blessed with the arrival of this beautiful little soul at the time when my older children take their first steps out into the world and this has inspired us to overhaul our lives. This summer we begin to create new traditions and build new memories. I don’t yet know what these will be but I look forward to finding out. What will I remember from this summer? We are sitting beneath a silver birch tree, my daughter is laying on a wool blanket on the earth and she is chattering away to something only her innocent eyes see. I close my eyes, taking in the beautiful baby chatter. I don’t disturb this moment for her. My attention expands to take in the wider sounds around me – children are playing, birds are calling and I feel the sunshine warming me. The spell that held my child’s attention is broken and she turns her smile towards me. She is the beginning of a new journey and my heart knows that anything is possible.
Visit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants: