Tag Archive | Carnival of natural parenting

All my Summers

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.

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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.

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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit 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:

Making Memories: Lessons from my baby

in the June Carnival of Natural Parenting, Code Name: Mama wrote this letter in which she offered advice to herself in the present moment. One thing she wrote caught my attention since it summed up a feeling I’ve been experiencing since the birth of my baby girl five months ago – “make a memory each day.” A few words and seemingly simple. However, five months into my relationship with my new daughter I realise how fleeting a moment is. Time marches ever onwards, oblivious to my wish to capture the big things – the first smile, the first time she rolls over, let alone the subtle day to day happenings which make my heart melt.

This little one is my fourth child. A much wished for baby born two days short of sixteen years after the birth of our next youngest child. At the beginning of pregnancy I told myself that I wanted to savour every moment rather then wish time away and for the most part I did, but from time to time I found myself counting down, wishing away the weeks that needed to pass before my daughter was ready to be born. On the 24th of January she came into this world and into my arms and every day since she has melted my heart and my soul overflows with love for this little girl who is such a blessing in my life.

She is teaching me every day. I want so much to remember how things are in these precious early months of her life, to really remember. Not just the big things but the everyday details. She is teaching me to be mindful in a way my academic and spiritually focused self has never been able to. So much of my life has been spent in my head, my thoughts wondering, making plans perhaps thinking ahead to what might be. Like all babies and small children she lives in the present. This moment and only this is what matters to her. Is she feeling hungry? Then let mama know right now. How does she reach that toy? She must put every ounce of concentration into pulling herself along the rug. There is the toy and there is her, nothing else. Mama is breastfeeding her – she will gaze into her mama’s eyes and there is only this moment. 

The other day I was distracted during a breastfeed and got caught up reading an article. My daughter made soft little noises and her hand reached up to me. I was not in the moment and she knew it. When I looked back to her, her little eyes gazed intently into mine, searching my face. She was checking in with me, was mama back with her? Was mama present for this feed? She knew I had not been. Her gaze questioned me. Did I not know there was only this moment? Satisfied that I was there with her she sighed, closed her eyes and settled in to feed.

Making memories every day is not for me about the achievements, the first times. It is about being spiritually and emotionally present. It is about being mindful. It is the sweet scent of her hair, the way she clasps her hands in such a cute way, her smile lighting up her face when her brothers or sister come into the room. It is meeting her gaze and her knowing that I am right there with her. This challenges me to look carefully at my life. It means putting away the IPad whilst she is awake. It is taking care of my own needs so that I can be mindfully present. I am not perfect and I never will be. I will fail but I will try my best and my daughter will go on teaching me. I can make memories every day, and yes sometimes it will be something big – a first step perhaps. Mostly it will be the simple sweetness of a baby who knows only what is, not what was or what shall be.

Today I made a memory. I am laying in the dark. The air moves from the fan in the corner of the room. It is hot and this gives just a little relief. My baby daughter shifts in her sleep and turns her little body towards me, her mouth seeking my breast in the darkness. I tuck her into the crook of my arm and she shifts closer, her foot coming up to rest on my belly. Her mouth finds what it seeks and she suckles, pauses, waiting for the flow. My partner sleeps on the other side of me. He shifts and reaches out for my hand. His thumb brushes the inside of my wrist. My daughter reaches her hand up, searching for mine in the darkness. I reach to her and her fingers curl around mine. She settles in for her dreamy feed. I close my eyes and listen to the little sounds she makes and the steady breath of my partner. The fan turns towards me again and there is a moment of cool air. There is only this. This simple, beautiful moment in the darkness.

A letter to myself

Welcome to the June 2015 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Talking to Yourself

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have written letters to themselves. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

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Dear Mama,

Remember this. Remember this for it is at this exact moment that your heart expanded, became borderless in order to contain the love you have for your sweet baby daughter. Just short minutes ago your body was carried on a wave of primal energy as your womb contracted and a guttural moaning like nothing you ever made before emerged somehow from within you and you felt her move further and further towards the world. You are birthing mama.

Remember this. Remember the shock sensation as she slid from your body upon a wave of effort as you let out one final mother-bear roar and your eyes opened on a world that was forever changed because she was now in it. Just short minutes ago she was unknown to you, a little being hinted at in midnight kicks and wriggles. Child of your imagining, daughter of dreamy visions, of between-the-world auguries. You are visioning mama.

Remember this. Remember the first flutterings of deep blue eyes and the spark of recognition within them as they meet your gaze for the very first time, or perhaps for the millionth as surely you must now see that you have known this little soul since time immemorial? See how as you reach out to stroke her tiny little hand she curls her fist around your finger and in that moment you know you will do anything for her. In that moment you know you will reach for the moon, battle any dragon and shift mountains. You are warrior mama.

Remember this. Remember her rosebud mouth seeking your breast, her lips finding their destination and those first tentative suckles as she calls upon your body to nourish hers for the first time. Remember your breasts responding to the call to sustain her little form from yours, the milk-flow reaching her little mouth, and she sighs her pleasure and settles in for the first of many feeds. You are nurturing mama.

Remember this. Remember her sweet baby scent. Oh, the scent of her. No herb, no bloom, no expensive perfume has ever compared to her sweet baby smell as you seek to know her in your soul. In this moment you did not know it was possible to love so intensely. Years from now, when the milk has long since ceased flowing you will be able to close your eyes and relive the scent of her. You are loving mama.

Remember this. Remember all of this and more. This is a new world. Each day she will grow a little. Each day you will journey a little further away from this moment so take it all in. Every bloody, blissful, joyous detail of these first moments with your new baby daughter. Do not forget mama. Wherever this journey as her mother should take you always remember this.

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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo 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:

  • Dear Me. — Meegs at A New Day writes to her decade-younger self offering a good reminder of how far she’s come, and she addresses some fears she wishes future her could assuage.
  • Reflecting on Motherhood with Parental Intelligence: A Letter to Myself — Laurie Hollman, Ph.D. at Parental Intelligence writes about raising her two loving, empathic sons with Parental Intelligence and finding they have become industrious, accomplished young men with warm social relationships.
  • A Letter to MyselfThe Barefoot Mama writes to herself in the moments around the birth of her daughter.
  • A Letter to Myself — Holly at Leaves of Lavender offers a missive to herself in the past… three years in the past, to be precise, when her little one was only four months old.
  • Dear me: Nothing will go the way you’ve planned — Lauren at Hobo Mama gets real with her just-starting-parenting self and tells it to her straight.
  • A Letter to the Mama Whom I Will Become — Erin from And Now, for Something Completely Different writes a letter to the Mama whom she will one day be, filled with musings on the past, present, and future.
  • Dear Me of 7 Years Ago — Lactating Girl at The Adventures of Lactating Girl writes to her pre-baby self telling her about the whirlwind she’s about to enter called parenting.
  • Talking to My 18 Year Old SelfHannahandHorn talks to herself as she is just entering college.
  • Dear highly sensitive soulMarija Smits tells a younger version of herself that motherhood will bring unexpected benefits – one of them being the realization that she is a highly sensitive person.
  • Talking to myself: Dear Pre StoneageparentStoneageparent enlightens her pre-pregnant self about the amazing transformations life has in store for her after having two children
  • Dear Me: I love you. — Dionna at Code Name: Mama wrote herself a few little reminders to help her be at peace with who she is in the moment. That may give her the greatest chance of being at peace in the future, too.
  • My best advice to the new mama I was 8 years ago — Tat at Mum in Search shares the one thing she wishes she’d figured out earlier in a letter to her 8-years-ago self (that’s when her first baby was 6 moths old).
  • A Letter to Myself — Bibi at The Conscious Doer sends a letter back in time eight years to her darkest moment post partum.
  • To me, with love — Jessica at Crunchy-Chewy Mama makes peace with her past and projects what a future her will need to hear.
  • To Myself on the Last Day — Rachael at The Variegated Life tells her panicked last-day-before-motherhood self not to worry.


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