Kimberly’s Story: “Growing Into Motherhood”

I come to you today with joy in my heart as some of my long-term readers have agreed to share with you, dear reader, their own unique perspective and journey as they have grown and changed and developed into being a mother. Our second story in this series comes from Kimberly.  This is her story and journey for your inspiration:

 

Last week I felt like a new mom again. I hadn’t given birth or adopted another child; I simply found myself parenting in a situation I had never been in before and  in the moment everything I tried to do was failing. Puberty has begun for my oldest and as I tried to help him through an emotional storm I found myself feeling every bit as helpless as I did when I first had a newborn in the house.

Later I sat and reflected and asked myself what my child needed from me and the
answer was the same as it always has been. Presence. Not just physical presence,
but emotional presence.

I used to think that the three most important things in parenting and homeschooling were environment, rhythm, and health, and I still think they are significant tools for peaceful and joyful parenting, but I’ve come to see presence as being the most important gift to give my children. It has also been the very hardest lesson for me to learn.

When my babies were born providing presence was automatic and I didn’t need a
word for it. They cried, I responded. They smiled, I responded. They were
hungry, I provided nourishment. I held them ~ in my arms, in a sling, in a carrier.
As we slept together at I had an absolute awareness of my breathing guiding theirs.

The toddler and preschoolers years were years when presence was paramount, if
not as blissful. After a minute out of my sight the boys might be rigging tow
vehicles to the dog with bungee cords or “helping” me by spraying tile cleaner all
over the rug (child-proofing fail). Being physically present was an absolute
necessity, but while I still didn’t have a name for it, I found it harder to be
emotionally present at times. I was tired, busy, and overwhelmed with two young
children just 14 months apart in age. With hardly enough hours in my day to take
a shower alone much less find a quiet moment for reflection I was far too frazzled
to realize that I needed to be emotionally present for myself, much less my children.

I was a very attached parent in those early years, but it was without the calm and
grace that I instinctively sought. I knew what kind of mother I wanted to be, and I
was getting halfway there on instinct, but I didn’t have all the tools I needed. It was
only after we began homeschooling that I found holistic education with its
emphasis on environment, rhythm, and health that I started filling my toolbox and realized some of what I found I was doing already. My children didn’t watch TV or have
any screen time. We had natural, imaginative, non-electric toys because I preferred
them. The boys went to bed at an early bedtime. We even had a pretty good
rhythm; having a child who doesn’t do well with transitions I found it easier for us
to have a strong daily and weekly rhythm.

With a natural foundation I added to our environment and rhythm easily. I had
been a more is better person when it came to toys and books: we pared down. We
set up a nature table draped with colored silks and added rocks and sticks and
everything they could find. Slowly the clutter in other areas of our home and life
started falling away.

We solidified our rhythm. I started planning our meals with a weekly rotation, then
extended it to the month and finally to each season. My boys learned their place in
the week not by what day the calendar said it was but by what we did on each day,
be that visiting with grandparents or going to the weekly farmer’s market. The day
had a flow to it, and I built in things like taking a long, hot bath alone and slipping
away once a month to share an hour or two with a friend, sipping tea and sharing
stories without little ones in our arms or laps.

Our environment was warm and peaceful. Our rhythm was steady and calm and
facilitated me taking care of myself. From the warmth, peace, and calm came
presence. In those middle years of childhood, the ones I think of as the golden age
between 5 and 10, we learned and grew together.

I was no longer so very tired and overwhelmed, nor so preoccupied with everything
that needed to get done. I learned to slow down and experience our morning
walks, enjoying the chatter and frequent stops instead of hurrying everyone back
home, having walked because we were supposed to and not because I wanted to. I
learned to sit on the floor and play with blocks and do finger plays and make believe
because it was fun, not because I was a bad mother if I didn’t. I learned to be
present.

It was during these years that I got to know my children as individuals and amazing
people. I learned to listen, not just to hear. To listen not only to the words, but to
the dreams and fears beneath them. To listen with the purpose of understanding
rather than responding. To listen with presence.

I learned that you can’t fool children. If I was teaching a lesson but wanting them
to finish so I could vacuum the floor before company came they wouldn’t be very
engaged in the lesson. When I chose a lesson that I didn’t think was important but
I thought I “had” to teach they responded with boredom and reluctance. Every
time I approached something with less that my full presence they noted my
absence. I learned to bring nothing more with to the lesson table than my
enthusiasm and a basket of handwork for the times they worked independently;
they are old enough to do some of their work along now but my presence is still
very much needed.

That afternoon that I felt helpless I realized that I had been allowing my presence
to slip. I’d been having difficulty sleeping and would often wake after my boys.
That had to change right away and while the sleep struggles persist and I am
getting less sleep that I need I immediately saw the benefit. That physical presence
in the morning signals something to my boys; it broadcasts that I am here and
available and they sense that it is not only a physical presence, but a conscious
decision to be available to them.

These adolescent years aren’t necessarily easy, but they are fascinating and I feel
honored to be a part of my children’s journey from youth to adulthood. I’m
finding that they need my presence now just as much as they did when they were
toddlers and I worried about toilets (Edward the train never made it back out) and
toilet training (it really does happen when they are ready, whether that is at age 2 or
age 4).

They need me to be aware of their environment and to help guide their rhythm,
and they need me to take care of myself so that what I have to offer them is healthy
and whole. But most of all they need me to be there, present. Still I must work to
listen with less talking. Still I must take the temperature of their interactions and
be aware of when guidance is needed. Still I must recognize the need for sleep or
simply time away and encourage them to take it. Still, I must be at times, still and
present.

 

Thank you for your moving contribution of your story, Kimberly.

Many blessings, peace and joy,

Carrie

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11 thoughts on “Kimberly’s Story: “Growing Into Motherhood”

  1. What a beautiful tale of growing into motherhood! I find myself in the beginning, just where you started, overwhelmed and trying to find my way and create a peaceful, present space for our family. It is nice to see how this developed for you and how each stage unfolded and you were able to create what was best for everyone in the family. It reminds me that these things take time and thus, being present is even more important. Reading this excites and inspires me to be a parent, which is just what I need right now! Thank you so much for sharing this lovely story!

  2. Kimberly, this was wonderful! I love hearing the stories of those on the path ahead. It is so deeply comforting. Your reflections remind me of ‘Mitten Strings for God’- how lovely.
    Warmly,
    Liza

  3. These stories are so grounding for me, and bring me back to my instincts. Thank you for sharing your beautiful reflections and helping me to remember to stay true to my inner voice. It is so important to stay in the here and now! And yes, our children know when we have “left the building” mentally. ;-)

    Amy

  4. Thanks Kimberly, I really enjoyed this. My children are such early-risers, and I often sleep later than they do. Though my husband is up, I know it would make a tremendous difference in the day if I would just get up when they do too, as things start to fall apart quickly, almost every morning if I’m not up with them (hunger, bickering, etc.). You inspired me to shut down the computer and get to bed!

  5. Dear Kimberly, I am very touched by your words and your deep connection with your children as well as your personal insight. Thank you so much for sharing and your gift of inspiration!

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