PART ONE: A PERSPECTIVE FOR PARENTS
The summer months are a time of natural, radiant light and outward expansiveness. We are fully drawn out of ourselves and into nature and into basking under King Sun! Yet, at the same time, Midsummer’s Day (also known as St. John’s Day or St. John’s Tide Day) marks the day where the light and darkness are equal and the hours of light actually become shorter each day as the world heads toward fall. In this respect, we are called to make an inward inspection of ourselves and perhaps prepare ourselves anew with newly-found strength for the longer, darker days ahead.
Since in Waldorf parenting we start with the adults in the family as models for the children to imitate, I suggest as a meditative focus this summer for mothers to contemplate the phrase “mindful parenting”.
What does mindful parenting mean to you personally? To me, it means that I am in control of myself and my actions in front of my children, that I consider their feelings along with their needs, that I show my children empathy for their feelings, that I bring joy and laughter and warmth to my parenting. To be a mindful parent, I must consider the “bigger picture” of parenting – where my children are developmentally, where they have been, where they are going, what their temperaments are and who they are as beautiful individuals and how we all work together in one family. I must also consider my own “cup” – is it full, how do I get it full within the context of parenting? I can be a beacon of light and love for my children when I am centered and calm and peaceful.
Even if you are in a parenting stage that perhaps you are not particularly enjoying, perhaps here is a Waldorf parenting view you can take and use: the notion that there really are no difficult children, although there can be difficult behaviors that children show us. When we break things down into a behavior and NOT the child, it opens a gateway so we can look at that behavior. Why is this behavior triggering me as a parent so? What do I need in this moment to be more fulfilled and peaceful that is separate from what my child is doing? Is this an issue of safety? Or is it an issue that just bothers me but I could gently direct it? Most of all, can I be warm and loving and caring even if I have to set a limit?
Waldorf parenting in the Early Years focuses on creating love and warmth in the home; a feeling of joy and laughter and humor; a sense of gratitude and wonder for the children; imitation and less words; the physical environment being orderly; meaningful adult work; creative play; protection for the senses of the child. How are these things shaping up in your household this summer?
These are the kinds of inward questions that shape my days of parenting, and the kinds of inward contemplation I do in my own parenting as we draw closer to St. John’s Day (Midsummer’s Day).
PART TWO: CELEBRATING SUMMER WITH YOUR CHILDREN
On the lighter side of celebrating the summer, here are a few suggestions that may assist you in having a peaceful, happy and safe season:
· I recommend that parents look at holding some kind of rhythm over the summer that includes time during the day for inward activities as a balance to all the out-breath of activities. These activities could include such things as keeping a time to tell a story each day; puppetry of beautiful tales; modeling with sand; creating little books out of watercolor- painted background paper with moving figures on craft sticks. Having daily rest times after lunch out of the reach of the sun is also a necessity for each day, as is an early bedtime to recharge for the next day!
· The outward expansiveness of this time draws the children into nature and providing time for water play through use of walnut shell boats in a tub, play at the beach in the sand and the surf or at the lake is so important. During these times, we must as parents be vigilant to protect our children’s safety around the water and also the children’s senses – warmth is still important in even in the summer as many children cannot feel how cold they are getting in the water and insist they are fine even if their lips are blue and their teeth are chattering! Small children should still be wearing a sun bonnet as opposed to going bald-headed to also foster that sense of warmth and protection from the rays of King Sun.
· Another area to consider besides water play is the natural playscape of the garden and the berry patch. Picking berries, canning or freezing them and having the children help you in the kitchen to create delicious cobblers and pies are memorable experiences that can occur every year and build a rhythmic quality into your summer activities as a family.
· Gardening and including children within the garden spaces by planting sunflower houses, making houses with cloths over bushes or small trees and providing general spots for the children to be hidden away from the world and meld into the flowers are wonderful opportunities to connect with nature. Do you have these spaces available for your children’s play?
· Planting specific types of flowers to attract butterflies, bees and birds is a wonderful way to foster a close connection to the animal and plant world. Small children under the age of 7 do not need to know all the names of the plants or birds, but they will remember what animals they see and the insect friends they find in the garden! Hard, real work in the garden with your two hands and having equipment available for your children to assist you fulfills a quality in the young child of seeing real work being performed and later these gestures may come out in the child’s play. Digging for worms and grubs while you garden is part of the fun for the small child, as is running in a sprinkler afterwards!
· As mentioned briefly above, this may also be a wonderful time to enliven your play areas both outside and inside. What areas do you have available in your yard for digging, creating sunflower houses or blanket forts? What areas do you have inside for creating art or other types of projects? If you sit down and create things yourself, you will suddenly have an audience that wants to create along with you!
· Creating a beautiful Nature Table where you can celebrate the “finds” of the summer is another traditional passage to mark the changing of the Seasons. The Nature Table at this time may focus on the colors of King Sun himself, those colors of yellow, red, and orange fire! Shells, flowers you find blooming outside, a bowl of fruit could all be added to your Nature Table. Representations of a few summer creatures such as bees, snails or other animals in your area could also be added. You can make certain the mineral,plant, animal and human realms are represented in your Nature Table and add to it bit by bit over the summer months.
However, most of all, the summer can be a time to spend a quantity of time with your precious small children, to love and nurture them!
Have a wonderful summer,