Warmth is one of my favorite topics of this time of year, and I think it is so exemplified in the story of Martinmas. The beggar was cold and shivering, and St. Martin cut his cloak in two and gave half of it to the freezing man. This generous act of providing physical warmth led directly to the experience of faith for St. Martin. It reminds us that warmth comes on many levels.
Providing physical warmth for our children via layers of clothing and hats is so important, especially for young children whose physical body doesn’t work like an adult. Children have a metabolic rate that runs faster than an adult’s. Therefore, under the age of nine especially, they are unlikely to know whether they are truly cold or not. I am sure we have all experienced the child that is swimming in cold water and is literally blue, but doesn’t realize they are cold. This is common amongst children who really cannot tell their own temperature very well.
As parents, I think it is important for us to keep our children warm. We see this in many cultures all around the world – dressing babies warmly, even in subtropical and tropical climates. When our children are warm enough, then energy will not be diverted from the growth and maturity of the nervous system just in order to keep warm. Warmth allows our children to settle in, to not be restless, to rest and sleep and grow better, and to reach their fullest potential as human beings.
As a rule, we recommend three layers on the top with one layer tucked in, and two layers on the bottom. Here in Georgia I like two layers on the top and two layers on the bottom, just depending upon how cold and windy it is. Contrary to popular belief, the Deep South does see snow and we do get freezing temperatures, although this year we are still running remarkably warm for mid to late November. I like the Ruskovilla wool/silk blend woolens from Green Mountain Organics, and owner Michelle Morton is lovely to work with!
However, perhaps the most important part of warmth is the one that can be so difficult – providing warmth emotionally and in generosity to others. This doesn’t seem as if it would be difficult at all – we all love our children. However, sometimes the day to day routine of taking care of toddlers, preschoolers, and multiple ages is exhausting. Some mothers tell me it can be enough to keep everyone safe and cleaned and fed and to the bathroom and back, let alone to think about games, or playing, or entertaining, or having fun!
In parenting, we have to search for the joy. The outward manifestation of this warmth IS the nourishing care we provide, but the emotional component of warmth and joy is much more elusive. Do we delight in our children? Some children, particularly melancholic children, are much more sensitive to this barmeter than others. Small children NEED to sit on your lap and be close to you. I always say this about the age of four years old. Four is a great age for sitting on laps – but all ages love to be close. Teenagers will drape themselves over you. Emotional warmth and connection!
Playing, reading together, laughing, taking time together is this emotional warmth. For teenagers where nothing seems to be quite right, sometimes time alone with you as the parent and working shoulder to shoulder (not too much pressure to talk but being together), or taking a small outing, even just a walk without younger siblings, can be such warmth and wonder. I think being outside in nature also provides this essential warmth – the warmth of connectedness and interconnectedness of the world.
Lastly, generous acts for those less fortunate than ourselves is at the heart of the warmth of Martinmas. Consider collecting, volunteering, helping. This could be local friends in a tough spot this year or strangers in your community or the world. Enjoy this light, warmth, and protection of Martinmas by sharing it.