I am thrilled that you have embarked upon this rigorous, holy career – to raise a child, or to raise more than one child. I’m going to focus on one aspect of Green mothering – the importance of nourishing creativity in ourselves and our children, just as Mother Earth does. Nature is our first teacher.
As mothers, we are Nature! We are privileged to feel our close connection to Nature as a child grows in our body and we learn what it is to share on a whole new level. If you have adopted a child, you are witnessing the miracle of the growth of a small body growing into an adult body, supporting the blossoming of his or her gifts. I’ve had the privilege of raising two healthy, productive sons who are now 30 and 27, one traditionally gifted and one untraditionally gifted.
And, yes, your child is gifted. No question about it. Each of us comes into the world blessed with affinities, talents and uniqueness that are needed by the world. As each plant and animal has a role in its eco-system, so does each person have an important role in the human eco-system, as well as the earth’s ecosystem.
Green motherhood is about looking to Nature to instruct us about how to be the healthiest, happiest mother possible, raising the happiest, healthiest children possible. As I’m sure you’ve observed, nature is endlessly abundant in its creativity. Life adapts to the environment it is offered with ever-changing forms. The gorgeous designs and patterns on fish, birds, mammals, leaves, and flowers endlessly move me. National Geographic reports that 500 new species of orchids are evolving each year! As a mother, you have participated in the creation of a new human life. What a miracle! Rest assured that you are a creative being and can bring that force to your child-rearing on a daily basis.
As our babies grow, so do their imaginations. We mothers hold the sacred space to protect the endless stream of possibility our children enter the world with. As they develop and become critical of themselves and are saturated by media, they often shut off the natural valve of new ideas. In order to hang in there for the long haul, we need to give ourselves a safe space to make use of our own imaginations. So we have to practice quieting our inner critic and getting out of our own way so that new ideas will come to nourish the child in our charge. I encourage you to sing, paint, act with other mothers as well as your children. Our behavior will forever be the model to our children.
I once had a mother say to me, “I’m just not creative,” as if it were an in-born trait that couldn’t be learned. You make new decisions every day as you come up against hard situations with your children. You find new ways to explain the world or demonstrate skills when your child is frustrated. You are creative all day long! When you care about child as you do, you are always searching for what works. That care drives your creativity.
Practical Ideas: Nature is constantly experimenting. Many seeds are blown on soil, concrete, grass, water. Who knows where a seed will sprout and take hold? Children mimic Nature and love to experiment. They love to play. If it’s not experimenting, it’s not play. In other words, if you know the outcome of a game, it’s no fun. So here are some ways we can turn the work of life into games that transform drudgery into drama.
*Dress Up Box – Having a dress up box with hats, capes, crowns, boots was a great boon to the fun of raising my children. Putting a hat on to fold laundry, wearing crowns while washing dishes, donning the cape while vacuuming changes the doing of daily tasks into a playful paradigm.
*The Race Against Time – On your mark, get set, go! – How fast can we put away the toys. Can we beat our record? How fast can you make your bed without any wrinkles? Got the stop watch ready. How slow can we put away the toys? Uh-oh, you’re moving too quickly.
*The Art Corner – Paper, crayons, scissors, glue, tempera paint, brushes, a table allows endless hours of expression and experimentation. Just like an iris seed grows up to be an iris and will thrive best with the right kind of soil, sun and water, your child is a particular being who will grow up to be herself with the right space for self-expression and experimentation.
*Delight in Differences – Nature sets clear goals and doesn’t micro-manage how they are achieved. For instance, all water has the goal of getting to the ocean, but the Mississippi River doesn’t tell the Colorado River how to get there. So when you set a clear goal for your child – like washing the dishes, putting away the laundry, doing homework – help them find their way to achieve it, giving ideas, delighting in theirs.
*Mastery, Autonomy and Purpose – The essence of human nature is that we want to learn (think of your child learning to walk), we want to be independent (think of your child wanting to have choices) and we want to have a bigger purpose (think of how your child wants to help). Daniel Pink articulates this so well in his book Drive. Holding a picture of your child’s love of learning, love of independence and desire helps in the midst of your daily overwhelming challenges. Your attitude will shift instantly if you focus on your picture of their success instead of what isn’t working. My younger son was told by a high school counselor that his learning challenges were so great he couldn’t go to college. When he asked me through his tears in 10th grade why God had given him disabilities, I told him he had what he needed to reach his dreams. He graduated from University of Texas (it was not easy) and is one of Dell’s top sales people. I always held the picture of his capability and shared that with him.
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Laurie Marshall, Artist and Educator
Author of Beating the Odds Now