Friday, September 30, 2011

Restoring Community

I wonder what my girls were thinking when they walked into the nature center tonight to see their mother holding hands in a large circle swaying and singing an Aboriginal Australian Song that meant go in peace, go in love, until we meet again.  Somewhere in their brain it must have clicked that something transformational is happening to their mother.
Tonight I attended a talk sponsored by Two Coyotes featuring Mark Morey of the Institute for Natural Learning: Creating Nature Based Culture for Future Generations  We were asked to examine some internal questions such as What is our Mission for Our Children?
Together the group answered: Love them, Challenge them, Feed them, Follow them, Provide a safe place for them to grow, Listen to them, Trust them, Honor them.  But how many of us are actually doing these things?  Really doing them?  How about in the face of unseen external influences such as media, marketing, industry, and culture?
As we examine these issues and begin to raise our consciousness we find ourselves asking, “What do I have to do to have a positive outcome for my child?”  How about providing a child as much access to the one thing that is not human constructed and hopefully not human influenced....nature.
In nature a child will always be learning, for nature is a teacher.  There is no natural flat land.  A child will become resilient in nature because he or she is always adapting in order to move through it.  If we don’t allow our children as much access to nature, what is the alternative? If they live in my neighborhood it is man-made parks, sidewalks, hallways, desks and chairs and playscapes.  If we are not allowing them to actively engage their senses, we are not teaching them to be resilient.

Given the state of our economy, the state of our natural resources, the fragility of our infrastructure, one thing that should be a priority as parents is to give our children the skills that our ancestors once had -- how to be resilient in the face of adversity, how to be self sufficient and how to live off the grid so that the next tropical storm or blizzard does not leave us asking “where is our power?”
Mark’s programs are about helping form your community, or your tribe, as I like to call it.  Some people are born into a community of Aunts, Uncles, Grandparents, mentors and teachers.  Unfortunately others are not, or their birth communities are not capable to provide the nurturing that our children need.  Then we can look outside to form our own tribe, chose our own adopted aunt and uncles, befriend those who will mentor our children, and give them skills and nurture their talents alongside their parents.
As I listened, I thought of my own life.  I have a close knit family.  My children have grown up with Sunday dinners at their grandparents house that are attended by their Aunt and Uncle.  Greg’s brothers and sisters have been involved in their lives, have attended baptisms, first communions, skating competitions, piano recitals, and the like.  They will remember their Great Grandparents and have a close bond with their Great-Aunt.  They are blessed.
In addition to this, our friends act as mentors to our children.  My children as as likely to climb on the lap of my friend Kim or Amy or Monica, as they are to climb on mine.  Grace learns much about becoming a young woman sitting at the kitchen table practicing her spanish while sipping a vanilla latte with the moms.  She is always welcome at their table and her voice is seen as equal to mine.  That is powerful.  That is empowering.  That is community building.  For it is not the latte that is that her spirit is honored at the table.  She is welcome there.  She belongs.  
As I grow and learn and seek out new information about my own life, I feel that I am creating a community that will provide my children with not only resiliency, but with innovation, creativity, value, honor, support, nurturing and love.  
This was a magical night.  While I was reaffirming the choices I have made in my life, my children were off with a Two Coyotes Instructor, enjoying three hours outside in the dark, around a campfire, listening to stories, playing games, sharing s’mores, drinking hot cocoa, laughing, learning and exploring nature at night.  A stormy night.  A night sky illuminated not only by the fire, but by lightning.  When they joined me in the circle, their faces were lit up as brightly as the night sky.  
What led me to this experience? What made me step out of my comfort zone?  The desire to become a more mindful parent.  The wish to provide my children with a community that will support them, nurture them and mentor them. The conviction that despite our world’s many problems, we can and will persevere. The hope that I can leave the next generation a better world by doing just one small thing.
The people I met and listened to at this event are doing this.  I would like to think that I am doing this as well. Every opportunity to be mindful and present and reflective in your life is a chance to learn and grow and develop.  Despite the fact that this has been the course of my life over the past few years, I feel there is so much left for me to learn and so much left for me to discover, about myself, my parenting, and the community I wish to be a part of.

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