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The Mothering Heart

"VENUS" by Frank Chester

Today I feel very fortunate that our school is a mere fifteen minutes away.  An abrupt and unexpected change in plans made it so that my boys have to have their violin lessons after school today, one after the other.  If he stays to wait for his brother, my younger son will be there until 5pm, which is long for a child his age. Already, yesterday, he had to wait an hour for his brother to return from a class trip and he came home and melted on the stairs, put his weary head on his arms, stared into space and begged for food. Today, two trips aside, I’ve decided it best that he come home as soon as his lesson is done. It is amazing what one hour of rest can do and I aim for him to have it. I don’t normally like it when the car goes back and forth, but today I believe in my heart that it is warranted. And I am so very grateful that we live nearby.

His brother, nearly 4 years older, can handle longer hours better, though I make sure he doesn’t have to go through many of them. Because he has missed so much school (he was away on a trip for a month) and all his violin lessons, I think it’s worth the extra hours today, though I’ve already started the sauce for the lasagna that is meant to surprise and welcome him home. It’s a dish he’s been asking me to make and I’m hoping the pleasure of finding a warm, mom requested meal waiting will ease his fatigue.

Mothering is an art, isn’t it? After hearing Frank Chester talk about his findings on the heart over the last two weeks, I’m starting to see the implications and connections to our day-to-day mothering.  He said one of the best exercises for the heart is to train ourselves to see both the center and the periphery and I find this very much supports the breathing-in an breathing-out rhythm in Steiner Education. The heart likes balance and it’s constantly organizing to achieve it.

That’s what mothers do–or strive to–for our children. When I think of my boys and plan their activities, I try to look to the center but also around them. When I think of their health (both of them are asthmatic), I look at what can help them physically and emotionally, but I also try to balance what’s coming at them from outside. It is one thing to care for them –diet, surroundings, rhythm, medication–and it’s another to see if I am providing an environment and outer rhythm that supports their healing.  Am I giving them too much? Am I being too restrictive or too lenient? How much media are they getting, how often and in what forms? What are they doing in between? It is this looking in then looking around that we are constantly bringing into balance for our children.

This is doubly difficult for me, as my children have to deal with two homes and two sensibilities. I’m always asking if perhaps a trip can be postponed, to give the children space to just be at home because kids need balance in big doses.  If they are away, we have to make sure that they can truly come home as well. If they’re already exposed to media, we have to see what kind and how often and what that means. We have to make sure they have their music and their movement and art as well.  We look in towards the center and also at the periphery. We create the outer environment that supports them in everything they need emotionally, physically and spiritually, as much as we deal with their daily needs and wants.

If we can bring this daily practice of looking at the center and the periphery (at the same time) into consciousness, and then try to do to the same with objects and nature, I think we will find a new kind of nourishment that will replenish us. Mothers so often look outside to what everyone else needs that we neglect our own needs, so that we become so very drained and exhausted.  We we must trust that we can do better at this task if we take care of ourselves and make sure that nourishment comes to us as well, and we are able to receive care with gratitude. Without guilt.

And that is the part of mothering every woman must pay greater attention to. It is not selfish; it is self-care. We need to be able to take so that we can give. We need that balance to keep our hearts healthy and in a state of giving freely.  A heart that knows how to give, but also take, is a mothering heart in balance.

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  1. jessie / Sep 5 2010 2:24 am


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