My parents are fifty years older than I am. Being raised by grandparents gave me a different perspective on life than many people my age. We were also poor so that helped too. My life was surrounded by olden-day things. We lived off our small town yard. We grew produce and bought meat and eggs from local farmers. Sometimes a friend would even stop by and give us fresh cows milk. Our life was simple and all I ever heard about was how my parents lived – travelling by horse to school, out plowing fields at the age of ten, Grandma making and selling butter to the hospital, and so on. This simple life became part of me.
As a mom struggling to balance work and home-life I often wondered how my grandmothers raised their children among all the farm errands that needed to be done. They were poor, lived off the land and did not have the conveniences I have. Despite all my conveniences I’m lucky if I get the dishes washed once a day let alone vacuum, do laundry, clean the bathrooms, run errands in the city and make a meal from scratch.
My grandmother looking stylish as she helps out around the yard.
How did they manage to feed the farm animals, shave the sheep, pick eggs, make their own butter, milk the cows, sew their own cloths, spin wool, haul water, manage sop pails and still play with their kids? Did they play with their kids? How did they do it?
My great-grandmother spinning.
It is more than just the housework and running around. My uncles and aunts learned musical instruments, they built things, they were innovators. They used their minds and created what they needed. They built barns, boats, houses and were even known to build their own musical instruments. How did they do this with all the other stuff going on?
Since so much of my childhood encompassed topics of the olden times, before there were telephone lines and a road from Rose Valley to Wadena, I viewed life from the lens of the 1920s. I wanted a simple life, with natural toys, homemade food and to be in a rural community surrounded by nature. There was something inside me that really valued being a mom and a homemaker but it seemed so hard.
Slides were not as common back then as they are today.
More childhood fun. Why not try to stand on a sheep’s back? Crazy kid:)
Who thinks to do that now-a-days? Do kids use their imagination in this way?
My little girl was two years old when I first put her on the bus. It felt wrong to me but I had no idea how to parent her so it seem best that I sent her off to people who would know and give her what she needs. Surely others could do it if I couldn’t right? I discovered Waldorf the summer after my daughter’s first year of pre-kindergarten. It was purely by chance. One of those Google searches that skittered off in a different direction and our life has never been the same since.
I didn’t realize how dried-up I was inside. I was cracking from a lack of moisture/spirituality/awareness/understanding and I had no idea. I accepted my life the way it was. Once Waldorf entered my life I literally felt like dark, moist, rich soil – fluffy, light and full. Anything could grow in me.
As I read Waldorf material and learned about olden-day-things like the rhythm of the days, week, month and year. For example, Sunday was church, Monday was wash-day, Tuesday was bread-day. Or in terms of the year: winter you planned your garden; spring you planted; summer you relaxed and let things grow; and late summer and fall were harvesting times. I began to relate to how my ancestors lived off the land and wanted to incorporate more nature into our lives. I learned how they found balance in the natural rhythm of nature and their lives. My mom used to tell me that my grandfather would say there would be six snowstorms after the crows arrived. Where has our attachment to nature gone in the last 100 years?
When we had our little girl we asked family and friends to only give her natural toys. This failed. We struggle to find any. Waldorf open my eyes to what toys are and how making them in the home not only helps your child develop mentally and physically but also creates a rhythm and harmony inside the home.
The biggest item I learned that summer was the breathing-in and breathing-out in a day. I noticed how Teela would play on her own a lot in the morning but come lunch time she needed more of my attention. Later afternoon I could leave her to play on her own and we come together again around supper time.
She breathes in when she plays on her own. Her wanting to be with me, interacting with someone or nature, is breathing out. We need to balance this throughout the day. When your kids have watched TV too long and are rowdy in the basement you kick them outside. They have been breathing in for too long. They need to breathe out.
Once I started to be aware of what Waldorf pointed out to me I noticed how this new awareness benefited her and I. My confidence grew as a parent. I could be a mother to her. I was beginning to build an awareness of how I could be her parent verses parent her.
One year later we are still practicing. Learning to be alive after being a zombie for more than thirty years of my life takes time. Slowly we are improving and adding more and more Waldorf theories to our lives. Our parent-child relationship has blossomed. This isn’t to say that we’re not still figuring things out.
Waldorf taught me how to be a mother, wife, and myself. It taught me to trust my intuition and be aware of nature. It brought traditions, rhythm, love, and patience into our home. All of these things which were part of daily life for my grandmothers and great grandmothers. Whenever I hear a parent say that they could never be home all day with their children and that they wouldn’t know what to do with their kids or their kids would drive them crazy, I think to myself, they don’t know themselves. They don’t know all that they can be. This is what Waldorf teaches you – it gives you tools to see the world in front of you and within.