Tuesday, November 15, 2016

my work (of art)


i have not been much of an outside person for most of my life. as a kid, absolutely—i lived outdoors all day long, all summer long. we didn't have a tv for most of my childhood (or rather, we did but it was approximately five inches and the only tv i remember watching on it was the 1988 election), but what we did have is imagination and open spaces. we had those in spades. and i cannot imagine a better childhood than one in which you have the freedom and ability to run around outside, all day long. that is the childhood i have been longing to give my own children. but after childhood, i went to high school, and i got a job at starbucks. then i went to college and majored in journalism, and nowhere in there did i spend a significant amount of time outside. and at some point, i lost my love for being outside, for exploring, for breathing in fresh air. it is the certainty, necessity, and tragedy of growing up that you lose the impetus to imagine and play pretend as you once did.

growing up involves all kinds of heartache, regret, struggle, delight and conflict. we all want to live our best lives. we all have these ideals, these halcyon-fueled dreams about what life we should be living. or at least, i do. in my mind, i'm writing every day. running every day. calm, collected. always prepared for dinner guests. composting for our garden. cooking from my bon appetit. i'm also possibly very successful in some sort of career other than mothering.

mothering, it turns out, is so very hard. no one moment is hard. waking up in the middle of the night to hold a crying baby isn't hard. taking your kids to the grocery store or park or playdate isn't hard. wiping up messes and bums and runny noses isn't hard. meticulously planning a nutritious, wholesome, child-friendly meal isn't hard. what's hard is the day after day after day (and night)-ness of it. when you go to a job 40 hours a week, there is always some relief in the evenings and on the weekends of getting to walk away from that part of your life and having a change of scene. even if you love it, or especially if you don't love it, the break is vital. and mothering has no such breaks. i would never say i need a break from mothering. but i have often felt that i need a change of scene. a break from the same old tasks done morning till night.

about every year or so, i go on this search for what i should really be doing with my life. what is my metier? is it architecture after all? or maybe interior design? i thought for awhile (before i realized the amount of school involved) i would like a degree in art/antique restoration. should i have done more with my french? should i have stuck with fashion design? is there something in business i'd be good at? will i ever actually write a novel? what could i possibly be doing other than this??? i am starting to realize it's just part of my dna, and it's fun to think of all the different ways my life could be going.
if i had it to do all over again, i often think i would choose a completely different area of expertise from what i've ended up with. but the truth is, i am doing what i've always wanted to do — building a family, a home. and mothering.

so instead of spending all my time lamenting what could be, i've been slowly (re)awakening to the idea that what i'm doing here is itself a priceless work.

it isn't that my kids are too needy or too active or too accident-prone. it isn't that i hate folding laundry and doing dishes and planning menus. it isn't that i would rather be sitting in meetings and going out to lunch and having clients and making money — although, sure, those all sound pretty great some days. it's just that i've lost sight of the fact that this is what i wanted all along. and that there is really nothing i would rather be doing with these years of my life, no matter how much i might think it on the 1,316th day of sticky fingers and twinkle, twinkle, little star and interrupted naptimes.

i love the idea of my kids growing up simply. fewer screens. more fresh air. fewer artificial ingredients. more real foods. fewer toys. more imagination. i really believe that fresh air, dirt, sunshine, open spaces and imagination are the life blood of childhood. i believe they are vital to all human beings, but even more potently so for children. i also believe in the dusty shelves full of books and muted, sacred sounds of libraries. i believe in words, in games, in exploration, in learning, and in the human connection. i believe these things constitute the art of childhood.

and it is to this work of art that i am (re)dedicating myself to.

so, i am embarking on a homeschool preschool type of thing, and i've been doing research into forest schooling. i'm not interested in strict schedules or curriculum or lots of activities. but i am interested in focused explorations. in partially guided discovery and learning. in education through nature and in the kitchen and through books and songs and art. we won't be doing any kind of alphabet emphasis, because if you know my first-born at all, you know he has been obsessed with the alphabet since he was 18 months and he really doesn't need any more support or encouragement in that area. plus, it's kinda boring. we will, though, be checking out and reading lots of library books (my favorite thing!). we will also be exploring all our local outdoor areas and learning all about the physical universe. i love the idea one of my friends shared with me that: "preschoolers mostly need to be active and to be loved. they will learn automatically and without much effort." i'm quoting her because i just love those words so much. they ring so true with our family experience and with what i am aiming for with this—love and freedom, wonder and adventure, encouragement and imagination. and all the outside time we can get.

so, wish us luck! and if you have any tips or local resources for forest schooling, send them our way!


  1. so very well said. thank you for the encouragement! that grass on the other side always seems to look greener, doesn't it? it's easy to forget the wonder and preciousness of motherhood especially when the days and weeks seem to just string together. your forest schooling sounds like so much fun!

  2. love this post. I drive my husband crazy with wondering what else I should or could be doing in an addition to motherhood. Thank you for this post :).

  3. I love this so much. I wanted to point out all my favorite bits, but that would get too long, so let me just say I love it all: the sentiment behind it, the writing itself, the insight, the plan, even the tree picture :) I feel like you are echoing (if an echo can be more eloquent and more insightful) my own persistent conundrum, and I am thankful to be reminded that I'm not alone, that we are all trying to make our way, and that there is hope :) Thanks for this post!