Kerry writes: I grew up on the East Coast, lived for eleven years in a tiny ski town in Colorado and five years ago moved to the North Bay area of California. My westward migration opened my mind more and more, the closer I got to the Pacific. We settled in a small progressive town about an hour north of San Francisco in Sonoma County. The weather, beautiful coast, foods, and free-spirited lifestyle still feel like I’m on a long vacation. The biggest change is that all of the things in my life that were once considered “different” or “alternative,” were very much the norm here. There are three Waldorf schools in town and, for a Waldorf teacher, this is really nice. Yes, for the job opportunities and to send my own child to one of these fine schools–but also because I was tired of being asked, “A Waldorf teacher? Like the salad?” Yes, like the salad.
Speaking of salads, this area boasts hundreds of small organic farms that supply most of the restaurants. A Waldorf salad in this town would sound something like this: heritage black walnuts, biodynamic grapes, backyard grown organic celery, old growth local organic apples- you get the picture. This was great, but I would notice that when I was out at a restaurant, some people would need more than this kind of norm. More, as in: “Is it Gluten free?” “Is it Paleo?” “Where was this carrot grown?” “Are the herbs in that vegan burger organic?” “Dairy free, soy free, nut free?” Gee whiz, don’t the folks around here know how good they have it?! This scenario–that takes place every day here–can be best reflected in this hilarious clip from the show “Portlandia.” If you have a minute, please do yourself a favor and watch before reading on.
You may be wondering about now what does this have to do with mothering? Well friends, I had to set the stage. The characters in this video, they could live here in my town. In fact, we laughed so hard when we saw it. “I know people like that,” we would chuckle. Little did I know I had become one of those people, too.
A year ago, I became a mother to my sweet son. Stepping into this new role is equally as amazing as it is intimidating. With years in my pocket as an early childhood teacher, I had ideas about how to raise my child in a respectful, nurturing and holistic way. And, this town was the perfect place to practice this mindful mothering path. The first few months my baby was dressed in organic cotton, swaddled in plant-dyed silk and rested upon a lambs wool when not in our arms. Breastfeeding became the perfect inspiration for the uber-nourished-mama-diet: nettles for iron; fermented foods to build baby’s digestive flora; local organic fruits and veggies in season; and superfoods like chia seeds and goji berries. When my son began to eat solid foods, I bought organic grains and ground them myself with an old fashioned, hand crank grinder. He eats the freshest local biodynamic produce, and a few weeks ago we bought into a cow share for raw milk. We actually were asked to come and meet the cow (Delilah) and her calf before we were offered a share. I grew up eating Lipton’s chicken noodle soup packets (just add water); now I’m becoming more like a cross between Chef Alice Waters and Ma Ingalls.
Last month our family of three took a trip back east to visit my mother. This is her first grandbaby and she couldn’t be more in love. My mom borrowed a crib, a car seat, and a stroller, bought a portable high chair, wooden toys and stocked the fridge with baby-friendly foods that she traveled far and wide to procure or make herself. Of course, we were grateful beyond words. Through the week I noticed this little voice in my head wondering things like, “Is this crib mattress organic?” “How about the sheets?” “Is that yam that you roasted organic?” “Where did you buy it?” “What kind of laundry detergent is that?” “Did you reheat that in the microwave?” “Is that a plastic cup?” Then some of those wonderings were spoken.
At first, I felt righteous and wise sharing my infinite knowledge of a wholesome lifestyle with my mother. HA! I am a mother now too, and our baby will have the best of the best that we can give him. But then, I realized that I was acting like a twit. In her lifestyle, my mother was giving him the best of the best, which is all I could wish for. Only at the moment, I couldn’t even see that. Soon I realized that I was that couple ordering chicken on Portlandia…I am those people! That’s me! No!
I have become a food fundamentalist. One can be a fundamentalist about anything, from religion to kombucha. Being a fundamentalist about anything does not feel suitable for my values. In that moment, I was building an obstacle for my mom–an obstacle that was throwing a monkey wrench at her new role as a Nana. It was also an obstacle for me as I model for my child the fundamentals of gratitude, family values and love. I felt like a materialist, an over-the-topper. This nonsense was creating barriers for my true fundamental wish for authentic relationships in our family and circle of friends. As a student in my Lifeways training, the phrase “relationship-based care” struck a chord deep with me. Basically, children thrive when they are around adults being authentic, warm and enjoying life. That is what I wanted more for my son, more than a biodynamically grown yam. I wanted a family that was full of warmth and love with one another and, above all, that was being authentic.
The next day at my mother’s house, I sat by the window and watched as my son sat on her lap and ate peas. He was squealing with delight as he carefully picked up each pea and popped it into his mouth. I watched my mother caressing his dimpled little hands and holding her open palm for him to choose another; they were smitten with each other. I couldn’t think of any pea more nourishing than the ones she fed him that day.