Today has been a doozy of a day. After about a week of getting actual sleep after about 4 years of not sleeping, the night I knew was coming came and I am exhausted. We recently moved our three children into one room (we live in a small two-bedroom home) and the first two nights were great, with even one night of our youngest simply lying down and falling asleep during stories. Last night was the inevitable rough night that I had anticipated…my eldest woke up in the middle of the night and her act of opening the door woke our youngest, who is currently cutting her two-year molars and impossible to help back to sleep easily. My youngest is my most strong-willed, and teething appears to be an eye- and ear-opening experience. Ear-opening because today she has screamed or cried the majority of the day, unless she is held, though even holding her hasn’t stopped the crying at times.
There have been moments today where I have failed to give love and instead have let my temper and patience get the best of me, but there have also been moments where I have paused and let my anger subside and chosen to just give her love. I’ve found myself quieting my voice, and giving love to my youngest, nurturing her even when she is thrashing in my arms and crying, humming to her, putting her in the carrier, telling her that it must be so painful to have those big teeth poking through her sore gums. This is my act of nurturing my child today.
Every day we can find ways to nurture ourselves and our children. It isn’t always easy and sometimes it may seem impossible, but putting aside our desires at times and giving ourselves to our children makes everyone a bit happier, though it may not immediately seem like it. For instance, last night (the inevitable rough night I knew was coming) began with a rough start. In putting all three children to bed, my youngest decided she needed to be held while I told stories or else she refused to go to sleep. Having recently hurt my back, this took its toll on me, but I knew it was necessary so I gave her that gift of closeness and nurturing, while simultaneously knowing that this cannot continue each night. My eldest decided to dictate the story, deciding the characters and main events before I began, and then stopping me at various points with a very quiet and polite, “excuse me mama” and proceeding to interject what she’d like to have happen. My middle child, Lincoln, asked for an extra story, which I told after laying a restful Adella down in her crib. Though he chose the story, he didn’t care for it after I finished and complained, “Gross story. You are a gross mama!”
I started to get upset and let him know I didn’t care for his being rude to me, and then I took a moment to reflect on where Lincoln is right now developmentally and emotionally. He is having the hardest time with me taking care of another child in our home. Though at times he and the additional boy in our home play well, a lot of the time Lincoln is either jealous or trying to control this younger boy. The tension comes and goes, but in the middle of helping Lincoln go to sleep last night, I remembered this and took his response to my story as a cue that he needed some extra love. I asked him if he’d like me to snuggle in his bed for a bit and he said yes. We snuggled, I sang, and after a few minutes, he told me, “You can go now mama. I love you so very much. I’ll see you tomorrow. Bye Mama” and soon after I left the room, he fell asleep.
Assessing our children just as they are, seeing them at the developmental moments they are in, looking at their environment to see how it is affecting them and then acting in accordance are loving ways to nurture their bodies, minds, and spirits. These acts can be added to the daily nurturing rituals of making and offering healthy organic foods, creating time for moments to cuddle (hair brushing, foot rubs, or simply lap time while sharing a book), and creating and instilling a daily rhythm.
The same goes for ourselves. It is so easy, and ultimately often harmful, to allow society and its many rules and judgments to say what is healthy, what is “right” for ourselves and our children, even how we are to look. When we can step away from these rules and judgments and give ourselves the time we need to start learning to trust our intuition and to seek out information from sources we feel aligned with, we can find those real ways to decide what is healthy and nurturing for all our family and those in our care.
Mara Spiropoulos is the blog coordinator and parent voice for the LifeWays North America blog. She is a recent graduate of the LifeWays training program, resides in Milwaukee, WI, and is a full-time mother to 3 young children. Mara enjoys spending time in nature, reading and researching natural parenting and living, and crafting. She would love to hear from anyone willing to be a guest writer. You can reach her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.