About a month ago, as I stood at the kitchen sink meditatively washing the dishes I saw how our family has lived through two full cycles. When our eldest was an infant, my life was full. It seemed there was not a moment for me to let out my breath. I was passionately observing and experiencing the growth of a human being—well three human beings really. The prime one was the toddler who was largely in my care, then there was the growth of myself through my new role as mother, then there was my mate and his growth in his new role as father and sole provider of food and luxuries for his family. Speaking only from my side of things, not to detract from my husband’s own sense of responsibilities, life was quite intense for me. I had yet to learn how to balance all facets of my life. I allowed myself to be totally occupied with my passion for our child. I was busy being and doing what I loved.
As time passed and we lived our lives to the fullest, we settled into routines that we could handle comfortably. A few more children were born, this magazine was born and many other life changing threads were woven into our tapestry.
At the time of writing this, our eldest is almost 15. She has moved from being the only bird in the nest to being the eldest of three. She’s learnt to step aside to allow space for her siblings. She can cook and prepare meals, clean up after herself, mend and sew clothes, is at peace with our natural surroundings, can handle herself in different social settings and so on. However, the past twelve months has seen a shift where her dependence on me has increased. This is where I see the cycle.
She’s reached a place within herself where she can see the world that extends beyond herself, her family, extended family and friends and local community. Now she wants to explore the wider world to see how she could fit. She also wants to delve into more abstract learning. It isn’t enough for her to be content with seizing opportunities that come her way and going with the flow. She wants to plan. She now wants to know about life for people in other countries; how animals, plants and people live and grow; she wants to know about those stars and planets that constantly embrace and mystify us; she wants to be able to do more than measure and compute. *² She wants to be able to dance more than just her own style, and so on. She wants to do all this—and more—with me by her side, as her fellow student. What an honour! And not so scary the second time around. [*² Wait a minute—that’s no different from the kinds of questions she’s been asking me since she could speak. How is it different? There is a difference. Nowadays she will voice her questions but will seek beyond my responses. She is using more than just the Parent Almanac, turning also to reference books and other sources.]
When she was first born, the responsibility of being her guiding light was sometimes scary—I didn’t know if I was the right person for the ‘job’. Nowadays I know that I am the best person for the ‘job’.
This latest shift has meant lots of reshuffling for me. It’s meant listing priorities, assessing how I spend my time and looking for ways to fit in my new role while not losing sight of a balance of my needs. Studies of other cultures is easy enough for her to do on her own—there are many brilliant documentaries and it’s easy to discuss her discoveries in conversations throughout the day. Studies of human anatomy are great for us to do together. I can see how my own values are still being stamped on her learning in this area. (For example, extolling the advantages of taking good care of our bodies, treating them as a temple.) Study of anatomy, or for any subject really, is quite dry when only a reference book is used as a source of information, but discussion brings it to life.
Without going into detail in the various areas she has chosen to study, I would say that my present role is to engage in intellectual exchange of interpretation and information in greater depth than I used to. I am still modelling my attitudes to challenges and to the unknown, but that is what she is asking for when she is asking me to be her study companion. She likes where I’m coming from. She trusts me to be honest and to show her as many different ways of seeing and doing things as possible. When she’s ready, I see that she will move into studying subjects or topics through such institutions as TAFE or Open Learning .
I forsee that in another seven years there will be another debut, this time venturing deeper into the wider world, on her own—and, comfortingly for me, with a solidarity and lightfootedness that comes from being allowed the time to get to know her self.