The other day, someone told me, “If Dr.Wayne Dyer can be called the father of intention, then Melisa you are the mother of rhythm an the guardian of the will.” Maybe I am. It sounds a bit silly. I have written about rhythm so much over the years that it becomes second nature to talk about and sometimes I worry that younger moms think “yeah well that crazy Melisa doesn’t know how busy my son is!” or “she must have easy children!” Now those that have been with us for years know that NEITHER is the case.
I do think that God has a sense of humor – or maybe it is a sense of teaching us what we ask for. The summer before I conceived Sariah, I had been praying to find deeper ways to connect with the families I work with. I felt like I still had so much to learn about humility and empathy. I learned so much through our own recent struggles. Between having a sensory sensitive infant that is now a CRAZY busy toddler and a teen son that decided he wanted to try living with his birth father, humbling is the least of my lessons! Unconditional love, strength through prayer and acceptance of things that can not change are on that list too.
These last two years had me learning new ways to tweak my rhythm and new ways to learn how to do things that I thought I had a really good handle on before. During this time, I also did a lot of reflecting on how my older three children were different from my little ones. Did having a different father *really* make the difference? Did marryng someone that was emotionally healthy really change the way our home felt and our children acted? Did the time I spent working on my own poo really help? These were questions swimming in my mind while I carried Sariah in my belly and wondered where this would all take me.
So many things go into crafting a healthy home rhythm. If you are starting from scratch, I am hoping my words will help. If you are an old hat at it like me, maybe you will find a few gems in here anyway and if you are somewhere in between, I hope you find peace where you are.
Keys things to cultivate
Teachability – you have to be in a mind frame to receive direction in order for this to work.
A good working relationship with the Divine.
A commitment to your partner and theirs to you. Working to be on the same page.
An understanding and respect for proper authority
Commitment to the task at hand – it will not be easy, but it will be so worth it.
Good mental health – this doesn’t mean perfection, but it means daily striving.
What’s your plan? Lay it out. Write it down. Nuts and bolts without the fluff – the fluff can come later, after you have down the basics.
Let’s focus first on being teachable. Are you teachable? Now of course you are shouting at me that you are! Stick with me. Being teachable means that you are willing to take what you will learn or already know about rhythm and how important it is for your family and actually use it. Otherwise… stop reading. Being teachable doesn’t mean you are perfect, it just means you are WILLING. Willing to take it on. Willing to stumble and end up with egg on your face and get up and try again. Willing to talk to or learn how to talk to Source (God, the Universe, whatever YOU call it.) Willing to look at your partner in a new way. Willing to ASK for what you really need. Willing. Are you? GREAT.
To be teachable, you have to start with some knowledge. Now you may already know this stuff, but it is a good refresher – even for a five time mommy like me – so read anyway.
A hundred years ago Steiner wrote about the development of the human brain. Science is just now catching up. The OFC or orbitofrontal cortex is located behind the right eye in the right hemisphere. It is in part responsible for “a child’s future prospects for healthy social and emotional functioning.” That part of the brain is where we get our commonsense thinking and also the ability to read other people’s signals. Those of us with children on the autism spectrum know that this is some of what is missing in our children so guess what?? They need rhythm even more than our typical kids! This area also works with empathy, the ability to bring feeling to intellectual thought and to moderate emotion with rational thinking. It is the part of the brain that helps us understand our experiences. It is an important part of the brain!
“During the child’s first three years, the OFC neural networks develop in direct response to the nature of his or her primary attachment relationships with other human beings. The real physical and emotional presence of others, connections with them, and empathy experienced from them are nourishment for the OFC of the infant and toddler.” (Parenting the Young Child by Marcy Axness, PhD)
That is a mouthful. If our children gain direct responses to these things during the first few years – we better make them good ones! That doesn’t mean perfect – it means striving. I find that intent, prayer and overall emotional striving of the parents is a huge help in bridging gaps that may have begun during these years. The key is to be teachable and get busy.
We also want to understand that our children need predictability and consistency. This is best formed through a good daily, weekly, monthly and seasonal rhythm. They also need authority – we’ll talk about that more in another time, but for now, if you are giving too many choices, asking if they want to do something or giving into tantrums, that is where we start. You are the boss Mama! I promise you are. Own it. That doesn’t mean you aren’t nice. It doesn’t mean you aren’t loving. It doesn’t mean you aren’t the AP crunchy granola NVC mommy you are striving to be. It just means you are in charge. Remember Mary Poppins? Those children LOVED her… she was in charge. They obeyed because they knew she took care of them, loved them and did what was best for them. Now you don’t have to be Mary Poppins (although I sometimes feel like her with the giant Bohemian shoulder bag I carry!) be yourself, love them… don’t let them walk on you. You shouldn’t be striving for a child centered home – you can be child informed, that is different. Child centered is not healthy for anyone.
Melisa Nielsen is a mom of five children and has always homeschooled in the Waldorf tradition. She is the author of “A Journey through Waldorf Homeschooling” curriculum for early childhood through 7th grade, also known as A Little Garden Flower. She also is the facilitator of a Waldorf homeschool teacher training program called Thinking, Feeling, Willing. You can find out more about her work or her program at her website. She is also working on a new free series called Crafting a Healthy Home Rhythm, you can find it on her blog.