It's been a long winter. All winters feel long here in the Rocky Mountains even though our winters are actually rather mild. But with every year that passes I long more for the warmth of sun on my face and loath a little more the frosty wind that chaps my cheeks. Once Christmas is over, that's it, I'm done with winter. And this winter has felt especially long, for it was riddled with a dark sadness in my soul over the loss of two early miscarriages in the fall. My emotional state has mirrored the dreary scene outside my window.
With thoughts of heritage filling my days since hearing the theme of this month here at The Village, mostly my ideas of passing on anything to my two small children has felt empty and calculated. Sure, there are cultural and family traditions we pass on to our children, but neither my husband nor I come from families with surging cultural rituals. Not to sell our families short, though. We have our ways and they are special to us, but not likely to be meaningful or interesting to the world at large. So my mind drifted onto character traits I want to pass onto my kids. Could that be a heritage? Can I write a whole article about being a hard worker? A compassionate human? A lifetime adventurer? A person of faith? Perhaps. These all feel like things I'm still figuring out myself, but I do want to teach my children about the core traits that have made our lives rich and that we continue to strive for.
But no words would come. For weeks, the cloud over my head has kept me not just from writing, but also from my photography, from my clients, from my filthy house and neglected friends. Worst, it's kept me from inspiring my children, and our days are filled with television, naps and sweats. Thankfully, this is not the first time I've walked through a dark season of the soul. I know this too shall pass, and we all have been in this place for one reason or another. We just have to wait for that first beam of sunshine and spring to break through our days and our hearts. And finally, for me, maybe it has.
I saw this saying over on Instagram. No author was noted, and perhaps it’s not even that profound, but it spoke to me.
"Motherhood is an art, not a science."
And just like that, I felt a warm sunbeam on my soul. Such simple words, but a profound idea. Because it's not just motherhood I often approach as a science, it's my whole life. I have felt like a failure as a mother in this season of sadness because all the play-dates, and schooling and creative endeavors and all the good things on my good Mommy checklist have been laid waste.
And when I have thought about the idea heritage and the passing on of history or ideas or character to my children, it's all been so calculated, instead of heart felt. But what this quote reminded me of is that there is no right way (right way being the scientific way) There is no 'right' heritage. There is no perfect way to mother, or live, or exist, or recover. There is no right way to be happy or sad, to be joyful or mournful. There is only our way, each of us, living our everyday the best that we can, the best we know how, taking all that we know and all that we've lived to do a little better every day.
Now please hear me say that I’m not railing against structure or schedules if that’s what works for your family. That’s what often works for our family too. And I have several members of my family who are very left brained. Structure works for us, and by no means am I going to be able to ditch science in our home any time soon. This is not an academic discussion for me. It’s a discussion of the heart. So please, let’s all keep the patterns of our days that work for each of our unique and beautiful families.
But in the end, what I’ve realized is that maybe this is the greatest heritage I can give to my children: to live my days as art, not as science. To embrace each day in it's mothering challenges as a give and take and flow of grace and love, not as a calculation of right and wrong, good and bad and to-do that leaves us all feeling empty by the end. Maybe the biggest heritage I can pass on to my children is the one I don't even realize I’m teaching. I can give them a heritage in how I approach my days, my mothering, my art, my life: as something living, breathing, and changing. Maybe for all of us, our days and our mothering challenges aren't only the sum total of our calculations and schedules that we are told should equal a clean, happy and healthy home by end of day. At least for me, that never seems to pan out, especially in winter. But perhaps if we show our children how to approach their lives as a work of art, layer after layer of experiences, meaning, mediums, good day and bad days and every season of the soul, a journey never fully finished and a question mark not completely solve-able, well then I'm starting to think I'll have passed on something bigger and even more beautiful than just my Grandmother's red chili recipe, which I do have to tell you, is the bomb diggity.
Written by, Rachael MacPhee