There are so many ways to hold children. What is the right way? Is there one best way? Is it the way you know best? Is it in a way that is caring? How caring do you need to be? Is it in a way that sets clear boundaries? Or a way that is generous? Is the best way by teaching? Maybe the best way is simply with love. Everyone loves to be held in love! But what does that really mean?
It’s funny that after escaping the work of being the big sister, after getting my children raised half way to adulthood, I still long for the companionship of children. With the tenth-born child in my family finally having reached adulthood this first day of Spring, one might think I’m ready to retire from all things children related. But in truth, it suits me to have a lot of brothers and sisters. The responsibility was tough but the love was so amazing growing up. It wasn’t easy by any means. but I feel lucky having watched so many babies get born. Nursing was perfectly normal and as frequent as the diaper changes. There was always a baby to hold and when I don’t have babies to hold, I miss them and their little amazing human bodies so eager and ready to learn!
There’s one event that made a strong imprint on me was when I was about 15-16 years old. I remember a day when I couldn’t hold it together a minute longer. I was overwhelmed and when I went into my room, there was my fifth born sister. Little as she was, she was holding the baby at the time, comforting him the best she could. I started off talking to her and attempting to be the big sister and help her with the babe. That was until I started crying. Then, suddenly, I was in the embrace of that little sister’s arms. It was tremendous to be held. Best of all, I needed to be held and someone was there for me. I could get wrapped up in how I “should’ve…’ but there was really nothing more to do than surrender. I was deeply humbled to realize this little person was capable of so much.
Mostly, what happened in that moment was that I was loved and accepted. When it comes down to it, that’s often times what we all crave- love and acceptance. But there’s another ingredient here too, an ingredient that I received that day when my tears came streaming, an ingredient I am aware of when I teach. And that’s presence. If ever a parent is amazed by the good time a child has with me, it’s only because I didn’t have the typical parental distractions of dishes, diapers, and laundry! I really grasped this was one of my gifts when I worked at Laguna Farms in the days of Earth Camp. The team I worked with NEVER looked at cell phones. We just watched studiously how the children worked with so much determination to catch crawdad’s. We laughed and smiled at the layers coming off. We held their hands. We communicated to give them guidance and we marveled at the enthusiasm.
Since I’ve made it my work to work with children through summer programs and non-traditional settings, I have to ask myself what makes me unique. I have to wonder what words I’m going to use to describe myself, my camp, my services (and there are so many)! Turns out, I use a lot of words and I can’t settle very well on just a few. I like stories. Mostly because they work well to convey feelings. Caroline Casey describes herself as a weaver of context and that is something I really get. When storytelling, I’m aware that with the wrong frame, anything can look bad. With the right frame, anything can sparkle. So… when it comes to Earth Girls and Earth Warriors, what you can expect from me is that I’m going to hold the children in my group- with love, acceptance and presence. I’ll be weaving stories for the sake of wonder, pushing open the windows of the imagination. prompting critical thinking, and I’ll aim to help all those with me to sparkle and shine.
(And yes, Mama Bear will be watching out to keep everyone safe!)