Before I became a mother, I was so certain I was going to be one of those A personality moms, take no guff, behave right or else, as any self respecting Black Mother "should" be. I vividly recall an incident in college, sitting with friends (other women of color) and watching children running wild at an event. We all shook our heads and commented that our children would not ever be allowed to behave that way.
But by the time my son, T, came along, my thinking had undergone a radical shift. I'd spent the intervening years focused on my own personal growth and development and had been gifted the opportunity to be exposed to other options like attachment and gentle parenting.
We still live in this world and this nation, though. I am deeply conscious that, while I am committed to raising my son in a style that supports him in having the freedom to explore his own emotions and thoughts (even where they will one day, inevitably, contradict my own), the United States is not as forgiving of young black men who make mistakes as it is of young white men. I cannot raise my son in the free style, do what moves you, go with the flow tone that I encounter in a lot of pagan/hippie/attachment/gentle parenting communities. He would be ill-prepared for the world and it would be a disservice.
So I'm raising him Sacred Sensual Style...
Honor the Sacred
I am a priestess, and reverence for the Sacred is expressed throughout our home and throughout the month, the seasons, the year. It's everywhere around us. But I also seek out ways to make a relationship with The Divine explicit for T. One of his first baby toys, a gift from a friend and our baby shower, was a goddess plush toy. He looks for and celebrates the moon, whether it's full and round or the merest sliver of a crescent ("a cup for wishes" we call it, a term that made it into one of his grandfather's poems). He spends time at my altar, standing on a stool he's dragged over and asking me about "the ladies" who live there. He helps me say my prayers and I now deliberately leave out a portion so that he can "remind" me before the prayers close. He makes wishes on eyelashes and repeatedly asks me to bring down my witch's ball so that he can play with it. The answer is, and remains, no.
My goal is to support him in developing this first relationship with the world of Spirit so that he already has the tools and the openness when he begins to explore on his own. The title of his path of faith is not my concern, though I do hope that he will choose one that honors love and respect of all people, all genders and all religions.
Another aspect of this commitment, for me, is that of sacred activism. A significant aspect of my life (and the conversations that happen in our home) is learning about, supporting the shift and, contributing to making the world a place in which all beings may be safe, nurtured, nourished, and find peace. Or, as I recently heard writer, speaker and activist Kiilu Nyasha say, "Revolution begins at home."
Celebrate the Sensual
I am a sensualiste. I believe that we are spirits having a physical experience because there are things we can only learn through the lens of our humanity. One of the most powerful realizations I've ever had while on retreat (and there are ALWAYS powerful realizations taking place while on retreat!) was about the magnificent complexity of the Universe right here in my body. I could conceivably spend years in silence, just getting to know that internal world. Part of my work of the last years has been to reawaken those aspects of my body and senses which have been shut down to provide a nice numb armor to protect me from the world.
We have bodies and we have senses to explore and meet the external world and those senses are beautifully alive in children. So my goal is to help my son be prepared to go out into the world, without beginning the terrible shut down process in our home. The world will try hard enough to close him off, isolate him from his own soul and wisdom. Our home must be a sanctuary where feeling whole and peaceful are paramount. For everyone.
So, if it's a consistent after-bath massage, encouraging him to really look at and smell his food (before deciding he doesn't want it ;), giving him space to feel and express his emotions, or something else, I am dedicated to supporting him to remain present in his body and connected to his own wonderful soulful self. He has a right to belong to himself, as do all children.
Embrace the Sustainable
As I stated in another post, I define sustainable as "something that is good for you, good for the Earth, good for your budget AND requiring no more maintenance than you can reliably agree to do consistently."
I am very conscious of the fact that I can say to T over and over, for years what I believe, but he is going to be most heavily influenced by what I do. I do not believe that our current Western styles of parenting (or working or living for that matter) are sustainable. Rates of stress, depression and illness have dramatically increased in the United States and we absolutely must make a shift. So, as I continue to deepen into this path, learning about the vital need that I have for slowing down and rest and self care and nourishment, I remember that it's not just because my body and spirit need it. It's because my choices are contributing to T's programming for what will be "normal," his wellness set point.
As I have been learning to be a better community member of the Earth, I have been pushing myself to share what I've been learning with my family in ways that convey the urgency of the situation without sounding like a proselytizing zealot. Whether or not I consistently achieve this state of balance remains to be determined. With T, though, I am enjoying the experience of introducing him to the natural world, while also expanding and adjusting my own world view- recycling, shifting our diets to eating more organic foods where possible (sustainable for budget, too, remember), growing our own little potted herbs or seeing him eat foods grown in his grandparents' urban garden, we are all making changes bit by bit which are adding up, over time, to great strides just within our family. These ripples matter and they spread.
This experience, as everything, is a continually evolving process. I specifically wrote here on mothering (as opposed to parenting) because my partner and I have some differences in our parenting philosophies and styles (which may be explored in a future post). Fortunately, we have enough places where we overlap that we're not speaking completely different languages (parenting from the Tower of Babel) and we've got great family and friends around us who are supporting us as we continue to find our own mothering and fathering voices and styles.