Parenting in the Park: Personal Journeys in Parenting, Shared in Community

Today’s blog post is submitted by our featured guest contributor, Jessica Henry.  Enjoy the post and look forward to additional posts from Jessica.

Parenting in the Park, a free parenting series a colleague and I ran over the summer culminated in a final session last week; themed Parenting as a Personal Journey. As the children played around us, nursed, snuggled on their mama’s laps, and ate snacks, we mamas went around in a circle of about 10 of us sharing what we loved and missed about ourselves before we became mothers, and what we find inspiring about this parenting path we are now on. Sharing deeply, themes of loss, medical mis-adventures, sacrifice, joy, life-purpose, and personal transformation no less magical than alchemy, came to light. Touched as I was by the depth of trust, feeling and support at the meeting, as the days pass I am left with more of a reverent awe of the strength and courage of women who come to mothering by choice, “accident”, and medical miracle, and forge through day by day growing side-by-side (and by the way in no less awesome ways) with their children. Truly when a child is born a mother is born too, and that is just the beginning, isn’t it?!

My Heart of the Valley Parenting co-founder and friend Alice Eldridge and I went out on a limb when we dreamed up this concept of 10 free, weekly, themed parenting gatherings that would meet in 10 different parks around Corvallis. Who would come? How would we bring the topics? What would the children do while their mothers talked? Would the weather cooperate? Would we be able to keep our own momentum as group leaders?!

We re-iterated at each meeting that we were not the expert of anything, presented the theme-du-jour and released it to the group. Each time the conversation flowed effortlessly as mothers, (us included), shared, advised, coached, commiserated and laughed together. The feedback was unanimous- the participants gained much and on many levels from the gatherings, and the children had fun together too!

Each of us parents at one time or another has probably felt the loneliness of spending long hours at home with young children. Parenting was never meant to be done in isolation! Keeping perspective, allowing ourselves some un-judged venting, and comparing notes about the exciting development, or frustrating stages our children are going through are but a few of the benefits of building community with other parents.

Parenting Success Network offers a centralized source of resources geared to helping parents find support and community. This support is not just for parents who are struggling with serious life-stressors and setbacks, but for all parents who desire to build community and thereby pursue balance and joy along their path of parenting. Not only do parents benefit from the company of other parents (who, by the way, provide invaluable social opportunities for their children in the form of playmates!), but we parents also benefit immeasurably from the giving of ourselves for the benefit of others; this true secret of happiness. Here, the lyrics of one of my all-time favorite Pink Floyd songs comes to mind- “Together we stand, divided we fall”, or if you prefer, Winnie the Pooh’s- “It’s so much friendlier with two”.

Jessica Henry has been involved in family advocacy, support and education over the years in many different capacities; as a birth doula, Happiest Baby on the Block instructor, Early Head Start home visitor, LifeWays preschool teacher, Waldorf summer camp director, Waldorf parent child class leader, etc.

Jessica completed her LifeWays North America training in Wisconsin in 2007, and the Simplicity Parenting Group Leader training in Portland, Oregon in 2011. She is currently leading the Little Acorns Parent Child class at Corvallis Waldorf School, is the owner of the online LifeWays Childcare-inspired products store www.TwoTallTrees.com, as well as the co-founder of Heart of the Valley Parenting (www.heartofthevalleyparenting.com), a parenting resource for families in the Willamette Valley.
Jessica is never happier than when creating and holding spaces for children and their parents that are imbued with warmth, inspiration, and support for each individual’s unique path of development
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