Parenting Visions: what matters most to you and your family?

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

If we take a moment to think about it, we parents can recognize that we are the ones who design the unique environment of our family. Though the temperaments of our children may guide us along and our life path adds twists and perspective to the experience, we adults ultimately hold the form and build the most educational “learning lab” for our children in our own home! The form is created by the many, many choices we make daily for our family. This can feel powerful, exciting and meaningful at times; we have the opportunity to really form and impact this microcosm of the world, mold it and sculpt it to match our vision of a “good” family life, decide NOT to make the mistakes of our parents, celebrate the holidays and celebrations the way we see them, instill our values into our children on everything from the food we eat, to the way we treat others, to how we feel about ourselves. It can also feel absolutely terrifying as we must consider that all of the choices we make have some affect the ones we love dearest!

Says Kim John Payne in his book Simplicity Parenting; “You can see so much, including what the family holds dear, from the pattern of their everyday lives.” What does your family’s everyday life pattern indicate about your values? Is it aligned with what you would like to impart to your children, or does it feel way off of your “ideal”?

How often when we are parenting young children we feel like we are just responding to chaos and mess! We are not wholly conscious of creating anything meaningful; our eye is not trained on the larger picture as we tend the non-stop barrage of our family’s needs, falling into bed, exhausted, and waking up to do it all over again!

So how does one take charge of the bigger picture, and facilitate change in a meaningful way in order to bring your child’s “learning lab”/home environment into alignment with your vision? Is this even possible in this “hurry up” time we live in?

Where to begin? The first step is to take a moment to consider how your day-to-day life with your family aligns or does not align with the hopes and dreams you carry for them and for yourself. When you imagined becoming a parent what images came to you that made you excited and happy to welcome Baby into your life? Was it time snuggling and reading a book? Playing baseball at the park? Family walks?

I often share with my families in Little Acorns parent child class that when my husband and I found out we were expecting, the first thing we did was to go out and buy, not a crib, but a dining room table! We were anticipating family dinners and games around the table.

As you think about this make a mental note of any areas that are frequently fraught with bumps, snags and issues. Is it bedtime, after 10 stories and 4 glasses of water when the demon-mama voice betrays your frustration?! Is it getting out the door to school/work on time each morning when you hear your own mother’s voice coming out of your mouth and saying things you vowed never to say?! Choose one, just one of these bumpy times and flesh it out- what happens leading up to the snag? What might you change to avoid it? By taking one teensy, tiny little thing and brainstorming an alternative you can slowly work to take back and re-align your home environment to better match the bigger-picture values you aspire to for your family.

To that end over the next several months my blog contributions will focus on specific aspects of the family environment starting with Environment. By looking at ways to simplify and adjust your physical environment you can strategically sure up your family’s form, adding meaningful components to the “learning lab” of your home, and letting the predictable bumps and snags simply fall away.

Until then, treat yourself to a moment to think about the time of anticipation you experienced as you awaited the arrival of your first child. The hopes and dreams that played out in your mind’s eye. And here you are, on an amazing journey full of twists, turns, and adventures, your child leading you and teaching you as you march ever forward.

Adventure on brave parents! I’m on the road with you.

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, LifeWays, a childcare-inspired products store, 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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