As I paraphrase my notes from last weekend’s workshop, a renewed sense of wonder concerning the unfolding of our children’s incarnations is with me. We are so fortunate to have access to wisdom, whether ancient or fresh, to assist us on our parenting journeys. Our individual styles are unique and are the sum of our life experiences. Life is a transformative journey we are all on. We share our stories, we share our learnings, we try to assist others when we recognise our knowledge and guidance might be useful. Our children are our teachers but so is everything – there are lessons of great worth to be found in any encounter, through past and existing relationships, instances of misfortunes, times of achievement and by reflecting upon the zany windy path our lives take. By looking back and digesting the flow, we can approach life in a way that encourages us to figure stuff out for the best of everyone, in love and through a loving position, we do find inner peace.
Or, check out these new ideas I came across last weekend.
I find them rather kick-arse.
All we need to do is, SLOW DOWN. Preferably STOP. Now, consider the fact you are RAISING A HUMAN BEING and PAY ATTENTION to it.
I am a slow-livin’ kinda gal. I have been applying the handbrake over the last 10 years to get a grip on how I actually want to live my life. Parenting is the next part in my story.
Ahem, hooray for local Anthroposophic parenting workshops!
Standing back, this process of parenting is essentially about developing the self to develop the world.
Us parents are in the business of developing the future’s inhabitants. (OMFG!!) (How cool is that though?) Who will we send forth as young adults? What will their unique tasks be? How will they have the courage and wisdom to create a better world for their children? How will what we have consciously developed through terms of growth LIVE ON THROUGH THE NEXT GENERATION?
We are raising our children to be free thinking individuals who will be prepared to meet their tasks in life.
A central idea of the workshop dealt with how to assist children through their difficulties, with the thought that this forbearance is enabling a skill in them, which they will in turn need, later in life.
Right there, a much larger picture is painted before us. A picture much broader than the momentary despair we feel when our parenting seems haywire, our children’s behaviour chaotic, our environment stifling. To hold this picture as a parent will of course help us through the hiccups, whether they be fleeting or everlasting, silly or profound. To honour the child’s experience of life and to honour our own from this perspective, enlightens the mind and inspires heart for the task at hand.
With freshly cut roses in vases, sunflowers and gerberas too, potted dandelions, rosemary and lavender, the collegial atmosphere of the Steiner community was set. Early morning Autumnal sunshine filtered through the scrawny gums on the banks of the river Brunswick, while brush turkeys and squeaky mynahs rummaged the undergrowth and chattered between branches. Steaming pots of spiced herbal teas, fresh white linen tablecloths and a host of smiling warm faces welcomed a group of mums and dads back to day 2 of the weekend’s workshop, “Conscious Parenting in the Light of Anthroposophy.” The Brunswick Heads Community Centre provided a beautiful space full of light and colour and the facilitators Fiona Mackenzie, Melanie Deefholtz and Katherina Kiss held the space tenderly with competence.
But this was no bull-poo rally of saps, taking time out to whimsically dote upon their dear darling’s latest tribulation amongst a back-patting pack of tissue holders. No, this was a group of fierce people, realising it or not, taking up the mantle of parentage in a way that is going to kick butt, in a way that defies mainstream parenting tokenism. In a way that strives to be truthful about the situation that we find ourselves:
a child has come to us … we are it’s parent, it’s guide, it’s #1 fan … this child is becoming an adult HUMAN BEING … this is profound … let it be so …
And these parents, wear this mantle with wisdom, wear it with COURAGE.
Look at this diagram:
You will see the first 21 years of life have been differentiated into three sets – “Physical, 0-7”, “Feeling, 7-14” and “Thinking, 14-21.” These are referring to the “three fold” nature of the human being which Rudolf Steiner outlined. In general, the physical body is worked upon and developed from birth to age 7, the feeling or emotional sphere is awakened from 7 to 14 years and the intellectual thinking capacity of the young person is tuned up from 14 to 2 1 years. These sets of 7 years are further differentiated into three subsets – “Nerve (Head) sense development”, “Rhythmic (chest, heart and lung) sense development” and Metabolic-Limb (abdomen and limbs) sense development”. You will see these periods repeat three times each over the 21 years, at which point the person enters adulthood and a new 7 year period of development begins.
When the developing child is viewed through this lens, we get a sense of the journey that must be taken before maturation is complete. Different years signal the onset of differing developments:
Nerve sense growth 0-2, 7-9, 14-16 year olds, characterised by:
hypersensitivity in the senses initially, new developments in thinking, individuation, new awareness and new consciousness of, and later, criticism of, the world.
Rhythmic sense growth 3-5, 10-12 , 17-19 year olds, characterised by:
development in feeling, social relationships, peers, imagination, creativity, new awareness of self, physical separateness, the intentions of others, sense of own individual ‘spirit’.
Metabolic-limb growth 5-7, 12-14 ,19-21 year olds, characterised by:
the lengthening of the limbs including the jaw – the limb of the head, metabolic changes manifesting for example on the skin with freckles at 6 and 12, inflammatory responses, stress related symptoms and tension release manifesting in the abdomen and limbs (tummy ache, swinging legs, grinding teeth, biting), other developments like will power, initiative, motivation, perseverance, awareness of and interest in genitals and excretory functions.
The pattern of development is mirrored as each stage is revisited until maturation at 21 years (ages are of course approximations.)
Rudolf Steiner described the child before 7 as a WHOLLY SENSE ORGAN; the young child is open, utterly, to the environment. The organism gradually closes to this strong external influence and the “incarnation” process is said to be completed by 21. This wisdom teaches us to understand the process best we can to ensure a proper incarnation, so the individual will be best equipped to realise and pursue their purpose in life, their destiny, their raison d’être.
I find this flippin’ profound.
This is the basis for how the Steiner teacher, practitioner and parent views the developing child, as outlined by Rudolf Steiner who delivered lectures and wrote books concerning the topic of education during the period 1907 to 1922.
The analogy of a ripening blossom was used this weekend. We can imagine ourselves as the catalyst to provide a suitable environment for these developments to take place. We also need to remember that, like an unfolding flower, the child needs the right conditions and above all, time, to allow this process to complete. Just as we wouldn’t pick an unripe fruit, or force open a slowly budding blossom, nor do we push the child toward a developmental milestone they are not ready for. And as their parent, if a push is felt from somewhere else, we need to step in to shield that pressure and know we are doing what is right by our child, for our child. Our task as parents is to stand and hold the space for the awakenings of our children’s to take place.
I recognise some of these stages of development from my own childhood. At 11-14 the child re-enters the metabolic-limb development stage. This is the time the conscience blossoms and with it empathetic awareness at a new level. It is understood these children must now enter into dialogue with parents or teachers, in order to have a say in how the home or classroom is managed. The democratic process of negotiation begins.
I remember it was at this time the student council was introduced at school. This is usually the first time a young person wishes to reach out and influence the conditions of their environment – such a wonderful time, and something to be encouraged at school and home! Now as I remember, I wasn’t voted in on the student council and I remember how this had a stifling effect on me at the time. I wanted to be on the student council! Perhaps the wisdom of the teachers at my school, had they this knowledge, would’ve ensured each student who wished to participate, be able to participate – after all the purpose of student council (this metabolic-limb developmental stage) wasn’t to win an election against classmates, but to allow children to participate and work together in a forum to contribute to the school. An equally wise teacher may’ve simply guided me in bearing the loss. But as I wasn’t elected, I remember feeling disappointment, jealousy, as though something I really wanted to do had been taken from me. I had been so excited and keen, so enthusiastic that with the disappointment came a sense of unfairness.
Now we must consider, what is the effect of not allowing a developmental milestone to come to fruition?
Something is squashed, repressed and maybe that explains my “anarchist tendencies” when the same stage came around again at 18 and I rebelled against the authority of my school, staging a boycott, mounting a soap-box and writing for an underground magazine designed to point out all the hipocrisy of school management. I took this tetchy angst into my uni years where this metabolic-limb stage was finally worked upon before maturation.
The 18-21 year old says: “I SEE THE WORLD. I WANT TO PARTAKE IN THE WORLD.”
A deep longing develops. How do we bear this longing? We want to teach our children to bear this longing, to actually bear their difficulties at each stage. This really is not about ironing out wrinkles for them and ensuring success when times get tough.
Would I have been more able had I been supported at the previous stage? What if I felt confident and strong in my self and place within society as a result? For sure, people go through a lot worse! Personally I do feel I was wounded by that event and to imagine that developmental stage supported by wise teachers makes me wonder what more I may’ve been capable of. Of course, the fat lady isn’t even on set yet, and now as a fully developed adult I have the consciousness to CHOOSE my actions and to OVERCOME my foibles, but back then as a child and immature adult, I did not.
Can we enable our children to pass through these developmental stages in supported ways?
Some may argue it is these sorts of tribulations which foster perseverance in the young individual. I won’t say, that may not be the case sometimes, but my feeling is that while the young person is growing there are crucial catalytic points that if recognised will only enable that young person to come to full fruition in adulthood. I believe none of us had perfect upbringings! Through my experience, I believe we still process wrongs or misfortunes we encountered, in our daily lives. I hypothesise how my full potential may have been reached if there were wise people watching at those crucial times. Conversely it is precisely these moments of my upbringing I reflect upon, which give me the perspective and experience I have today. I recognise the truth in the ideas Steiner initiated and what so many people have poured their energy into developing. We can never predict how an individual will synthesise certain events into their being, either. But as this big wheel keeps on turning, as we learn more from each other, we must be making some kind of progress in the right direction.
A few remaining snippets to share, captured in my notebook:
“An unhealthy experience of power creates bully behaviour.”
“When you recognise the phase, you will know they will pass through this phase and pass through onto fertile ground.”
“The 9-year old shift – the child suddenly feels separated from their physical environment = feeling of loneliness. Stories of fables (the shortcomings of humans) in Class 2 remedy this, followed by stories of saints (the goodness to strive towards).”
14-16 Nerve sense
Start to bring inner lives into the world
Awareness still really undeveloped
16-17 Rhythmic sense
Third “I” awakening
Own thinking life awakens
Need to follow own thoughts, may be private
Feeling for the world starts coming out
“What does it mean to bring my feeling life to the world?”
18-19 M-L sense
Bringing own will into the world
“What does this mean? What will I do? What do I look like bringing my Will?”
Relating to other people’s wills in the world – might find a mentor – might idolise cultural figure by what they did in the world
The 3 human experiences:
– Loneliness and isolation (wisdom speaks through loneliness)
– Looking for acceptance / fear of rejection
– Longing – who am I now? Our children bring us closer to who we really are now.
So, mums and dads:
Parent with courage.
Do the inner work to be able to listen to what your child really needs. What is their difficulty asking me to develop? In this way, our children teach us.
Through their years they’re growing what they need. They’re having the experiences and growing the skills for what they will need in their futures. Any difficulty we help them through by helping them to bear it, is a demonstration of loving compassion on our behalf. If we can understand how their childhood difficulties will directly affect their ability to deal in adulthood once they are on their own, then we will confront their difficulties in an enlightened way. The biggest struggles are often the greatest gift.
A Prayer for Mother and Child
May light stream into you that can take hold of you.
I follow its rays with the warmth of my love.
I think with my thinking’s best thoughts of joy
On the stirrings of your heart.
May they strengthen you, may they carry you, may they cleanse you.
I want to gather my thoughts of joy
Before the steps of your life,
That they unite with your will for life,
So that it finds itself with strength
In the world, Ever more, Through itself.
Without knowing many details right now (I’m sure this is a lifetime’s work) I feel confident enough to observe the behaviour, attempt to match it with the developmental outline and to (in most cases) simply let my child ‘play it out’. I feel reassured there is a huge body of knowledge and a community of people who do have experience with these things, available to access if needs be. These people may be around within your community too, particularly if there is a Steiner group. Eurythmists, art therapists and extra lesson teachers devote a fair chunk of their professional practise to these ends – helping children (and parents) overcome developmental difficulties. Let me share a few online links with you:
Training, tools and resources to support parents and childhood professionals:
For the fully developed childhood profiles I’ve touched on:
I reference Susan Laing, as her work informed the facilitators of the workshop and me for this post.
Steiner’s 8 lectures on Curative Eurythmy:
Lisa Romero’s practical use of meditation for personal growth:
Steiner Education Australia:
Rudolf Steiner Federation NZ:
The wise woman knows, it is the meekest of all, who teaches her the most.
Even after all this time
The Sun never says to the Earth
“You owe me.”
Look what happens
With a love like that
It lights the whole sky.