Parenting with Waldorf: Time to Joy
by Krista Clement
The Sparrow, Sunday, with wings to fly,
One time the sun moves across the sky;
The Mockingbird, Monday, with wings to fly,
Two times the sun moves across the sky;
The Turtledove, Tuesday, with wings to fly,
Three times the sun moves across the sky,
The Whippoorwill, Wednesday, with wings to fly,
Four times the sun moves across the sky;
The Thrush, Thursday, with wings to fly,
Five times the sun moves across the sky;
The Falcon, Friday, with wings to fly,
Six times the sun moves across the sky;
The Sandpiper, Saturday, with wings to fly,
Seven times the sun moves across the sky.
Seven times the sun, Seven times the day,
Now the week is done, and the days fly away!
Fly away! Fly away! The days fly away!
Every time I read this poem I get choked up. The feeling this poem evokes is especially keen when I am “in the moment” with the babies and I touch Sarah’s fleecy head or kiss and bite at Samuel’s fat legs. In a few weeks they will be fifteen months old. They are already leaving babyhood behind. The days fly away.
What Waldorf education has given me is a way to enjoy my babies and children more – to really experience the world of parenting with heart, imagination and understanding. The principles guiding Waldorf have helped me slow down and awaken to the power and beauty of the moment instead of rushing my children, and myself, into the future.
How does a Waldorf babyhood look like? No Baby Einstein, push button books, and and cacophonous entertainment centers. Instead the baby is nurtured with lambs wool, plenty of parent child interaction and a mother’s melodies. No rush. No push. No worries about competition. Waldorf principles allow the child to unfold organically and in harmony with household and earthly rhythms.
I discovered Waldorf when I married my German husband. At the time we met him he had finished doing a Waldorf teaching seminar and was more than happy to introduce me to this new world. A year after we married we had our first baby and I was confused by some of his ideas about child rearing. Specifically I was put off, even incensed, that my husband wasn’t grateful for the plastic flashing baby toys my parents gave us. Why was it such a big deal to let our baby watch the Tele-tubbies? How could you ever get a shower break if you didn’t set the baby in front of a television? Waldorf stuff seemed a bit “woo woo” to me.
But I loved my husband and wanted to understand his point of view do I delved into the Waldorf realm by reading books like Torin Finser’s School as a Journey and Rahima Baldwin Dancy’s You Are Your Child’s First Teacher. Could school be a place of beauty and nurture? Could motherhood be better than I imagined? But it was hard mothering-especially at first. I understood why women went back to work after having babies; to be constantly needed and wanted left me reeling with depression and frustration.
It was only after I almost lost my life a few years back that I was ready to embrace Waldorf lifestyle and ideas. Why? Because, as I lay in the MICU of a major university hospital, I knew that what my husband and I had created, our family, was the best and only reason to live. This experience also helped me question the status quo and what it means to mother and nurture. I knew I was supposed to be more than a glorified maid. Why hadn’t I been enjoying the journey? What was holding me back from truly enjoying my role as a mother?
The year after my hospitalization I attended a Waldorf in the Home conference in Boulder, Colorado. I was amazed, delighted, and stunned by what I experienced. It was then that I knew Waldorf was a path that I should embrace for the betterment of our family life.
November of 2006 we were blessed with twin babies. Many people were happy for us but wondered how I could handle the intensive mothering that twins require-especially because I already had three young children at home. But the truth is, and was, that I knew these two babies were a miracle and blessing in our lives. I knew that approaching life and motherhood from a more holistic viewpoint would give me strength. And it did. Oh, the diaper changes and the zombie days after nights without sleep were still hard, but a shift had occurred – I was completely immersed in the work of motherhood and loving it.
The following is a journal entry from October of 2007 that illustrates the way Waldorf methods have infused and enriched our home life. We have chosen to homeschool now that we are back in the USA and this is characteristic of a typical day:
We are now hip deep into our Language Arts block and the girls are progressing nicely. We are learning phonics, the letters, and reading through a story that I tell them everyday about the King’s son the Prince and the Quest he takes with the Wise Woman of the World of Waves. It is amazing how receptive children are to their surroundings and how easily they can make connections between symbols and ideas. While we were spinning our own alliterative sentences (Greedily the Ghastly Goblins Gathered Gold) Anna said, “hey I know a word that begins with G!!! GOOD!”
Our walls are plastered with their wet on wet watercolor paintings. Today I told them the story of the end of summer-how the trees have gone to the great summer ball wearing their most dazzling green frocks. Painting is fun and my three year old loves to watch how the blue, green, and yellow fans out across the paper-like magic. We, all of us, become the sorcerer’s apprentice as water spills onto the table. They wistfully told me they wished they will paint like I do when they grow up and I laughed. Someday the curtain will be drawn and they will see the great and terrible Oz for who she is.
We also have a huge tree made out of brown butcher paper taped to our wall. This is our science experiment, our weather tree. Each day we choose a pre-cut leaf-yellow for hot and sunny, green for cold and sunny, grey for overcast, blue for rainy, and white for snow. Last Saturday it snowed so we have one white leaf on our autumn branch. We put on our gas fireplace and my husband smirked and said to my oldest, “so when will your Grandpa finally believe in global warming?”
I am tired but there is a pulse, an energy that we have unleashed since we began to homeschool. Like the quick intake of breath when Lea realizes the tree across the street is beginning to turn orange. The energy of childhood lived and relived. Maybe this energy has always been in our house but this is the first time I am noticing it. Details are crushing my heart with their beauty. Why don’t people know life when they live it? I understand Wilder’s Emily now.
It might be cliché but it is a cliché that is based on truth: our babies and children are only young for such a short window of time. Now is the time to love. Now is the time to joy.