The Art of Being ENOUGH

Yampah Mountain High School's Teen Parent Program

The students and children of the Teen Parent Program – YAMPAH MOUNTAIN HIGH SCHOOL

Mother’s Day began after Julia Ward Howe’s passionate 1870  “Appeal to Womanhood throughout the world” – a call for peace and international justice, for women’s voices to be heard and given agency in the decisions of their time. This call, the urgency of it, exists now as much as ever. Indeed, it seems imperative that “women of one country . . . be too tender of those of another country, to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs,” as Howe wrote.  We mothers carry this plaintive cry while soothing babes on hips, stirring dinner pots, and managing the constancy of home and work. Meanwhile, we may be carrying something that our forebearers did not – a sense that we aren’t doing enough, that we ourselves are somehow lacking – and this feeling does not serve us, nor our children, nor the world. So MP asked parent-child teacher Holly Richardson to share what she brings her classes – her own loving, humorous and gritty perspective: permission to joyfully banish doubt and earnestly care for self. This is what Holly shares each month as a guest teacher in the Teen Parent Program at Yampah Mountain High School. As these young mothers (and one father) find the truth inside themselves, that they are perfectly Enough, we might also recognize the ‘Here and Now’ face of Julia Ward Howe’s motherhood manifesto.  {KC}

 

HOLLY RICHARDSON

In parent-child class, I’m not going to tell you “how to” parent, as if I see myself as an expert. Instead, I share stories about my struggles with parenting because we’re all trying to figure it out, and we’re in this together.

For example, more than 15 years ago when I was pregnant, on bed rest with my first child, I read too many parenting books. I practiced hours of meditations and visualizations to support a natural birth. I attended parenting workshops. I really wanted to know what I was doing.

After my son was born, this vigilance (and certainty that I was ill-equipped for the honor of being his mother) continued. One bleary-eyed night, I even Googled GREEN POOP in a panic because my baby had exactly this in his diaper. (There’s a term for this: “Poogle-ing.”)

I trusted a website more than my own intuition.

It’s hard to feel our own wisdom at 3:00 AM, or anytime when we feel stretched, strapped, doing our best (parenting, working, keeping house, driving our kids to and from, making ends meet, striving to stay present, patient, joyful…) often feeling like our best is not enough.

My mother, born in 1935, has never believed she is not enough, not once, not a day in her life. I was born in 1970 and my experience has been very different than hers. The passing down of wisdom from generation to generation has been replaced by the science of parenting. Studies, podcasts, blogs, volumes of “How To Do This or That” (sleep, eat, discipline, etc.) abound, with more information than one could digest in a lifetime.

I think we all do this – we search outside of ourselves for answers on how to meet the needs of our children. Yes, there are a lot of wonderful resources out there… However, I’ve come to believe this: the deepest knowing actually lies in each and every one of us.

Mama I’m here to tell you:
YOU ARE ENOUGH. You are more than Enough.

I’m also here to tell you that you need your friends. I remember pushing a stroller down the sidewalks of Glenwood Springs to get some fresh air, and feeling so alone – as I rarely saw anyone else doing the same. It was during this time that I first sought professional emotional support. I eventually gathered a motley crew of parents who were in the same boat. We started getting together weekly with  our children. They became a lifeline to sanity for me.

This taught me Lesson Two: Parents are not meant to raise children in isolation.

The teen parents at YMHS could have taught me this had I known them at that time. They are being held in community, parenting together with others their age, and supported by teachers and administrators who understand what they are going through.

Teachers can help facilitate conversations that lead to building connections. Friendship takes time, and it happens more readily when we can share honestly about ourselves and our lives with our children. I will often start a classroom discussion with a story about my beloved, somewhat smelly, sometimes gross, occasionally sarcastic teenage sons. Once we get past the illusion that our kids are perfect, it’s a whole lot easier to laugh and talk and be real.

It’s easier to relax and share when everyone is working on something, like handwork or a craft, rather than looking at each other, staring across a table. At YMHS, we have made our own books of wisdom and gratitude, and Mothers Day flower crowns (shown here).   

Lesson Three: If we take care of ourselves, then we will be in better shape to weather the weather.

We do this two ways: outwardly  and inwardly. Adequate sleep, nourishing food, exercise, and time in nature all fall into the first category. We’ve all heard the metaphor about parents putting on their oxygen mask first. The trick is having the energy to do so. This is where inward work helps. Inner care takes building muscles in daily practices of mindfulness, kindness towards self, quietude,  gratitude, and as Eckard Tolle wrote: “Be the ever-alert guardian of your inner space.”  We must listen to our inner dialogue  and pay attention to those deep recesses. 

What does this look like in a parent-child classroom? I try to bring activities that parents can take home with them. Stretching and breathing are good ways to start, as are uplifting or soothing songs. Lighting a candle can remind us that this time together is special. We share tea and a simple snack.

We talk about how we can choose to start each day. No matter what, we have the power to decide how we will get out of bed. I often wake up knowing there will be challenges.  My fifteen-year-old will most likely not want to go to school for the umpteenth day in a row – and at 5’, 11” tall, he is too big for me to put in a car seat! My thirteen-year-old may still be in an adolescent funk. My husband works long hours and I’ll need to navigate the day without his calming presence.

I take time with a heart mediation that came from my mentor and friend Sharifa Oppenheimer (which you can find at www.Mountain-Parent.com). I end this by naming one specific thing for which I am grateful.  I then walk into my quiet bathroom. I feel the warm floor beneath my feet. I smile intentionally into my eyes in the mirror.

I take a deep breath, bringing my consciousness into my body and resting it in my heart, and  I say to myself:

“You are enough, Mama.
you are more than enough.”

 

Learn more about Yampah Mountain High School’s Teen Parent Program HERE.