Verb: care for and encourage the growth or development of, cherish, help or encourage
Noun: the process of caring for and encouraging the growth or development of someone or something
The following post is by Kelly and I am so glad for her to be writing about nurture! To me it is everything I strive for in our home. From cooking to gardening to baking to cleaning; for me it always comes down to this one thing. And it is this one thing that I have had to rely upon in my self healing over the past 4 years since leaving the small mystical group we were a part of and served in for 13 years.
Over these years I have had to teach myself to slow down, to breath, to relax, to trust, to let go, and to love myself most of all. In the end it all sums up in one word- Nurture! I have come to enjoy all the ways I have grown in nurturing myself and my family. I love and cherish these moments and experiences. A cup of coffee goes from a quick meaningless purchase at a cafe to me weighing my beans, grinding them, brewing it exactly how I like it, to warming my glass so the coffee finds a nice warm environment, to drinking and cherishing it on so many levels.
So without further ado…here’s Kelly to share what she has been learning about nurture:
Ever since the birth of Tim’s blog, “The Nurturing Hearth”, the word nurture has become a common household word (though sometimes resisted by the likes of myself!). If something nurtures and supports growth in our family, we deem it worthy of keeping; if not, we move toward letting it go. Over the past few days I have been contemplating the word “nurture” as it relates specifically to parenting and providing a space in our home for our daughters to thrive in. On sunday morning I asked our girls what is required for something to grow. Their initial answers were water, healthy soil, sunshine, rain, protection from predators. Then with a distinct “aha!” moment, the youngest said “and love!” I asked her if she had any idea how you would love a garden or a plant in such a way that would make it grow. With a big smile of knowing on her face she proclaimed, “you take care of it and spend time with it!”
During the advent stage of the Nurturing Hearth, I recall watching Tim tend to our garden with the eye of a scientist and researcher. He would try something, pay close attention to what impact that something had and discern whether to do more of that or back off and try something else. He took care to anchor the garden in a part of our yard that would ensure just the right amount of sunshine. He took care to water daily…enough…but not too much. Frequently he saw the need for small amounts of weeding and pruning. On occasion, there was need for hacking off something that simply no longer served the overall wellbeing of the plant, or the wellbeing of the other fledgling plants around it. What I noticed most of all was the patience that seemed to be required to give our garden the right amount attention needed for maximum yield. While the ecology of the Pacific Northwest makes it harder to stop growth then to make something grow, I did witness gardens that did not take off the way ours did and I attribute that to Tim’s watchful eye and daily attention. I have witnessed Tim apply this same kind of watchful eye to the way he parents our girls and realize that while the subject matter is different, there are parallels worth drawing. Both plants and children begin life in a natural vulnerable state and it is our job as cultivators and parents to create an optimum environment that supports the best opportunity for growth.
Once upon a time I exuberantly planted my own garden. I eagerly dug up weeds, laid down compost and fertilized soil, planted rows and then waited…impatiently! I came out to check on my garden a few mornings later and, to my horror, saw that crab grass had taken over the whole thing. Urgh! It was so long ago now that I cannot recall if I persisted or gave up. I am not the patient type so I assume the latter happened and I resorted to supporting local harvesters by visiting my local co-op for my veggies instead. I marveled at gardeners who could do what my husband does with our garden. I marvel at that kind of patience because it feels ever so foreign to my quicker moving nature. It is slowly and painfully dawning on me that life will not allow me to give up that easily. Life knew that I could walk away from the lessons of a garden or adulate someone else’s learning from a distance…but I could not walk away from the same lessons that would come to me via my own children. Our daughters are the fledgling plants that we have been given to nurture. They are growing heartily and yet, in need of constant attention and pruning to ensure they become the best version of themselves they can be.
A book I am reading opens with the line “parenting is one of the hardest and most vital jobs on the planet.” An Eastern yogi I recently listened to on a podcast proclaims that we make parenting a lot harder than we need to…that we take ourselves too seriously as parents because kids don’t really need us to grow…they are designed by nature to grow. From my own personal experience of parenting, I would claim that both statements are true. Knowing that kids are designed by nature to grow, as the plants did in our Pacific Northwest garden, I see my primary job as a parent is to provide optimum conditions for these fledgling creatures to become the strongest, most productive and life giving versions of themselves. As my daughters so well identified, optimum conditions include the following: protection, safety, adequate sunlight and warmth (physical closeness, attention, allowing them to feel seen), healthy soil (good nutrition and sustenance going into their bodies), pruning (nipping bad habits in the bud so that they don’t take root and lopping off extremities when necessary!), rain (hydration and emotional release), and a whole lot of love. Patience is the one element that has come hard for me. If I see that a course correction is required, I cannot force it to happen. I can add to or remove things but the plant itself has its own job to do. I cannot force the growth to happen but I can attend to the environment around the plant (or child) to make sure it has the best possible chance of being what it was/who they are intended to be. I can nurture till the cows come home but the growth of something will happen in its own time IF conditions support it. Sometimes it takes time to see what is actually growing before you can decide if you want to keep it in your garden or uproot it. This relates to things I see in our girls…and also things that I see in myself as their parent. When I see certain patterns of behavior, a tendency to lean this way or that way…to hold back and whither or to spring forth into the sunlight, I have to question myself to determine if that behavior will eventually lead to optimum growth for that particular child. Sometimes I can answer that definitely and sometimes it is pure faith that informs my next move…or I resort to old lazy habits that lend themselves to the growth of more nasty weeds.
Patience, both in gardening and in parenting, is a fundamental part of nurturing. Patience requires doing all of the active parts of nurturing then being willing to sit back and simply watch what happens. Patience requires showing up for the job each and every day. It requires a pregnant pause in anticipation of what is to come. Patience requires holding some things back so that other things can grow. Since no single plant and no single child are like any other, this analogy of nurturing and cultivating growth really works for me. It is a process that takes time and requires a certain devoted attention. As I strive to grow in all realms of my life, nurturing is a key word I strive to embrace as it relates to creating an optimum environment for the best of something to come forth. I hope this has inspired you to do the same. Thank you for taking the time to read this!