Over a month ago my family and I embarked on a major move. We headed from our 4-year Rocky Mountain family retreat back to the California coast and Redwood forest that is my birthplace. There were many factors that went into the decision making process but the biggest one that trumped all was educational options for my daughters. We all want the best for our kids. But often times the decisions that bring about radical change can be hard ones, both to make and to execute.
When our daughters Waldorf style preschool discontinued their ‘grades’ program my husband and I took one look at each other and knew it was time to have a talk. We knew there would be unique challenges living in a small mountain town and we truly felt thankful for the promise the school held for us. When its doors closed, however, we both understood we needed to look at alternative options. Over our weekly ‘date night’ dinner out and catch up session we began the conversation of, “Where next?”
There comes a moment as a parent when you realize you will no longer be the center of your child’s universe. The small pod of a self-contained family is about to split wide open. We look out into the community and all of its qualities that our children will be exposed to because it is the community that will form them and guide them and affect them for the rest of their lives. When I looked out it wasn’t that I didn’t like what I saw but instead I felt that there was more to offer.
Being born and raised as a Californian, I somewhat ignorantly had taken for granted the diversity and liberal mindset that shaped my childhood and adult life. In many ways I assumed there would be just as much, and maybe more, in a small mountain town. But having grown up in a sea of culture, and diversity as well as a healthy respect for all races and sexual orientations, I felt our options were too limited.
Sure I had this knowledge and understanding and an epiphany that motivated the move didn’t mean that this same understanding would translate to anything my eldest daughter Jade could comprehend. To her I was tearing her away from all that she knew and had come to love. Her ‘world’.
I tried to take steps to prepare. We spoke for months before the move. We talked about what moving day would look like. What it might feel like. What would happen to our Colorado home? Would it miss us? We took pictures, and long walks, talked about what we would miss and what we were excited to discover. We consulted a wonderful childhood behavior specialist to get some guidance about how to make the transition go as smooth as possible. But despite all of this prep it was still an incredibly difficult time.
Moving day arrived but the girls and I were well on our way to California. Matthew had stayed behind to pack up and drive our dogs. As gentle as our entry back to the Bay was, after the first week Jade was ready to ‘go home’. They wanted what they thought of as a family ‘vacation’ to be over. They wanted Colorado.
Both my girls wept every night for a week. “We miss our REAL home!” They wailed.
“This isn’t home! It doesn’t feel like home.”
The reality was painful and there were several nights I would just sit and hold them, tears streaming down my face, feeling their sadness, letting them mourn their loss and knowing what they were too young to understand; that as hard as it was-it was the right decision for our entire family.
I’m discovering that motherhood is full of these moments. It’s hard to hold the place of knowing. Of calm. Of reassurance. But that was and is my job as a mother. To be able to acknowledge and say “right now IS hard but it WILL get better’.
We as adults can know this because we have experienced it. But to be present with our children and allow them their feelings is so very crucial. It’s only fair and right. There was no intellectualizing with them through it. There was no big talk that would make it better. Their minds and hearts don’t rationalize and work like an adults. They’re not supposed to.
So we sailed the sea of sorrow. Many tears were shed. Some time passed. Now things have begun to quiet and settle. The girls are now immersed in a new world; one of the preciousness in organic farming life, blackberry picking, trips to our neighbors goats and learning to milk them as well as harvesting the abundance that comes from our own home. We have lavender fields to play in and the four hens we’ve inherited have been named. When there’s talk of our home in Colorado it’s with smiles and not tears.
Life is full of change and uncertainty. We know this. We experience it on a daily basis. Sometimes it is unbelievably hard to sit in the discomfort of change and not knowing. But how very powerful to allow ourselves to rest and soften when we feel the triggers of that tension. In Buddhism it is called ‘groundlessness’. This life of ours IS groundless and I discover each day that one of the best practices we can have is to rest in this groundlessness and accept it.
Pema Chodron says it well:
“You can think of the groundlessness and openness of insecurity as a chance that we’re given over and over to choose a fresh alternative. Things happen to us all the time that open up the space. This spaciousness, this wide-open, unbiased, unprejudiced space is inexpressible and fundamentally good and sound. It’s like the sky. We must accept uncertainty as necessary for growth and freshness.”
As a mother I’m learning to deepen my understanding of my own groundlessness. In honoring my daughters’ tears as they travel through their uncertainty, I’ve been given a chance to expand my own acceptance of this profoundly precious space, which is, “like the sky,” bigger than I’ll ever know. And that is something I can accept.