I just landed back from my yearly pilgrimage. Every summer, I pack my car up to the brim, and head to the Mountain for a week-long all-woman festival. I somehow showed up at the first fest six years ago. It was extraordinary on all levels. At the tippy-end, I knew that I wanted to come back again and again and again. I fervently hoped that we would keep returning till we were all well into our nineties.
The woman who had started it came up to me as we were all parting ways, and to my bewilderment asked if I would be interested in teaching at the next one.
My response? “As long as you keep having these, I’ll be there.”
Little did I know, or understand, the scope of my promise and commitment.
Because by the time the next fest rolled around, I was a little over eight months pregnant. In my bones, I just knew that nothing would keep me from attending and facilitating. If the baby would come during that time, so be it. I was certain that amongst all those women, there had to be at least one midwife.
It was during that particular gathering, as I waddled around the mountain with a full-moon belly, that I made another promise and commitment. I would make sure that the child I was carrying, the one that would soon be born, would grow up being exposed to events such as this one: intentional gatherings where people come, even if only temporarily, to devote their time to community, self-growth, and love.
Places where we, as individuals, can come to fill our cups.
I’ve kept my promise, and have returned to the Mountain year after year. Between his dad and me, we have taken our child to sound healings, music and yoga festivals, contact dances, retreats, workshops – the works. And over the years, I’ve tuned in to what I feel is the most important thing about parenting: self-care.
Thing is, I am not proud to share what I’m about to write. But here goes:
I’ve known, felt, breathed, experienced in all levels what it feels like to parent when my cup is nearly empty. When I’ve been beyond exhausted, having nearly zero time for myself, drained and cranky, and sometimes even completely numb.
Times when I’ve completely lost it and yelled at my kid, cried, and straight up had a complete meltdown. I’m not ashamed about these emotions. What I’m ashamed about is the fact that I processed them in front of my child. During those times, it’s felt as though he had to bear the weight of holding space for me.
That kind of responsibility is not the one any child should have to bear. Because that’s where our support system comes in: other adults who can take care of the child while one goes to wail, scream, and process, either alone or in the presence of another adult who knows how to hold space.
The answer, of course, has been to receive more support. The more my village helps me raise my child, the more I am able to tend to myself. And part of that tending is having the alone time (or sometimes, having that space held for me by another) to rage, vent, complain, and let it all hang out.
I’m glad to say that especially in the last year, I have been blessed to connect with and grow my chosen family. My support system has strengthened, and I am able to regularly take care of myself. And even annually, take off for a whole week to spend on a mountain. This is not to say that I don’t lose it from time to time in front of my kid. It just means that it’s not as frequently.
And now that he’s older, when it does happen, I use it as an opportunity to ask for his forgiveness. To tell him that everyone gets cranky sometimes. And that it’s okay. And that I am so sorry.
So, what kind of human am I raising?
My prayer and intention is that he will grow up feeling free to feel his emotions. And that he finds healthy ways of processing them. And most importantly, to own up when he f’s up.
‘Cause, let’s face it, we all do.