Looking back at over 5 years of the Beautiful Beginnings Parent and Child Group
The Beautiful Beginnings Natural Playgroup has met weekly in Maryport for over five years. The group was founded in 2011 by Hatti Burt and Clare Cooper, local mothers who wanted to create a community which would support mothers, fathers and children on their natural parenting journey.
Weekly sessions at The Settlement brought together families who were interested in following their own hearts and instincts in parenting, and over time created a nurturing, supportive and welcoming community which held the space for many families to come together and share the parenting path.
Valuing time spent in Nature, over the years the babies, toddlers and children spent time exploring the garden, collecting leaves, sticks and flowers. We planted seeds, sung songs and had many adventures amongst the wildflowers and trees over the years.
The tiny saplings we planted from the Woodland Trust have now taken hold and made a beautiful contribution to The Settlement’s woodland. So lovely to remember that the children and toddlers were so involved in the digging, planting and watering, and these trees will grow up tall and strong alongside our children.
Craft, recycling and creativity were always high on our agenda, as was parents being involved and creating alongside our children. The beautiful crafts were often made with collected natural materials and recycled objects and are testimony to how the spark of creativity lies within all of us. Some of the most beautiful and interesting creations came forth when we didn’t have a fixed plan, but left out the materials and watched as the children brought to life images from their own imagination.
Alongside creating a gentle and inspiring for our children to play, we set out to create community; to create a sense of friendship, love and connection where we all love and care for all of the children and meet them all in gentleness and with respect. Knowing that other parents will respond to your own child with gentleness, patience, respect and an understanding of the needs underlying behaviour is wonderful and brings such support and sustenance to the parenting journey.
As well as supporting one another in our parenting, so too did we support one another on the wider path of mothering; we held space, listened and offered suggestions as women shared the challenges of breastfeeding, pregnancy, labour and sleep. We created Blessingway ceremonies to mark the sacred time of pregnancy and to offer love, strength and support as mothers approached birth. We remembered the babies we had lost and supported one another through these times, remembering the little babies who did not make it into our arms, yet live on in our hearts.
Like all aspects of mothering and of life, Beautiful Beginning is feeling the winds of change; as the needs and interests of our children grow and change, so too do we as parents adapt. I am currently training to be a Forest School Leader and it is my hope that the energy and community of BB will continue to grow and move forward as we develop into a Family Forest School. I hope you will join us on this journey.
Thank you to all of the families who were the Beautiful Beginnings group over the years; you always brought your love, wisdom, honesty and energy to make the group a welcoming and nurturing place for all.
Thank you for creating the community which has embraced us on our parenting journey and given our babies and children a truly beautiful beginning in life; to be loved and enjoyed by a small tribe of their own.
Milestones of Motherhood ~ Identity as Metamorphosis
Easter Holiday Dates For Playgroup
Playgroup will be on Tuesday 22nd March then off over Easter for two weeks and sessions will be beginning again Tues 12th April.
Enjoy Springtime! May it bring you fresh energy, inspiration and creativity.
Recently The Settlement have been involved in an Arts Council funded project which explores the relationship between science, art and creativity. The project focuses upon diatoms; tiny microorganisms found in water, which form beautiful and intriguing shapes. Collecting water samples and looking at these through microscopes can reveal the presence and wonder of these tiny beings.
Having viewed the diatoms, participants are then asked to create art inspired by what they have seen. We have been involved in the project along with other local families and community groups and it has been fascinating to see what people have come up with. We have made drawings, sculptures and felt pieces, and other groups have made pieces from natural materials and group sculptures.
As the project is being held at The Settlement this week, we will have the opportunity to get involved during our BB playgroup session this Tuesday 26th Jan. The level is perfect for the BB kids, and parents are encouraged to get involved too. We will be drawing, making sculptures individual pieces based on ideas inspired by the diatoms. We will also be able to look at natural objects and insects through the digital microscope which I’m sure will be fascinating to all.
Looking forward to seeing you there, usual times of 10:30-12:30.
Mothering ~ A Journey of Nurture and Understanding
When we first think of what it means to be a mother, we immediately think of the care we take of our children. For this is the essence and detail of our work; to love, care and nurture our little ones. And essential to our job is to learn as much as we can about what our children need so we can provide it for them.
This begins early, even in pregnancy, we read about nutrition and exercise and prepare for birth, the external things we can do that we believe are good for our baby, yet whilst our babies are still within our wombs we are also learning about them and their individuality; we learn which positions they are most comfortable, and their patterns of waking, playfulness and sleep.
And so our learning continues once baby is here, and what a steep learning curve this is, and two-fold; we are learning many of the things which are recommended or suggested as being good for babies, and deciding whether or not this seems good for our baby, and we are simultaneously learning about our own baby. We learn through watching, through listening, through feeling with our heart and intuition what ‘feels’ right for our baby, and what doesn’t.
We are growing and learning on so many levels; not just the intellectual level, where we sift through the masses of information, recommendation and advice and try to figure our what is right for us, but we are also growing and developing the muscles of our heart and intuition. We may read both sides of an argument or discussion, but the final decisions, for most of us, are made by what feels right, what feels right for us.
So as much as we are learning about our babies and children, for there is always much to consider and discover, whatever stage they are at, we are also learning a great deal about ourselves. We are discovering how we make decisions, not just intellectually, but from a deeper place, our heart, our gut, our belly. Mothering may be the first time, for many of us, that we become aware of our strong senses of intuition, instinct and inner wisdom. And this may not come to us in grand flashes of awareness, but simply small feelings and nudges to act in one way or another.
We ourselves are learning and growing just as much as our children are, maybe even more so, as we reflect, unlearn and let go of many things we thought we knew, as to make space for what is real and relevant in our lives now. And we are developing the new skills and expanded awareness we need to meet our children where they are now. For me, at the moment this is finding a deeper strength as my youngest is discovering his own inner strength and power and I certainly need to step up if I am to be any match for him! Each child, and each stage and experience is different, so there is always a need for us to reflect and grow.
And just as our children need a safe, protected space to explore and discover themselves, and at the same time to be nurtured and supported, the same is so for ourselves. So as much as mothering is a journey of nurture and understanding of our children, so it is also for ourselves. By recognising our own journey, and understanding our own needs and challenges, we are in a greater position to be able to honour our own journey and provide ourselves with the care, love and nurture we need.
So recognise your own growth gentle mothers, and honour your own journey. Breathe and reflect at your tremendous learning and evolution as you have grown and learned how to be there, with love, for your children.
Honour your own journey through the twists and turns of motherhood as equally cherished and valuable as your children’s childhoods; embrace your learning and your mistakes and hold yourself with forgiveness, acceptance and understanding. Allow the same, fierce unconditional love you shine upon your children to embrace your own journey too.
Be gentle on yourself; you are doing amazing.
Milestones of Motherhood
How our own childhood influences our mothering
How does the way in which we were parented influence us as mothers to our own children?
What aspects of our own childhood do we seek to pass on to our own children, and what do we hope to do differently?
If in our own childhood we did not receive great love, nurturing, kindness and understanding how has this impacted upon our lives, and how do we ourselves become mothers to our own children?
These are the types of questions I have been exploring through interviews with mothers who have been reflecting upon their own childhoods and themselves as mothers today.
If as children we were not mothered as optimally as we could have been, we may come to motherhood ourselves unsure and anxious about our own capacity and capabilities to mother our own children. We may fear we cannot love our children, or be good enough, and we may fear we will replicate the pain of our past in our own families.
Through interviews, women reflected upon their own experiences and talked with honesty and tenderness of the journeys they have been on as mothers, coming to terms with their pasts, and creating their own families, day by day.
You see there is something so deeply transformational about becoming a mother; we come face to face with our greatest strength and power, and also our greatest fears and vulnerabilities. Yet as I have found through listening to mothers speak, and indeed my own experiences, motherhood itself has the potential to be profoundly transformational.
We can choose to be different to our own parents, we can create our own families according to our own deeply held beliefs. We can face our own fears and imperfections and grow to become the mothers we know our children deserve.
These are some of the aspects we consciously bring to our growth and evolution. Yet being a mother runs deeper than this and has the potential to transform us from the inside out. Feeling unconditional love for our own children can be life changing, life affirming and also terrifying in equal measures, especially if this has not been the nature of our own childhood. And this unconditional love itself works, like alchemy, on all aspects of our being, bringing many aspects of ourselves up for healing, inviting us to allow love into all aspects of our selves.
Writing this chapter has been deeply moving, inspiring and at times challenging as I have reflected upon the ways in which to hold these deep truths of the human heart, and present them in all their tenderness, power and authenticity. Yet one thing is for sure, whatever our past, and whatever our fears, the love we feel for our children offers us a way forward onto a path which has the potential to bring us to know, so deeply, our own truth, our own power and the depths of our own hearts. I hope that this is one of the messages which readers of ‘Milestones of Motherhood’ feel as they read this chapter.
These are not issues that we often talk about day to day, but if this resonates with you, and you feel you would like to reflect and share your journey with others through my book, you are very welcome to get in touch. You could write about your experiences, or we could arrange to talk over the phone. You can contact me, Clare, on firstname.lastname@example.org
I will do my best to honour the truth and tenderness of your journey.
Mosaics of Mothering
I am very blessed to have a lovely friend who makes pottery and as a family and at various groups we have spent many a happy hour squidging clay and making our own, albeit rather haphazard, pottery creations. My eldest daughter has taken a particular interest in this and is now confident to recycle her own clay, to make bowls, animals, pots etc and has attended a local clay club.
Recently my friend dropped round a huge box of assorted small and broken tiles along with the simple instructions to make mosaics. (You basically just stick them on with PVA then have the option to grout over them.)
So early one morning it was decided that we would give the mosaics a try and we enjoyed a happy and relaxing couple of hours picking through the tiles and arranging them to make designs and patterns on pieces of wood.
This was a really fun and creative thing to do, and was so accessible for all ages and abilities; my 2 year old watched for a little while and then joined in carefully selecting tiles and arranging them to make his own design. My 5 year old had a clear plan of exactly what she would do, and simply selected the right tiles and made her design, and my eldest daughter took the different approach of picking out tiles of similar colours and textures and then taking the time to arrange them in different ways and experiment with what she liked before committing them to glue. I picked out the pieces I liked and then arranged smaller pieces all around them. And the result… Four beautiful mosaics, all individual, unique and colourful which have pride of place on our kitchen shelf.
As those mosaics have sat in our kitchen and I’ve glanced at them day after day, they’ve reflected back to me much wisdom of life, mothering and family!
For the boxes of small and broken tiles in the beginning were really nothing much at all, and indeed on their own would not amount to a great deal. Yet when we took them, each one by one, held them a little, noticed their colour, shape and texture, we began to see their beauty, and how, when arranging them with other similar pieces, they would, together, become much more than the sum of their simple parts.
The simple process created a unique, interesting and beautiful piece of art, which each of us had very much enjoyed doing. And it struck me how this can be liked to our days as mothers.
The small, and at times, seemingly insignificant, aspects of our days as mothers can be likened to the little tiles; the many repetitive domestic tasks, the repetitive care of babies, the seemingly constant breastfeeds and broken nights, the holding of little hands, reading stories, and listening to the stories and dramas of our older children, the breakfasts, lunches, packed lunches, picnics and bedtimes, brushing teeth, cuddles and laughter, wiping tears, plastering knees… the list goes on for each of us…
Yet these are the tiles of our mosaics of motherhood, and although each little tile seems at times unimportant, when we step back and reflect for a moment, we can see just how important each and every one of those little moments are; for it is these tiles which create the overall mosaic of our family life and our children’s childhoods.
And the attitude we take when carrying out these tasks is akin to the glue which holds the pieces together; for it is our love and attitude to mothering, and to our children, which take all of the little pieces we have chosen and holds them together. And when we step back for a moment, we can see that all the experiences, the magnificent, the difficult and the everyday, somehow come together to create the beautiful and unique artwork which is our family.
Yet there is another way too in which mosaic can reflect our family lives; imagine our family lives as a beautiful piece of colourful ceramic, maybe a bowl, plate or tile, perhaps over time cracks and chips begin to show, or we could just simply drop the plate in a moment of haste – the result is the same; the beautiful thing is shattered into many sharp pieces. We may be shocked, hurt, bewildered, lost or angry; yet with time, the beauty of mosaic offers us a way forward.
Things are broken, but we are able to look at all of the pieces, and one by one, we are able to begin to pick them up, to examine them, to decide which ones we would like to keep and which are damaged beyond repair. And we are able once again to begin to create a new picture, we can use many of the old pieces, yet now we also have the opportunity to add new pieces, of different colour and texture, and over time, create a new piece. Of course it will look different to how things were before, yet in the transformation, we will learn much about ourselves and our loved ones, their colours and textures, and the different ways of arranging things.
We can build something great and beautiful from the pieces we have, and it is by taking the time to collect these pieces, hold them in our fingers and put them together, glued with our love and dedication, that we create our families, over and over as the changes sweep through our lives like the seasons.
There is no paint-by-numbers guide, and who knows how things will work out, yet all we must do is lovingly work with each piece, one at a time, day by day, and through this process we build loving, unique and authentic families.
If this process resonates with you, and you would like to share your experiences of change and transformation through mothering I am once again inviting women to contribute to my book-in-the-making Milestones of Motherhood. If this interests you then please do get in touch with me, Clare Cooper, via email@example.com
Beautiful Beginnings Play Group Sessions Begin Again for Autumn
Playgroup sessions beginning Tues 6th October
10:30-12:30 at The Settlement
Sessions will include sharing ideas for autumn crafts and activities, exploring the garden, free play, sharing our favourite stories and songs.
Looking forward to seeing everyone there, and new families always welcome.
Learning to Love
Writing the chapter First Weeks ~ First Times for Milestones of Motherhood I’ve been thinking a lot about love lately. About mother-love, and the many ways we as mothers experience love for our babies and children.
One thing is for sure, the stereotype of having a baby, feeling a huge surge of love at first sight and floating happily on our way into motherhood is rarely the full story.
Having had the opportunity to talk to many mothers about their feelings towards their babies and children, and read the written experiences of many more, I have come to realise that one of the most unique aspects of the mothering journey is the way in which we come to love our babies.
Indeed this gets to the very essence of what Milestones of Motherhood is all about ~ the inner journey of growth and transformation we experience as mothers, and love is surely at the heart of this journey.
We can break down the journey to meeting our baby into the clear, biological stages of pre-conception, conception, the three trimesters of pregnancy, the stages of labour and birth, and the post-postpartum days, weeks and months. Yet our emotions and evolving feelings towards our baby do not have such a blueprint to follow.
For some of us, we love our babies even before conception, and this love grows constantly through pregnancy, culminating in meeting our baby and holding him in our arms after birth.
Yet for many others, our feelings ebb and flow. At times we may feel close to our baby during pregnancy, and connected, and at other times we may feel strange and confused, doubting ourselves as potential mothers and unsure who and what this being is growing beneath our skin. And of course there are those times when we fear we will be dreadful mothers and wonder if really this is the right decision at all. In all truth, love for our child may be the furthest thing from our true experience.
Yet this is something so few of us feel able to talk about, leading to many mothers facing the emotional terrain of pregnancy alone, smiling to say they are fine, unsure how and with whom to share their underlying feelings.
Our birth experiences too contribute enormously to the beginning of our emotional relationship with our baby. When birth unfolds as we planned, and we feel happy about our experiences, it is easy to see how this good start gives us a helping hand in loving and getting to know our baby. Natural, physiological birth also orchestrates hormonal patterns releasing the cocktail of love hormones which give us the best possible biological start to fall in love with and begin to nurture our baby.
However birth can also not go as planned, either by nature, or mother. Women can go through great medical intervention which brings her baby into the world, but also leaves many of us feeling severely traumatised, and in a state of shock as we meet our baby and begin our path of learning to be a mother. So many of us begin motherhood with some level of physical, mental and emotional shock and trauma, with some women experiencing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as a result of their birth.
Indeed birth itself is such a vast, intense and life changing experience however it takes place, it is fair to say that all women are in some level of shock and adjustment as they have passed through this womanly initiation into motherhood.
As we begin to make sense of our birth and move forward into the early days and weeks with our babies, so too do our feelings begin to make sense of our new position in the world. We are mothers, with a new life to love, care for and nurture. Forever. This is a huge realisation, and as much as we may know it in our heads, to find ourselves living it for real can give rise to feelings of panic, worry and doubt amidst the warm feelings we have for our baby.
Yet love finds its way. For some of us, waves of love roar through us, we have never felt a love so strong and we float through the first hazy weeks in a bubble, tired, but blissful and loving it.
Yet for others, we know the love is there, sometimes, and we care for our babies as though we love them, but it takes a little longer for these feelings to really be real.
Sometimes the surges of love we experience are so powerful, too powerful and we are overwhelmed. Overwhelmed by the strength of our feelings and the huge dawning realisation of how our life has changed. We can be overawed to just how vulnerable both our little ones, and we ourselves really are.
It is hard to put into words the feelings which some of us experience; when we know love should be there, but we feel, or rather, we don’t, feel it. So many of us go through the early times in a state of shock from birth, and exhaustion from baby care, with a void around our heart space, a discomfort and fear about the lack of feelings we harbour.
Many feel as though we are living each day from behind a screen, an invisible force separating us from the joy and happiness we know we should be feeling. Feeling this is bad enough, and the thought of sharing it terrifying. Yet sharing our feelings and seeking support can bring comfort and relief to know we are not alone, and the future will not be so bleak.
We learn that all changes with time, and love grows. With time, and with support, our feelings come. As we see our baby responding to us, their eyes meet ours, the flicker of a first smile, their tiny hand grasps ours.
We feel the stirrings of connection and each and every interaction with our baby builds on the one which has gone before it and love grows, slowly, step by step, little by little. It grows, through the days, weeks, months and years we spend getting to know our children. Every journey is different.
Whatever your experiences of loving your babies and children, wherever you are on your mothering journey, be gentle with yourself and accept your feelings. Nurture and care for yourself as you do your children and create a space in your heart for your feelings to grow.
Every woman’s experiences of growing to love her children are unique. Yet by hearing the feelings of others, we know we are not alone, and there is surely no one way to love, and to be a mother.
If you would like to share your own journey of growing to love your children and contribute to Milestones of Motherhood, please do get in touch with me, Clare, via firstname.lastname@example.org
‘Who’s Not In School?’ by Ross Mountney
I couldn’t think of a better book to begin BB book reviews than Ross Mountney’s first children’s book Who’s Not In School?, illustrated by James Robinson and published by Bird’s Nest Books.
Ross is a popular home ed writer and brings much inspiration, common sense and reassurance to home educating families and many others exploring options for their children’s education on her lively blog Ross Mountney’s Notebook.
Who’s Not In School? is a beautifully illustrated children’s story which explores the week of a home schooling family. I smiled when I first heard the title of this book, as like many others who’s children learn outside of school, when out and about my kids are forever being asked that very question ‘who’s not in school today?!’
The story invites us into the life of a family where parents and children spend their days together and everyday family life and learning take place side by side. We are introduced to the youngest member of the family Little Harry, and follow him through his week of explorations and adventures. My children loved his antics and couldn’t wait to see what Little Harry would get up to next. When my older daughters are playing and learning, their little brother is often getting up to Little Harry-like adventures of his own, so we all laughed as we could relate to this.
The illustrations are beautiful, gentle and detailed, and unique in the way that they capture many of the nuances of a home educating home and lifestyle. My children loved the pictures and spent some time on each page studying the details and asking questions.
In the majority of children’s stories, school is seen as the norm, and children who do not go to school can feel a little disconnected, or a little different, as if they on the sidelines looking in and the story doesn’t really apply to them. Indeed this is how they can feel in life sometime too, and this is what makes Who’s Not In School? such a special book, especially for younger children beginning their home ed journey.
The book shares the many daily activities and adventures which will be familiar to home educating families and gives the opportunity to talk about how learning happens throughout the day, day by day. The most heart-warming thing about the book for me is how home educated kids are at the center of the story and how my own children really related to the book.
I’ll now pass on to my eldest daughter to share her review:
“This story made me feel happy because lots of other books are about children going to school and people don’t really see my side of life.
I think it’s really good this book has been published so children can read it and learn about home ed. I’ve never read a book about home schooled kids before and it made me feel happy. I loved the pictures and I could read it myself.
I love the bit where Little Harry puts the blocks down the toilet and the other things he does because he is like my little brother. It made me feel really happy and joyful to read it because it is like my life and the pictures are really good.
I’d like another book to be written to hear more about Lucy and Jake because they are more close to my age and they sound really exciting and I want to know more about them. I love the book.
James the illustrator inspired me and made me want to be an illustrator myself when I’m older as I really like the pictures.
I also like it when Little Harry climbs up the slide in the pool and it made me laugh when he was silly in the museum.”
Who’s Not In School? is available from Bird’s Nest Books.