Nurturing and Protecting Creativity
Something I’ve been reflecting upon lately is children and creativity. Whilst many of us value creativity as something we would like for our children and ourselves, how does this play out in our day to day lives?
For a while I considered creativity to be linked to art materials and making stuff, which is definitely an element of being creative. I made a conscious effort to have creative time within our days, and I spent lots of time looking for creative activities, art classes and craft projects for us to enjoy.
Yet after reflecting on general day to day life, and especially the times my children are engaged in free play, I’ve come to realise that creativity is not simply limited to making stuff with art materials. It is integral to how we express ourselves in anything and everything that we do. When given the time and space, children do this effortlessly in the pictures they draw, the games they create, the fancy dress costumes they put together and the mud cakes they make and sprinkle with petals.
Watch your children and see how they play. When they have plenty of free time and space to do with what they will, the things they come up with are immense. Relaxed play is the state in which we become creators. We explore ideas, experiment with materials and discover and express a little more of ourselves with the materials we have to hand. This is such a different space to giving our child materials and telling them what to do with them or attaching learning outcomes, pressure and expectations to a child’s activity.
Far from limiting ourselves to perceiving creativity as purely creating things in the context of art or craft, we can widen our horizons and realise that we are innately creative in everything we do.
Yet as a parent one thing I’ve realised it that creativity, and in particular, time and materials available to use, is something which needs our attention. Life gets so busy, with so much to do, and so many places to be. Parenting can come with many anxieties surrounding how well our children are ‘doing’, and what they are learning and achieving. Yet creativity itself is valuable and is something which will nurture and enrich all aspects of our children’s being and development both as children enjoying the moment, and as adults who know what they are capable of and know how to explore, learn, create, make mistakes and create once again.
Prioritise and protect time where your children can simply be; being in their own space and their own time frame, with simple materials they can use as they like. Such space is simple and free, demanding little, yet is a threatened and endangered commodity in our rushed, scheduled and outcome focused lives.
We do not need to worry about helping our children to be creative – rather we need to become guardians of their time, space and environment to enable their innate creativity to flourish. Giving them the time and space to play as they like, smiling at their role plays, and providing simple materials for them to use as they like enables their creativity to flow. Some quiet time, in their home or garden, with access to materials is all they need.
Access to simple art materials, scissors and tape, cardboard and boxes, paint and glue and a space and plenty of time to use these gives children an invitation to explore and play as they like. We may guide their creations at times, and help them to develop new skills, yet protecting the space for them to create as they like invites them to come up with things far from what we may imagine; through their own creations we see a little more of who they are.
I am beginning to understand creativity as exploring and bringing into being our feelings and ideas with the materials we have around us. Our children do this effortlessly, when we protect their space from over-scheduling and prescriptive games, and give them the gift of time, freedom, and simple things to do with what they like.
Yet creativity is not solely the terrain of our children. Don’t limit yourself with the belief you are not creative because you were no good at drawing at school, creating is so much more than this – give yourself too the time and space to explore as you would your child, and begin to express yourself through everything that you do. Read more about discovering our own creativity as mothers in my next post.
Over the past few months I’ve spent a lot of time corresponding with women who are at various stages of writing about their mothering experiences to contribute to my book-in-the-making Milestones of Motherhood.
As mothers there are so many things which happen in our lives everyday which require our attention before we may find a little time to reflect and write. Yet along with the busyness there can also be other blocks which come up and seem to make us turn away from looking within and reflecting upon our experiences and our journeys along the mothering path.
A number of women, both close friends and women many miles away whom I’ve only met through emails, talk of how they began to reflect on their experiences, but soon found that the questions were bringing up memories of difficult times, or emotions from past experiences or situations which were traumatic and painful.
For some women these experiences may go way back to their own childhood. The ways we ourselves were parented contribute greatly to our own experience of motherhood. I will be exploring this issue within Milestones of Motherhood and sharing stories of how women reflect upon their own upbringing and the ways in which they come to terms with and transform these experiences and through a process of self awareness, become the mothers they wish their own children to have.
Another issue many women find difficult to look back upon can be the birth of their child. Birth, however it takes place, is a hugely powerful event in any woman’s life.
The intensity of birth has the potential to be hugely empowering if the birth unfolds as the woman hoped, and she feels safe and able to make her own choices. Yet birth also has the potential to leave women feeling traumatised and shocked, especially if they feel they were not active participants in the things which they experienced.
I am currently writing the Birth Chapter which explores women’s experiences around all aspects of pregnancy and birth. One of the things I am finding is, whatever a woman’s experiences of labour and birth, these memories are intense and emotions run deep.
Yet even in the most traumatic and difficult of times, I am hearing women talk of the strength and the courage they have found, and how this strength has become part of them, and brings support to them in other aspects of their mothering. Through birth we can discover just how strong we really can be.
Talking about the birth of her first son, one contributor writes:
“I have been through both the best and the worst experience of my life and learnt so, so much about myself and my inner strength. I’ve realised just how fragile life is, and how, when life demands, it is possible to rise to any situation if your will and determination are strong enough.”
Motherhood brings many challenges, yet also many opportunities for growth and transformation. Whilst looking back at hard times can be difficult, doing so also gives us the opportunity to love ourselves a little more, to let go, and to bring even more consciousness in the way we hope to mother our own children.
In a way mothering is like craft and alchemy. We are presented with many materials, much of them raw and gritty, many more joyful and cherished. Yet the path is not set, it is up to us how we take the things before us and create the motherhood and the family we hope to be.
If you are interested in reflecting upon your own experiences, growth and learning as a mother, and would like to contribute to the book, I would love to hear from you. Drop me an email on firstname.lastname@example.org
Spring trip to the Gincase Farm Park
Tuesday 21st April 2015
We will be meeting at the Gincase at 11:00am, there will be lamb or goat feeding session at 11:30, and possibly another scheduled session in the afternoon.
For those of you who haven’t been before, the Gincase has a large indoor play barn with picnic tables, ride on tractors and soft play. It can be a bit on the chilly side though, so layers and warm socks are a good idea.
There are outdoor animal paddocks and a walk around the fields which will be lovely if it is sunny and the elderflower has blossomed…
There is also an outdoor park with a new zip wire, go carts and an animal barn where you can stroke and feed the animals.
- We are meeting at 11:00am but the park opens from 10:30 so feel free to arrive then if you prefer. Say you are with the group.
- Under 2′s go free and there is an group price of £4.50 per person providing there are over 10 of us, which I hope there will be.
- Please park in the overflow car park which is to the left as you enter the main car park.
- Please bring a packed lunch. Hot drinks are available from the cafe, but they said they would prefer us to bring a packed lunch as the cafe can be really busy.
Looking forward to seeing you there!
For directions check out:
Welcome to ‘The Forgotten and the Fantastical’ Carnival
This post was written especially for inclusion in ‘The Forgotten and the Fantastical’ carnival, hosted by Mother’s Milk Books, to celebrate the launch of their latest collection of fairy tales for an adult audience: The Forgotten and the Fantastical. Today our participants share their thoughts on the theme ‘Fairy tales’.
Please read to the end of the post for a full list of carnival participants.
This carnival is about celebrating fairy tales (particularly those that empower women) and sharing creative works on the theme of fairy tales.
Frozen: Princesses, power and awakening the sacred feminine
The fairy tale of our time is undoubtedly Disney’s Frozen. As a mother of two young girls, rarely a day goes by without those familiar lines being sung or screeched in some sort of role play often involving reindeer, tiaras and dramatic waving of the arms as unseen ice powers are unleashed and unsuspecting parents or passing toddlers are zapped and frozen to the spot.
Yet as a family we have often avoided traditional fairy tale books and films. Whilst attracted by the dresses and sparkles, my daughters found the actual stories scary and threatening and I had issues with the messages of passive princesses waiting to be rescued by a handsome prince. For the plot of the majority of the traditional fairy tales involves princesses who are generally trapped, powerless and somehow imprisoned and their only hope of rescue and happiness is the arrival of a passing prince who is attracted by their beauty.
Whilst such fairy tales, traditionally intended for adults, do hold deeper messages, life lessons and cultural archetypes, I doubt such messages are received or understood by our children. Generally children take things literally, and in my experience girls are attracted to the dresses and the sparkles and they tend to be frightened by the scary bits. These types of stories can be a good spring board for discussions about women’s passivity and being rescued by a prince, but I wonder to what extent such portrayals of women are really serving our girls as they strive to explore life and make sense of their place in the world.
So it was with a bit of a yawn that we succumbed to Frozen fever and bought the film. Yes there are sparkly dresses and scary bits but as a family we found the messages here to be different, and refreshingly so. My daughters liked the way the story was centered around two sisters and could relate to the characters more, and understood from first watch that it was the sister’s love for each other which was at the heart of the film.
For me, as a mother, feminist, writer, Disney-cynic and yogini interested in women’s power and transformation, I was rather surprised to find myself feeling Frozen was Disney’s contribution to our planetary re-awakening of the sacred feminine, or female power! Previously, female characters mostly played a passive, and secondary role to males, and the plots were always based around the disempowering tale of imprisonment and woe followed by rescue by a prince attracted by her physical beauty. Women’s lot, oppression, or rescue, were determined by men’s choices. How refreshing to see a story which centers upon the journeys of two sisters. Whilst male characters are present, they are secondary to the goings on of Elsa and Anna, and neither character’s journey of final destination is solely determined by a knight or prince.
For me, Frozen makes a number of contributions to the discovery and celebration of the sacred feminine, or the re-discovery of feminine power. Whether you agree of not, I hope the ideas make for fun discussions with your sons and daughters!
Power - traditionally fairy tales saw strength and power as a man’s domain, used to overpower or rescue women. If female characters were powerful, mostly they were also evil, cast as witches or stepmothers using their power in a negative way. Powerful women in fairy tales were generally assumed to be wicked, using their strength to hurt or manipulate others, or to meet their own selfish desires. What do such messages teach children about using their own personal power, or even being powerful. We know only too well that girls are more likely to be called bossy for exhibiting the same leadership type behaviour as boys. Truthfully, how is the fairy tale portrayal different from how we actually perceive and receive seemingly powerful women in real life? Do so-called powerful women still have to embody male characteristics of power to be recognised, and what are our alternatives? Could we love a powerful princess, and how would she be portrayed?
Similarly thousands of real life women have lost their lives in torturous ways throughout history for possessing supposed supernatural powers, be these knowledge of healing herbs and teas, or spiritual healing knowledge. The archetype of evil witch lives on, to be feared and never trusted. Elsa herself fears her own power and struggles to keep it hidden from others, being the ‘good girl she always has to be’.
Yet through her journey of isolation in the mountains, she dares to (dare I say it) let it go; she throws off her gloves, and with them the shackles of expectation of who and what she is expected to be. She looks inside and explores her own power and her own darkness. She tests herself and manifests her wonderful ice palace, unique in her own image. For most girls, ‘Let it go’ is their favourite song, and the bit they play most in role play is the swishing of the arms creating their own ice castles. Through casting off her gloves, Elsa discovers her own power and freedom and is happy with who she is, even through she is different to others and not what others wanted her to be.
Surely this is a message worth holding on to for our little wanna be princesses.
Her journey is akin to real life women letting go of the expectations of what others think they ‘should’ be and do, and embarking on an inner journey to discover who they really are, and to use their own powers of self discovery to create the world they want to see, which honours and mirrors their unique gifts.
Real life women throughout the world are again awakening to re-claim their female powers be this through honouring femininity, their bodies, menstrual cycles, creativity, spirituality and finding and expressing female voices which have a different message and a different rhythm to our male dominated discourse. Whist previously female empowerment may have been perceived as women being equal to men, honoring the sacred feminine is about exploring, creating and celebrating female expressions of power and creativity in their own right, and not measuring them against the patriarchal yardstick.
Power and Intention
Although Elsa discovers her own power, her journey is not yet complete. She is fine living in isolation, yet she fears owning her own power and being her true self amongst others. How does this relate to real life women? Whilst we may know inside we are truly powerful, how does this really sit with us? Are we truly comfortable with this, or do we harbour inner fears that we may become power crazed and ego-centric, worrying others will see us as arrogant or big headed, or just laugh at us and think we are weird or bossy? Elsa is unsure how to use her power, and chooses to live alone, ‘I’m alone and free‘.
Connecting with Anna, Elsa comes to realise that it is love which will help her to use her powers safely and for the good of all. And there is no greater spiritual message for us in the real world. We may initially hide from or shun our own power or strength, yet it is the intention with which we use such energy which determines the results. If we can learn to use our own power, strength, gifts and talents from a place of love, with positive intentions, we have nothing at all to fear.
Love - Whilst Elsa’s inner journey is dramatic and attractive, as spiritual awakenings can be in life, Anna’s journey is more human, and perhaps a little less exciting, but still as valuable. Whilst Elsa offers lessons about power, Anna’s journey explores love.
Isolated, confused and deprived of affection as a child, Anna is vulnerable and desperate for love as a young woman. This causes her to grab with both hands the first bit of attention and affection she receives from villan-prince Hans who sees her weakness and schemes to use and abuse her.
Anna’s immediate acceptance of marriage has led to many hilarious discussions with my daughters about the most suitable amount of time to get to know a partner before getting married. Their suggestions ranged from three to forty years! We’ll re-visit that one if a few years time.
Despite her emotional vulnerability, Anna is sure of her love for her sister and she sets off on a some-what naive journey through the snow to find Elsa. Along the way she encounters Kristof, the odd reindeer riding ice seller, and whilst their relationship is not love at first sight, he accompanies her on her journey.
What I find really significant about this is that Anna is in control of her own journey and decisions, and Kristof offers guidance and assistance. He doesn’t take over, and she doesn’t want him to. They get to know each other, and eventually fall in love, by walking their own paths, not giving up their own interests for another. What a refreshing new message, compared to the usual fairy tale rescue, love at first sight scenario. Cue more discussions about getting to know people as friends before beginning relationships!
Happy Endings – The happy endings in Frozen came from the result of Elsa and Anna’s own journeys of discovery. Both got to know more about who they really were, their own strengths, and what they wanted from life. Their happiness came from being happy with themselves and from their love for each other. Both were accepted by others for being who they are, and the ending showed that the young women could be happy with or without a prince! How refreshing for the end not to be about a prince saving a princess and them living happily ever after, but a community accepting two very different women, and each character sharing their own love and unique powers for the greater good of others.
Oh, and did I forget to ask…would you like to build a snowman?
It can also be ordered via your local bookshop.
Any comments on the following fab posts would be much appreciated:
In ‘Imagination is quantum ergo fairies are real’, Ana, at Colouring Outside the Lines, explains why we should all believe in fairies and encourage our children to do the same.
Writer Clare Cooper explores the messages the hit movie Frozen offers to our daughters about women’s experiences of love and power in her Beautiful Beginnings blog post ‘Frozen: Princesses, power and exploring the sacred feminine.’
‘The Origins of The Forgotten and the Fantastical’ — Teika Bellamy shares her introduction from the latest collection of fairy tales for an adult audience published by Mother’s Milk Books.
Our last playgroup session before Easter will be Tuesday 24th March10:30-12:30.
We will have an Easter Treasure Hunt in the garden (weather permitting). The ‘treasure’ will be little bunnies, chicks and packs of raisins! I’m sure they will all be getting enough chocolate over the holidays!
We will have two weeks off over Easter and playgroup will re-start on Tuesday 14th April.
Tuesday 21st April will be a Spring trip to the Gincase Farm Park, more details to follow.
To celebrate Mother’s Day I would like to share my reflections on the strength we nurture and grow as mothers.
The Strength of a Mother
The strength of a mother is like the swaying willow. You flow and weave too and fro. Adapting, accommodating, supporting, sharing; spreading your energy where needed, here, there, your love is felt everywhere.
Your strength is your flexibility, going with the flow. It is within your kindness and strength your babes learn and grow.
Your strength as a mother is as vast as the rich deep earth. The depth of your heart holds the space from which you nurture tiny young seedlings, holding, stroking, encouraging to grow.
It is from deep within you create, love and flow.
Nurture yourself also, then all of you grow.
Your strength as a mother is when you do nothing. When you hold the space, holding back the tide of pressures and influences, creating the space for your children to explore, to learn and to unfold in their own unique way.
Like the furls of a fern uncurling. Like flowers towards the sun. All different. All perfect. All beautiful in their own way.
Your love is their sun, you bring out their brightness, their beauty, their fun. As they do for you, when they smile into your eyes. Thankful, loving, free.
Your strength as a mother is when you say yes. Yes to yourself, to your child, to your body, to life. Embracing, enhancing. Striving, thriving. Creating the shared memories of your future.
Your strength as a mother is when you say no. Your discernment, from deep within, you hold your ground, strong as the earth. No, thank you. That is not for me, for you, for us.
By following your heart, you know what is right, what is wrong.
The strength of a mother is when you replace a judgement with a blessing. A judgement of yourself, your child, or another. All criticism, all comparison, letting this go.
Realise ultimately we are one; no one better no one lesser. Each of us a being of love, living life in the best way we know.
The strength of a mother is in what you know. Not in your mind, or from others, but those things you just know. In depths of your heart, no need to ask why. You just know.
Your strength as a mother is within who you are, not just what you do. Your strength as a mother flows through the love you share; and with that fierce beauty, gentle mothers, nothing can compare.
This piece first appeared in the e-book The Strength of a Mother Edited by Starr Meneely www.themothermagazine.co.uk
In our garden, tiny snowdrops herald the beginning of Springtime and their emergence from the still cold earth is perfectly timed with the publication of my article New Beginnings ~ Creating Change in Issue 68 of The Mother.
Sowing the Seed ~ Beginnings of Change
The first thing we may see of the spring flowers is their tiny green shoots easing through the frozen ground. Yet they did not spring up from nowhere, although it may seem this way to us, noticing them for the first time this year. No they have been there all the time, quietly beneath the earth, their latent bulbs filled with potential. And when the frost retreats and the earth gradually warms,when the conditions are right, their time comes to awaken, to blossom and to shine.
Yet they had to be planted, they had to be put there, into the earth, by someone who had the desire to see colourful spring flowers each year. The intention had to be set and acted upon.
And so with us. Situations may alter around us, yet change within does not just spring up from nowhere, but from the intentions we set, and the seeds we sow deep within ourselves. Change, real and lasting change, begins from inside, deep within our being.
Laying the seeds of change within can be likened to the conception of a baby. Indeed change is conception. It is the inner forming of our potential, with the intention of creating something new in our lives. The potential is always there, latent as bulbs are in a garden centre shelf, yet it is our conscious action to create change which causes us to take stock of our latent potentials and catalyse them into action through our intention. Just like a baby’s conception; even though inner changes have taken place, it is a subtle inner sift, change is not immediately visible in our external life.
Once we have decided upon what we would like to change, to let go of, or invite into our lives, we may plant the seed. We may do this in the form of a resolve or affirmation, a commitment to our decision to change. In Yoga this is known as a sankalpa which translates as resolve. It is similar to an affirmation, a positive change we would like to create, said in the present tense, usually before and after meditation. We are, in effect, planting the new seed in the fertile ground of our receptive mind….
You can read the rest of my article in Issue 68 of The Mother available from www.themothermagazine.co.uk
As the harshness and darkness of Winter has passed, Spring is a wonderful time to take a fresh look at our lives and begin to make the changes we so desire. If you have planted your own seeds of change within your heart and mind, I hope you are beginning to see these manifest in your outer world.
If not, why not become inspired by the turn of the season and begin to plant some seeds of change in your own life. Even small changes, such as deciding to value yourself more, or resolving to bring a new routine, or set aside a little time for creativity, study or more time in nature can bring with them significant changes in your life, and the rhythm of your family.
Many BB mums are either fledgling knitters or would like to learn, and I suspect we have a couple of experts among you too.
We are having an intro to knitting session this Tuesday 10th March where my lovely friend, knitter and potter Marylin Ross will be coming along to show us the basics and teach us how to make a pair of fingerless gloves!
If you would like to be involved bring along a pair of knitting needles (size 8 or 9) and a ball or two of colourful wool. You can often find lots of needles and wool in charity shops. I think the idea is to make he gloves stripey so we can all share colours and have some creative fun.
Marylin will also give help to anyone struggling with their own knitting projects, so bring these along too if you like. Some of you may remember her from the pottery session.
I love these cute babies and wonder if we could aspire to making some for the group soon… I love being ambitious!
How has being a mother changed you?
That is the question at the center of Milestones of Motherhood which featured in a lovely article in the Workington Times& Star this week, inviting local mums to get involved.
As mothers our attention is so often focused on the present moment with our children, especially when they are little. There is so much for us to focus on, and so much to think about as a mother. And there is also so much to do!
The early years of parenting can feel so busy, yet it is only when we step back for a moment we can see just how much our children have grown and changed. This morning my eldest daughter put on some pyjamas that had been packed away in our campervan for a few months. They used to be her favourites, but today they were barely below her knees!
I hadn’t noticed that she had grown much at all, but these pyjamas opened my eyes to the fact that she had grown so much in the past couple of months. Growth sneaks up on us like this, for when we are so focused in the day to day, the activities, the learning, the tears and the laughter we can overlook the ways we ourselves and our children grow and change.
Milestones of Motherhood sets out to create some space to explore, recognise and celebrate the ways in which women grow and change through being mothers. If you would like to share your stories as a mother and bring comfort and inspiration to others I would love to hear from you.
Please contact me, Clare, on email@example.com and ask for a Milestones Questionnaire.
As many of you know, at the moment I am writing the book Milestones of Motherhood which sets out to explore the ways in which women change and grow through being mothers.
The original idea for this book came about through a piece of writing I entered into the 2013 Mother’s Milk Writing Prize.
I had been looking through some old photos of when my first daughter was a baby, and the thing that struck me the most was not how much she had changed, because of course that is what we expect babies to do, but how different I was then, and how much I had changed.
Of course physically pregnancy, birth and caring for a baby are very demanding, and we feel and see the effects of this huge outlay of energy in and on our bodies.
Yet I began to reflect upon how much I had changed in other ways too. We may read many books and plan what we hope to be like as mothers, but as every new mum knows, there is no way to really know how you will feel and what you will do until the time comes and you are there, with your baby in your arms, depending on you night and day, every night and every day.
So I took the opportunity of my little ones sleeping to write a piece of prose called Milestones where I explored the ways in which I had changed through learning to care for my little ones.
I reflected upon how I had learned so much about love through loving my tiny daughter. Through loving her, I had really opened my heart and learned so much about myself. Pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding especially had taught me much about trust. A trust in myself, my babies, and the ways in which trusting, loving relationships are formed.
Here is a little excerpt from the original Milestones:
Looking back, at myself as a new mum, I was happy and hopeful, yet completely unprepared and unaware of what it really meant to love and nurture a baby. Less still was I prepared for the challenges and joys of toddlers and children. Yet each and every day I got to know my baby. I held her close, watched as she snuggled and found my breast … I felt as though I was in some kind of alternate universe, not quite woken up yet. However, through these hazy days, a vast transformation was taking place inside.
Looking back I smile as I imagine our fledgling family, like a butterfly, in a cocoon of our very own, letting go of everything we previously know and thought we knew. Letting go, yet learning so much more. As we emerged from our cocoon, fledgling wings feeling their way, gradually bringing ourselves out to feel the warmth of the sun, I realise our learning has been vast.
Taken from ‘Milestones‘, The Mother’s Milk Books Writing Prize 2013 Anthology, Edited by Teika Bellamy, Mother’s Milk Books
My piece was commended by the judges and I felt so happy to see my writing appear in the Writing Prize Anthology amongst many other unique and touching insights into parenting.
Shortly after Teika Bellamy from Mother’s Milk Books asked if I would be interested in developing this idea into a book which explored the many ways in which motherhood changes women.
I feel very blessed to have this opportunity and to be able to write about issues which are very close to my heart.
Milestones of Mothering will include the stories of many women, all at different places along their parenting journey. If you would like to get involved and share your own journey of transformation as a mother, please get in touch and I will send you a Milestones Questionnaire. I look forward to hearing your story.
You can contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org
We also have a new facebook page Milestones of Motherhood where you can keep up to date with the progress of the book.