Recently some of the dedicated volunteers who work to create the resourceful community known as Natural Parents Network met in person during the First Annual Natural Parents Network Team Get-Together. Our family attended the Midwest gathering and I share some of my experience below. I encourage you to enjoy the unique perspectives of the other volunteers through the links at the end.
Almost eleven years ago on a cold winter day in Michigan, as the new mother of an almost three month old, I made my first call to the local La Leche League group. I wasn’t having breastfeeding issues and at first I wondered why I was even calling. It wasn’t until I attended my first meeting about two months later that I felt it… the sense of community, camaraderie, parent-to-parent support.
In the years that followed I appreciated the space of mutual sharing and connection so much that I trained to become a Leader, started a group in the town where I lived, and worked with several other moms to become Leaders and start new groups in neighboring cities. Although breastfeeding was the central focus the aspect that intrigued me most was the philosophy referred to as loving guidance. I wanted that – to guide my children with love – more than anything on the planet.
So I practiced, watched the more seasoned parents, read books, observed some more, attended meetings, led meetings, participated in online discussions, received some helpful coaching from Scott Noelle, and began the journey to unravel all of the yucky stuff that stood between me and consistently nurturing my children with love.
During the process I went through some intense experiences in my life, one being the threat of death during a domestic dispute largely about how to discipline children. Although the person making the threat had been removed from the house, I had no idea if the threat would be carried through. Needless to say, I was afraid. I was scared not only for me, but for my children. Although it was not initially easy, I felt compelled to surrender my entire existence – and the care of my children – to the loving Creator I was just coming to experience. In that moment I experienced a wave of peace inside of me along with a sense that we would be okay, no matter what. I made the house as safe as possible and climbed into bed with the kids.
What happened in the next few hours was totally unexpected and when I share the resulting realizations you may understand what this has to do with parent-to-parent support. I went to sleep with the kids and awoke in the middle of the night feeling sick to my stomach. As I rested in the bathroom a bit I pondered getting a glass of water when I heard a voice. Not that it was outside of me per se, but extended in space around and through me… “Just lay in bed and breathe.” It was calm, yet directive. Soft, yet firm. It was easy to follow.
As I lay back down in bed I immediately began feeling a sense of peace intertwined with moving energy, like big leaves were being waved around and in my body, anxiety being lifted and washed from me as a deep recognition of warm peace was anchored into my awareness. I would close my eyes, breathe, then feel scared and open them only to hear “Just breathe” again. Finally I surrendered into the experience of being led to dark, tense, fearful places in my consciousness and then just as quickly whisked to a bright, warm, glowing light within. I felt I was being shown the many places I held fear while at the same time being directed to the true, loving, clear source of my being. This went on for what seemed hours until I eventually drifted into an extremely restful sleep.
The realizations I woke up with have defined my days ever since. First – I realized God, the Father, the Creator, or whatever name one might want to attribute our existence to, is not some outside punishing force, but is the very loving, healing breath we breathe in each and every moment. The All of the all. The source of life is our deepest identity. It is the uncovering of that through introspection, honesty, and surrender which results in true peace. A moment by moment experience.
The second realization was about parenting and serving parents in ways that allow them to experience this truth for themselves so they can undo all of the perceptions leading to patterns that do not serve themselves or their children. On that day I had a vision that I have held and experienced in the virtual sense many times. The vision of parents and children in a circle, free flowing in and out to tend to everyone’s needs, affirming the inner recognition and awareness of essential truth, discussing topics in such depth, honesty, and unconditional acceptance that true and lasting healing could take place.
I have learned to hold this space in my own life, when communicating with parents by phone, through the internet, or even in small face-to-face gatherings. For me, the First Annual Natural Parents Network Get-Together was the first time this vision felt fully actualized in person. It was the combined intention and coming together of parents who are changing the nature of the parent-child relationship.
During the first day of the gathering we met the families at the home of our gracious hosts Dionna and Tom Ford of Code Name Mama, put faces with names, hugged, received a gift bag of helpful items donated by generous people, played with the kids, ate lovingly prepared foods, took an invigorating nature hike, and shared gratitude for being able to gather in one place.
We were able to connect with several volunteers including Amanda of Let’s Take the Metro, Joni Rae from Tales of a Kitchen Witch, Acacia formerly of Fingerpaint & Superheroes, Jorje from Momma Jorje, Amy of Anktangle, Laura of Walden Mommy and Family Life Behind the Red Front Door, Rebekah and Chris of Liberated Family, Mandy from Living Peacefully with Children, and Shannon from The Artful Mama. It was like old friends coming together for the first time. I felt very at home.
On the second day we started with family yoga led by Acacia, jumped and stretched with the kids, made metaphorical pie with our feet, relaxed with some breakfast snacks, and followed up with a parenting chat. When I felt into a subject for the parenting chat the idea of parenting through frustration came to mind. Although I value all sorts of parenting topics, the ones that are the most difficult to discuss are those I often open the space for because they allow for a lot of healing when parents are willing to experience their discomfort in a new way (me included).
As we began I not only saw the vision that had come to me many years ago; I felt it. We were all gathering together with a willingness to heal, to not pass on our emotional pain and ineffective patterns to our children, to meet the moment with grace and allowing. At one point I felt a constriction in my body and realized we could benefit from going deeper than the original topic. If we were willing to go deeper we could experience healing in a much needed area: guilt.
So with a small suggestion we shared our stories of parenting guilt, we were honest, supportive of one another, we listened, emotions surfaced, some tears rolled, we shared insights, and we shared breaths of relief. We chose to open to healing through parent-to-parent support.
To me, the whole weekend was about the experience of truth, love, and healing – whether through a smile, hug, walk in the woods, playing with the kids, visiting with parents at the Northwest gathering on Google+ chat, or the simple meditation we shared at the end. It was about being together as parents, supporting one another along the path. Thank you, Natural Parents Network Team, for your willingness to share your experience with me and the rest of the families. I look forward to next year’s gathering! 🙂
To learn more about the members of the Natural Parents Network team, visit the NPN about page. To become a volunteer for NPN, first please check out what they are in need of, then contact them if you’re interested in helping out. Here’s information about some of the lovely volunteers, including all of those who are writing about their experience of the first annual NPN gathering:
Northwest Gathering Attendees:
- Lauren at Hobo Mama writes Meeting My NPN Friends. Also find Lauren on Twitter and Facebook!
- Amy at Anktangle writes Meeting the NPN Family. Also find Amy on Twitter and Facebook.
- Arpita at Up, Down & Natural writes Me And My Ladies ~ First Annual NPN Team Gathering. Also find Arpita on Twitter and Facebook.
- Kristin at Intrepid Murmurings writes Seattle Bloggy Meetup & Gluten-free Shortbread! Also find Kristin on Twitter and Facebook!
- Jennifer at True Confessions of a Real Mommy. Also find Jennifer on Twitter.
- Shannon at Pineapples & Artichokes writes Thanks.
- Moorea at MamaLady: Adventures in Lesbian Parenting writes The Natural Parents Are Coming! Hide the Stroller!
Midwest Gathering Attendees:
- Dionna at Code Name: Mama writes Wanted: More NPN Volunteers in Kansas City! Also find Dionna on Twitter and Facebook!
- Jorje at Momma Jorje writes Vacation Weekend with Volunteers. Also find Jorje on Facebook!
- Amy at Peace 4 Parents writes The Value of Parent-to-Parent Support, Truth, Love, and Healing. Also find Amy on Twitter and Facebook.
- Amanda at Let’s Take the Metro writes The Gathering. Also find Amanda on Facebook.
- Joni Rae at Tales of Kitchen Witch. Also find Joni Rae on Twitter and Facebook.
- Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children.
- Rebekah & Chris at Liberated Family. Also find Rebekah & Chris on Twitter.
Fabulous NPN Volunteers who were unable to attend:
- Melissa at The New Mommy Files writes Building a Modern Day Village. Find Melissa on Twitter and Facebook.
- Rachael at The Variegated Life. Find Rachel on Twitter and Facebook.
- Darcel at The Mahogany Way. Find Darcel on Twitter and Facebook.
Are you struggling as a parent? If so, I’d like to share something with you: a story and some hope.