One of the many things I love about Waldorf education is that ‘coming-of-age’ work is incorporated into the curriculum during the middle-school years (6th – 8th). Coming-of-age work has long been lost in our culture and our teachers and parents are bringing it back little by little. This is tremendously important work because it creates a safe environment for our adolescent girls and boys to begin the delicate process of finding themselves.
As the parent of an 8th grade girl, I have been participating in this work alongside my daughter and the other girls in her class, as well as, their mothers and grandmothers. Additionally, some of the mothers of the boys in the class have joined us as well. We’ve created a circle of women consisting of maidens, mothers and crones who come together to support, nurture, and embrace our collective connection of the feminine spirit. Not only is this is a powerful force, it’s an empowering one.
For the mothers and grandmothers of these girls, many of whom may not have received any positive female guidance when we were young, this is an opportunity to change this cycle for our own daughters and grand-daughters, by giving them the very thing our own hearts and souls have yearned for. This is powerfully healing work. In turn, this circle provides our daughters with the space they need to express their hearts desires to us in healthy, helpful and even humorous ways.
Two years ago, during 6th grade, we had a weekend retreat with our daughters at an alumni parent’s beautiful log home up north. Our time was spent preparing and sharing meals for one another, singing, crying, and laughing together. We gave our daughters foot baths and expressed our most heartfelt wishes, and desires for them. They performed a hysterically funny skit for us on the innermost workings of puberty. We, in turn, prepared an equally as funny and probably as embarrassing game for them that I am not privy to disclosing here. Wink-wink;)
We also created power-sticks with the girls honoring and acknowledging their transition from ‘little girl’ to maiden, and the powerful energy of our moon cycles. We kept and kindled our sticks tying a new string or ribbon on every month with the intention of coming together again later to release them back to the universe and ignite their power.
Last week, we came together again to do just that. The girls lovingly prepared a spaghetti dinner for us consisting of delicious chicken and turkey meatballs, salad, and bread, and then topped it off with to-die-for flourless chocolate cake! Afterwards, the girls bathed our feet and shared what they admired most about us. This was extremely heartwarming and touching for us all. Then, on a bit lighter note, the girls performed another skit for us entitled, “Back-off Moms!” The title speaks for itself. No amount of therapy could have given us any more helpful information.
Finally, with our sticks in hand, we walked outside into the crisp, fall, evening air to the bonfire that had been prepared for us. Circling once again, one by one, we placed our sticks into the fire and watched as the flames engulfed them. Some of us held onto our sticks a little longer than others, lingering with them in our hands, feeling the comfort of their familiarity.
Letting our sticks go was somewhat bittersweet. Having cared for them for so long, we had gotten used to seeing them as they were. In time though, we will adjust to their new form. By doing so, we enable them to be even more powerful, returning to their source, the earth, making it fertile for new life.
To relate to our daughters letting go of their ‘girlhood’, I reeled back the years in my mind and remembered how that felt. It was scary and exciting at the same time but the overwhelming sensation was how dauntingly unfamiliar it all was.
For us as women, mothers and grandmothers, letting go of our children’s youth pulls, pushes, and twists every heartstring we have. Within the flames of that fire we saw every memory in our child’s life from their birth to the present moment. If we grasped to hold on, it would burn our fingers, but as we began to stand back and witness the beauty of the transformation before us, we received the most precious gift life has to offer – the amazing metamorphosis of our children unfolding into adults.
Ultimately, this is what we want for our children – to become loving, happy, kind-hearted adults. While there are many twists and turns, curves and crossroads as we travel the road of letting go with our children, it is one of the most crucial rites of passage we all must go through with the final destination being the same for every one of us – LOVE.
My most heartfelt love and gratitude goes out to my daughter and every 8th grade girl in the Class of 2015, along with their mothers and grandmothers, for walking with me along the path of letting go with a little more grace and ease than I could ever have walked it on my own. Let me also acknowledge their phenomenal teacher, who without her foresight, love, devotion and integration of the Waldorf curriculum, none of this would have been possible.
Carolyn Wise – Admissions Coordinator & Prairie Hill Parent (14 years)