The family ecosystem
A few months ago, Liv asked me: "Mum, do you know why everyone tells that in our home, there is a special atmosphere? That they feel good?"
I savored this question, I admit. Then I responded that I couldn't know exactly what other people could feel entering our home, but yes, I care a lot about the environment in which our family lives. It's essential for me.
"You know, my sweet heart, I'm very sensitive to the ambience in which I live. I want to take care of it. I think that everyone needs a beautiful environment in which to thrive and grow, even if we are not aware of it. And it's important for me that you grow up surrounded by beauty. I put all my heart into it, and it must be felt."
(This may seem a little superfluous, but in reality, beauty is only the upper layer of our family atmosphere. If you dig a little deeper, it embraces a lot of other things).
"Yes, mommy! I'm sure about that! You're the best of moms" she responded.
Which kid didn't say that to her mother one day?
I still think I have the best mom ever! I'm not kidding. I know that she has flaws because perfect parents do not exist, but she has created for her children a beautiful little ecosystem for their development.
I'm not the best mother at all either, I know that. And I don't have my mother's strength to make such radical choices and to keep with them. I was fortunate to grow up in a family where everyone could always express themselves freely, where everyone was free to become whoever they wanted, to follow their own path and remain authentic.
If I have beens disconnected from my inner voice on occasions, it never lasted long. Like a lighthouse that shows the way to the port, my inner light was always there to guide me.
What did my parents do to make me grow up in this way, with integrity, without disconnecting myself from my desires, passions and ideas? What have they done to give me an inner strength that supports me in case of doubt and helps me to orient myself in life?
Well, I think they left me alone! They didn't seek to transform me, to shape me, nor to direct me. They pursued their dreams of living independently and left me alone, growing up as I wished. I was a little wild when I was young, but they didn't try to turn me into someone else. My parents respected my integrity, and above all, they loved my true nature. They put all their beautiful and positive energy into creating the right environment for their children to flourish and grow up in complete freedom and develop their full potential.
I don't know if they did this with full intentionality, or if it was just the beautiful result of their life choice.
But whether we are aware of it or not, we create an atmosphere in which the family bathes and evolves together. Often we don't think about it, and we follow our daily routine, and then things set themselves up on their own. However, there is a risk that we may miss something. Since the influence of the ambience we build around our children is inevitable, we'd better make it intentional. So we should give it our best energy, our love and our greatest ideas.
The spirit of our home is our family culture. It contains everything that matters to us, everything that we want to pass on to our children. It’s what keeps the family together, what brings it together. Finally, this family culture is much more important than any other agent in our children's lives. Even if the messages of love, the support and the ideas that compose it are not said, they ultimately are the ones that have the most impact on our children. We can drop everything else: good grades, high schools, music lessons at five years old, designers clothes, compliance...
The success of our children will, above all, be the result of a supportive, loving family environment that offers the freedom to be oneself.
So how do we do that?
That's right, I beat around the bush, never coming to the real facts. What is this family culture made of?
You may not like the answer: There is not one unique solution. There are as many as families. Each family is a small individual ecosystem, and it's this characteristic that sets the tone.
It is not so much the aesthetic aspect of the house that counts - even it is also important - but the philosophy that defines the family.
What we value is that our children feel loved and accepted no matter what they do, that their particularities are celebrated, that our family embraces its traditions (or continues to uphold traditions that come from our childhood), that our family is a safe place for our children, supporting and stimulating creativity.
To this, we add some fuel; ideas that feed the mind.
For us, this means a hefty dose of beautiful literature scattered throughout the house and throughout the day; a careful observation of nature; an interest in art and music; and an environment that fosters learning. Our family's fuel is a collection of ideas, experiences, stories that nourish our children's hearts and minds. There is also a background of simplicity, with an appreciation of the time it takes to make things (we sew, knit, tinker... slowly). Finally, what encompasses all this, is our desire to preserve the time of childhood and to respect our daughters' ability to be actors of their own learning and lives.
Well, I'm not sure that you have a better idea now!...... but let's keep going, though ;-)
I said earlier that the aesthetic isn't the most important thing and that this aspect also varies according to families. But for my own, I am very receptive to it, as is my husband. We both need to live in an orderly environment that meets our artistic standards. We are both graphic designers, sensitive to image and design. This means that I need my surroundings to generate positive waves, with natural light, original and beautiful materials, few objects but carefully chosen that reflect our philosophy. I need that wherever I look, I like what I see.
And in addition to that, we also are sensitive to geographical location and the community around us. This is important for us because as homeschoolers we spend a lot of our time outside in our neighborhood and the bonds we can create are fundamental, both for us as human beings and for our children's learnings.
This beautiful ecosystem we're creating for our family may be entirely intentional if we pay attention to it, or it may be the result of a "lucky" coincidence. But in any case, this atmosphere exists, and whether we like it or not, it influences our children much more than we could imagine. It is therefore up to us to choose and to give it the importance, intentionality and energy that we deem necessary.
So we might choose carefully the seeds that we plant in our children's garden, their childhood's garden.
"I picture my children soul as garden and realize that greatness of character must be planted,
cultivated, fertilized, watered and protected."
– Sally Clarkson