Motherhood has propelled me in ways that I think only could have happened though the lens of mothering my two kids. It's broken me, healed me, wrecked me, brought me to my knees, lifted me up, held a mirror to myself, and ricocheted me forward.
My son was born eight years ago, and I remember my first clear maternal instinct while pregnant with him was that I strongly avoided birthing books and birthing classes. Why would I study something that my body intuitively knows how to do? It didn't feel empowering to gather information on what my body's basic instincts of birth already knew. Quite the opposite. The more I knew, the less confident I felt. But then I realized I had a choice: I don't actually have to take these classes, to read these books. I had a midwife and a doula I trusted. I was inside a hospital I felt safe in. My husband was comforting. My body was strong. It would be fine.
And it was fine. It was long and it was hard work, but it was temporary. It was fine.
The lessons my daughter has taught me have been less about listening to my intuition and more about the mirror she holds up to me. She's a little ball of fire, smart, direct, opinionated. She's also kind and warm. But the fire-y parts of her burn sometimes. And it hurts. And it sounds a lot like me. I've learned more about the areas of my own existence that need attention, need healing, need to be pulled out and put out, than I've ever learned from anyone else. She points me in the right direction after she puts in me in uncomfortable places, whereas my son is so sensitive to my wellbeing that I'm forced to take the care of myself very seriously as it's not his responsibility to carry concern for me.
Lately, the lessons they've been teaching me have been more about the world outside our home. We live in South Minneapolis, a few blocks from where George Floyd was killed, from where homeless encampments have existed for years. They send me rudamentary questions about equality and basic human rights that shed all the adult, capitalist-type answers that just don't matter when you're talking to a child. They're questions catch me.
"Why don't some people get a home?"
"How come we don't give food to everyone?"
"Why did George Floyd have to die?"
It makes sense to turn to your parents for answers when nonsensical events continue to happen around us and among us and within us and inside us. But we can't always ask our parents, because as we begin to establish our own values, we don't always share the same values with our parents anymore. So it becomes asking for clarification on something we simply cannot understand, rather than asking for guidance. It's too painful.
I've learned that often our teachers come from people who don't have a book. They're not published. They don't have followers and big bank accounts and don't care what they look like.
They're kids. Strangers. People who need help. The needy, the homeless, the disenfranchised. They are not going to offer you anything in terms of status and money but everything in terms of enlightenment.
Listen to the people who have nothing material to give you. They're the ones I learn from most.
Skip the books (tho I'm an avid reader), the experts (tho I do appreciate research) and the power players (but keep an eye on them, too). Follow your instincts. Listen to them. Find them.
They're probably waiting to talk to you, too. And much like motherhood, even when you're experiencing uncertainty, the capacity to keep going is already inside you.