High Art: Raising a Child

By Rachel La Rock Whaley
Issue 107, July/August 2001

mother playing with sonBeing a mother is an art. In no other profession are you able to set your own goals, be your true self, and have such wonderful results.

This is what I was thinking about on a hot July evening. Here in Missouri it gets muggy and very hot, so I had kept both of my sons inside, sheltered from the sun and humidity. We had had a good day–reading books on our new bed, making puppets, watching a Magic School Bus video, playing with the puppy. The kids were happy, falling asleep early in the evening, allowing my husband to go to bed at a reasonable hour and giving me some time to ponder.

I sat on the front porch thinking about an old high-school friend I had talked to earlier. Angie and I don’t get to see each other much now that I have children. When I told her we’d be homeschooling Forrest, our five year old, instead of sending him to kindergarten in the fall, she said, “Why would you want to do that? Don’t you get tired of taking care of them?”

I had laughed to myself when she said this. I knew that she meant well. Once I, too, thought about parenting that way, as something I did for someone else, not for me. I used to get so worn out; when the day for visiting Grandma’s came around, I’d practically be waiting for her at the door, wanting to savor every minute of alone time I could get.

At least that’s how it was before I began to nurse my second baby, Riley. After I learned how to breastfeed, to sit and address his needs without rushing, without wanting to move to the next activity, I realized life was what was happening around me at that very moment. I had to learn to flow with my children instead of making them flow with me.

I learned that it is the way you move that really counts–constantly exploring your environment, stopping to ask questions, read books, laugh at the dog’s tricks, pat your brother’s head. When I wake up, I picture the day as a long, stretched-out thing that I have not planned to bits, one that flows with what we are interested in; a day in which what really counts is what the kids are looking at, what they are recording in their minds as their childhood.

Children enjoy their lives because they have not forgotten the natural rhythm they learned in the womb. It’s the flow of life, the flow that makes you take a moment to explore, to give a hug, to notice the day. Being a mother is an art. You constantly improve your technique, brush up your skills, put passion into every stroke. I see other women devoting their time to becoming great artists, leaders, and poets. They have their art, and I have mine. And I wouldn’t give it up for the world.

Rachael La Rock Whaley lives in St. Louis , Missouri , with her husband, Shane, their sons, Forrest (6) and Riley (2), and their dog, Kennedy Independence. The La Rock Whaleys are a homeschooling family who enjoy visiting museums, taking road trips, and reading.