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The Mother Magazine, Editorial

Issue 46, May/Jun 2011

Raising Sunflowers, by Veronika Sophia Robinson

Birdsong draws me from deep slumber, long before the Sun tiptoes over the hills to make love to the day.

In this place I call home, Spring has dressed in petticoats of snowdrop blossoms. This is my cue to plant sunflower seeds. I enjoy an annual ritual of dropping seeds into the damp, dark, fertile earth, and brushing the soil back over the top of them with my bare hands. This reminds me of conceiving my babies. Germination was out of sight, but reverberated through my being. In the dark, great changes were taking place cocooned with expectation, hope and love.

Sunflowers are amongst my favourite flowers, right along with nasturtiums, buddleia, starflowers and freesias. These golden giants don’t apologise for their height, power, strength, beauty and radiance. Not only do they offer bright blooms to bring a smile to most people’s faces, if left alone they’ll provide seeds for birds throughout the cold Winter. It’s worth the long wait between sowing seeds and the unfurling of the first sunshine-yellow petals.
Before our small village hall was condemned, I entered my sunflowers into the flower show. The girls were toddlers then, and have a memory that someone complained my sunflowers were too tall! Imagine that.

I’ve been raising the best two sunflowers of my life for the past fifteen and thirteen years. They anchored themselves in the deep dark corner of my womb, and followed the light. Loving Bethany and Eliza has helped to heal me. As a witness to their lives, I’ve seen how being loved makes a person more beautiful and radiant. With love, we walk taller, are more confident, peaceful and at ease.

My sunflowers have questioned me every step of the way. As a shamanic gardener, I knew they needed more than food, water and shelter ~ but nourishment, joy, love and peace.

I’m mindful of their future while keeping my feet firmly in the present. We play, love, laugh, eat, dream and work together. Time is not standing still. Reflecting on all the beauty of my mothering years, I’m grateful that I’ve not tended this garden alone. Every step of the way, my journey has been embraced by the love and practical support of a good man. This has allowed me to be a far better mother than I might have been. Motherhood has shown me the true meaning of feminism, in the same way that being married has blessed me with great freedom, contrary to most people’s attitudes towards a lifelong monogamous relationship.

There’s been no perfume more exquisite than the scent of our babies. The richness of my life is counted by such things as the skin of a newborn babe; breastfeeding in the moonlight; holding a toddler’s hand at the beach; celebrating lost teeth, new teeth; first bike rides; storytelling by the fireside; picnics amongst the Summer wildflowers; menarche ceremonies.

I watch in awe as my sunflowers create their life path. I don’t remember, at their age, having such talent and skill to draw from. Clearly I was to be a late bloomer! But my girls ~ well, they make me smile. They have so many choices. I love watching them become more of who they are. Between them their passions include dancing, writing, composing, playing instruments, history, fashion design and food preparation. Unschooling offers them ample time to explore their interests. They’re learning what makes their hearts sing. This radically liberal approach to education defies measurement in the usual way. How do I measure their growth? By how their heads tilt towards the sunlight: their pleasures, dreams, excitement, ethics, rhythms ~ always showing the gardeners that their roots have been nourished in fertile soil, and sunshine has shone on their days. As a gardener, you can only do your best: provide the right growing conditions to meet biological needs. The rest is left to Nature. We can never know what messages and codes are inherent in the seeds we plant.

Day after day, Bethany and Eliza show me that childhood isn’t an apprenticeship for life ~ it is life. It won’t be long now until I write editorials about them standing on the edge of our family nest and taking their first flights into the world, and then: the empty nest. For now, I enjoy the laughter from deep in their bellies; the meals they prepare; the music from their instruments; the stories they tell; the dreams they weave; shared confidences. Each meal around the family table, each hug, each walk is a time to treasure. Within the day-to-day rhythm of our family life are so many moments which take my breath away.

We enter mothering with visions of how we’ll shape our children’s lives, without a thought for just how much they’ll change ours. Being a mother has been the greatest privilege of my life, and I’ve no regrets that I didn’t send them to kindergarten or leave them with other people so I could go back to a career. I didn’t miss the social life of my pre-mothering days, and I wouldn’t have traded a single night snuggled up with my children for a night at a concert or restaurant dinner. There isn’t a cell in my body that regrets all my years staying home with the girls.

My sunflowers needed tending and nurturing, and that’s what I did ~ in all weather. My nurturing takes a different form now they’re emerging into young women, but I can feel that they still need softening mother-love to support them against strong winds. Each day, though, I see how strong their stalks are becoming. Living with my teenage daughters is like having sunflowers in my garden all year around.

Wishing you a Springtime filled with beautiful flowers, birdsong and sunshine.

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