I wrote a post about a year ago about how it was hard to understand the Smokies. I realize now—in part from reading my wife’s copy of the book Braiding Sweetgrass—that was because my focus was too narrow. I was trying to understand facts: their scientific, geographical, and even human history/sociological sides.
That book argued that understanding these parts of some place are immensely valuable, but they’re also far from the complete picture. There is also a side to a place that is more of a challenge to grasp: not only what we can know through thinking, but also through our body, emotion, and spirit. Yep, it might sound a bit froo froo to put it this way. But it resonated with me. Camping with my family isn’t primarily about the science, geography, or even the human history of the Smokies. It’s about how I feel when I wake up; how my son looks when he’s playing in a creek; how I feel safe even when it rains or snows. Knowing a place through facts is important, but to make sense of somewhere, our bodies, emotions, and (froo froo!) spirits help us to know, as well.
Okay, froo froo over, at least concerning the outdoors. Parenting is similar. I heard this quote on a podcast:
Making the decision to have a child - it is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.
I’m actually having a hard time tracking down its specific source—but it’s from Elizabeth Stone, an author. It’s hard to describe parenting in terms of reason and thoughts. It’s tiring and challenging and all kinds of things. But it’s also more than what can be described with certain terms and this quote does a better job than many do to capture what it is. Parenting requires multiple ways of knowing; it invites thinking but also feeling and relating to another person - a child - in a different way. It struck me biking with my son to school that I would bike in front of a car if needed to keep him safe without thinking about it. I can try to describe this evolutionarily and rationally, but I think that would seem to miss part of whether, how, and why I would—at least the experience and meaning of it. Perhaps parenting invites other ways of making sense.
I was thinking about parenting after spending the last week with my son visiting family. It was a great week and challenging week with him; hard to summarize. Perhaps in a year I’ll know more.
Oh yeah, what is this a reprise of? I’ve blogged about parenting several times before:
- The ups and downs of parenting - summarizing an “up”!
- Parenting, care, grieving for others’ loss (maybe my saddest post; after the Uvalde massacre)
- Structure and parenting
- What I’ve been reading: Crazy for the Storm and Called Again