Occasionally I have a moment where I step outside myself and take a look at my life as a whole; the way I eat, parent, dress, spend my money and the extent of my hippie tendencies shocks me. There was a time when switching to American Spirits was my big sacrifice to the greater Earthly good.
We've been Waldorf schooling our kids from the time our eldest was old enough to grind wheat and make corn husk dolls and although there are points of this pedagogy I don't always agree with, overall, it works for us. Within that community I've found like-minded parents who have become dear friends, kids who my own can connect with on a deeper level and a sense that my sons are being constantly reminded that the world is a good place and that they possess the tools to contribute positively to any relationship, any situation. And while these beliefs often made me feel like a delusional tree hugger at family gatherings, I occasionally had conversations with fellow school moms that felt like a step too far into Fairy Land, even for me. Although not the most blatant example, I remember once being in line at a school potluck with a few moms, logging our grievances with our respective kids when the subject of bedtime came up. We all commiserated with an exhausted mom and assured her that our kids were experiencing the usual holiday-related sleep issues. Too much excitement, too many breaks in our routine, too many cookies - I now know to count on a couple rough weeks around Christmas and ride them out with a steady diet of coffee, powdered sugar and green juice. But this mom was insistent that this was something else. Something bigger. As we started to run down the list of solutions, "lavender spray? shorter nap? more time outside? warm bath? wool jammies and a sound machine?" she shook her head. No, she'd tried many of those but she then told us that she wasn't too concerned because she had said a prayer to her daughter's angel. Hmmmm. As someone who is, to my core, a pragmatist, this sounded wistful at best. She elaborated about how she had used this tactic in the past, for a myriad of issues and that it had always worked. Now I knew how all the great aunts felt when I talked about child-led weaning!
I don't remember at which low point the conversation came back to me (there have been many over the years!) but at some point, in a moment of desperation, I chose to call our own angels off the bench and put them to work. Instead of speaking to them in prayer, I chose to write them a letter. The letters were short but incredibly specific. I spoke to them about difficult decisions we faced, about the helplessness of a particular phase someone was going through...about the uncertainty I often felt when faced with real adult problems. Did the problems magically go away? No. Did it "work"? Yes. It did. In those times, when I felt like I had been beating my head against a wall and exhausted every possible option, my need to do something, anything, won out and pushed me into action. And at some point not long after, the knots seemed to unravel and a solution of some sort presented itself.
Although it had been awhile since I'd done this, I recently had the perfect problems for the angels to sort out; after deciding to head back to work with a more regular schedule, I knew I needed a regular nanny for our 3-year-old, Indy. He is the most mom-attached out of all three boys and any whisper of a sitter coming in has, in the past, brought on tears, hysteria, dread and guilt. So much guilt. To the point where I decided that it may not be worth it at all to even start looking and instead limped through for a few more months. Eventually I started to see that my need for autonomy and his need to be with someone other than me were tied and mutually beneficial. There was no way I could take on more projects and maintain my sanity while having him with me all the time. And the longer we waited to get him used to the idea of a regular caregiver, the more attached he would become, continuing to make our date nights start on a note of trauma and sadness and making it that much more challenging when he heads off to pre-school next year. It was time, so I started looking. I wrote the ad with all the details about hours/days/expectations but also stressed that I wanted someone fun, engaging, active and present. As responses started to come in nothing felt quite right. I realized that my own uneasiness was contributing to the problem and I sat down to write the description of the person I really wanted to my son's angel. On behalf of all of us. I wrote about how I wanted someone who felt that children had an integral part in their own life, who loved the outdoors and would be a fellow adventurer for our son in the times when I was working. Someone who he would run to greet each day, rather than hiding behind a chair or clinging to me and shaking with fear. A person we could welcome into our home and lives who wouldn't judge if they showed up to a cluttered porch or an overflowing pile of laundry. Who would be flexible and understanding if I needed to change the schedule and who I would happily do the same for. I wanted someone who would ease him into time spent away from me, and look forward to spending time with him, who would look at him, smiling, with love in their eyes. Sound corny? Maybe. But isn't that what we all want in a caregiver? It's the kind of job description you cannot go around posting. It's a bit heavy-handed BUT it is exactly what I wanted and I vowed that I would keep looking and not settle until I found this person. Guess what? I got my unicorn. The person who now spends whole days with my little Indy and occasionally our older boys is all of those things and more. Paying her each week is money I happily spend each time I see that sweet little face light up when I tell him she's coming over.
I've met many people who regularly call on their angels to help take away the burden of a heavy problem and most recently saw that Kate Northrup, money and lifestyle mentor, called on her daughter's angels to help with the dreaded baby sleep deprivation that had sparked this idea for me all those years ago. You can read more about her method here.
Although I've always kept my letters in a diary style, I like the formality of her approach and I especially like the added touch of burning them. Partly because it is incredibly cleansing and partly because there is a satisfaction unlike any other when you get to set something on fire.
So, what do you think? Too out there? Just the solution you've been looking for? Swear by it? I want to hear! Tell me your experience in the comments below!