17. School, Upside Down Reflections

When we arrived to school, which marked the end of the girl’s second full day, Elle bounded over to us with even more exuberance than the day before. “Mama, we went to the library today and the librarian said I could go there after school and borrow a book!” Elle could barely contain her excitement, she started pulling at my hand, “It is this way, let’s go.” she said. Cam reached out wanting to be a part of her excitement too. It was bubbling over like a fountain. “The library is right behind you Elle Belle.” He said. She spun on her heels looking this way and that, delightfully disoriented. “I’ll take you.” He said. I stood still in the same spot as Elle dashed off with Cam following closely behind. A few seconds later, Maya appeared.

“I hate school.” She said like a glum frog without water, all frowny and put out. “Oh dear!” I said, cloaking my arm around her. “Let’s just take a moment to sit on the step right now, and you can tell me what it is you wish were different.” I said, leading her over to the library steps which curved around the front of the wooden building. I can always count on Maya to swing to her farther most extreme. Using the word hate for Maya is far too easy, no matter how I try to dissuade her. I have come to understand that this is how she processes something, and it is not absolute, but a stepping stone in finding where she feels safe and comfortable within herself while relating to something challenging. Maya has always done this. “I hate reading, I hate knitting.” Then with some coaxing and tolerance, she goes on to master it.

“So tell, me what happened today, to make you feel this way?” I said with my arm around her shoulder so she could tuck in under my wing. “We have to write in cursive all the time.” she said continuing to frown. Then she handed me a sheet of math. I looked down at her work. “What does the circle mean?” I asked. “It means I got it wrong.” Maya said, with the same downcast tone and scowl. The Maths was very easy, far easier than what I had set for Maya in homeschool, but she had three problems circled. “Why did you not show your working out? This space is to show how you got the answer.” I said, pointing to the working out column. “I did them in my head.” Maya said. “Well, that is great you feel advanced enough to do that, but you got the wrong answer. If you show your working out, then you are more likely to get it right. Showing your working out makes you wise and patient.” I said. Many times during the years of homeschooling Maya would fuss about showing how she worked out a problem, and here she was, now at school, and still being obstinate about it. I decided not to press on her, but I would help her correct the maths sheet later. Maths is her favorite subject and getting these easy questions wrong bothered her.

Next I looked at her writing book. The constant flow of cursive writing was challenging for her because her printing is defined, personal and preferred. To suddenly not be fluid in text, really effected her. She is used to feeling neat and quick, and now, she is neither. “I will get your homeschool cursive book out and we can work on your running writing this weekend, and in no time at all you will be up to speed with the other children.” I said positively, feeling confident in her ability to adapt.  “But we don’t need to worry about it all now, we are going to go for a swim and let the water wash it all away.” I said feeling pleased we had the beach to enjoy.

As we walked along the path she shared another tid-bit of the day. “Mum, all the girls in my class have started getting boobs.” The way in which Maya said this was ever so sweet. It was just an innocent passing comment, because she had noticed, and wanted to share. “Well isn’t that interesting.” I said. “You are the youngest, and it might be a while until you catch up. Does that worry you?” I asked gently, thinking of young me who wanted to be like the other girls with blossoming figures. “No.” Maya said. I could tell it was her truth and I felt relieved. “Well that is good. It used to bother me. Remember when I told you that story of when I folded tissues and stuck them in my bra?” Maya smiled at me, thinking I was so silly. Which I was. I cared far too much about wanting to be like other people.

We made our way casually to the cove to swim. When we got there, a group of boys, and a pair of girls were sitting on the shore. I could hear the boys talking loudly, in a comical way one was suggesting they do something fool hardy. Perhaps showing off in front of the girls, perhaps testing each other? We carried on past them over to where Maya keeps her driftwood log boat The Rose. There we met a girl from school a year younger than Maya.

Before long they were playing together, and really enjoying each other’s company. When it was time to leave we walked back past the older children again who were still sitting and talking. “They are some of the 6th graders in my class.” Maya said. It was then that I realized the children looked so big, but not just in size, they felt older. They felt teenager-ish. There was some kind of social dynamic and developmental shift in them that made them seem beyond Maya’s being. It could be reached with a stretch, but instantly I questioned was it right to surround her with those that behave like teenagers when otherwise she would still seem like a child?

Once home we prepared for dinner, we were going out to a very fun restaurant, no make that a garden, to eat dinner. I’m going to call it Kindle Heart from now on, as that is what eating there does. It kindles your heart for this community. Maya came into my room and she was wearing a pair of high-waisted jeggings and a crochet mid drift top that she had borrowed from her sister. “Can I wear some of your lipstick?” Maya asked. My eyes widened and my mind began an internal motherly commentary. A mid drift top and lipstick? Hmmm? Instead of saying anything though, I chose not to interfere with her self-expression. Clearly, she wanted to explore being older. Over and over I tell Maya older is not how you appear, but how you behave, none the less, she was testing out what she thought a teenager did.

I have not worn make-up for years, but when it came time to pack up Windsor Place, I uncovered a small black make-up pouch that I bought from Sportsgirl in the 1990’s, it contained lipstick, mascara, and some face powder. Not knowing what to do with it now, the black pouch was sitting out on the dressing table, and Maya had been fossicking in it. The make-up was not so old, it was an impulse purchase four years ago, for a family wedding, when I felt I had to fit in… of course I could have easily gone without and next time I would. Anyway, Maya wanted to wear the lipstick. Well, it was really a fancy lip gloss, so I said yes. With so much change, this small allowance put a smile on her face.

In an excited manner, turning this way and that, she studied herself in the mirror, feeling pleased with her appearance. She was adorable, and ever so gorgeous, but I felt a discomfort rise up. With much self control, I let her be free to explore her identity. Before we walked out the door however, I felt it all rise again in a stronger way. “What about wearing a blouse over the crop top for a little extra warmth? You could wear that checked blouse, and tie it at the front?” I suggested. Maya went along with this because the air was getting cooler. While nudity is celebrated in our home, I find myself confronted by fetish. Make-up, high heels, provocative clothing, it all detracts from the pure beauty of womanhood for me. I knew that Maya was charmed by the crop top. I was exactly the same, but I wanted to set her free from any and all compulsive attachment to something specifically for beauty and attention. It is a fine line, and this is what adolescence is all about, navigating that line.

Slowly but surely it was all starting to make sense, Maya was now in a class of older children, who were teenager like, and here she was, preparing herself to go out, as a teenager might have. It was her way of tapping into this stage, and while I did not stop her expression completely, I felt it deep in my heart.

Surely this does not need to happen… yet?

Sunday morning came around and there was a text from Meg, she planned to come over and visit us for a swim and eat popsicles. I baked a peach skillet cake and she turned up with a satchel of delicious chai tea. I chuckled to myself that days before I had been wishing for a cup of chai, and here was Meg, bringing me chai that her friend makes. “Oh this is really good chai.” I said, sipping the steaming spicy beverage. “It is just like the chai we used to drink in Byron.” I added. The taste transported me, “Chai is very personal, not all chai is the same.” I said. This particular balance of spices was so remarkably familiar, it beamed me back our life in the beach cabin on Tallows. “What a powerful concoction, whoever made it is very good.” I said, enamored by the skillful blend. I had not tasted a chia like this for so long. Picking up the packet, it seemed to glow. “Chai Wallahs of Maine” was stamped on the front. What is a Wallah anyway? I wondered.


A Wallah is a fella,
He’s got to make a little moola
Maybe being a doula
or sitting like a buddha,
At the peace stupa.

He might play the tuba?
Or do the hula hula,
Whatever is his doodah,
Don’t let it fool ya,
Just play it like a game,

Let’s ay hallelujah
For Wallahs of Maine . 

noun INDIAN informal
– A person concerned or involved with a specified thing or business. “Ice cream wallahs”
– A native or inhabitant of a specified place. “Bombay wallahs”

As friends do, over tea Meg and I began to talk about life and before long I was sharing with Meg my feelings about Maya and school. “The children in Maya’s class seem so big, and grown up compared to her.” I said. Meg nodded and quickly added, “It is funny you say that, because when I saw Maya in line with her class at the welcome sing, I thought the same thing. It was my immediate impression.” Meg said. I very much appreciated Meg sharing her truth in that moment, it further confirmed my own gut feeling. “Do you think she should be in the younger grade?” I asked. Meg was very considered with her approach to such a big decision, and rather than telling me her direct opinion, she told me about the teacher. “The teacher is very creative, she is a wonderful artist and they do a lot handwork.” I had heard that this class also spends a lot of time in the garden. In the few days we had been at the school, the parents and students we had gravitated towards, were in this class. Everything started to point to the same thing.

On the school Calender, Maya’s birthday falls during Summer break. Which means age wise, she could go into either fourth or fifth grade. Waldorf families generally feel it is beneficial to make learning slow and gentle. Children are not pushed forward in order to prove some academic age success, but quite the contrary. Success is gained by mindful appropriate learning. I found myself asking, do we want to rush her childhood? Are we the type who go slow or fast? Why would one rush through something so lovely? Well you wouldn’t would you.

It was decided that Meg would discuss it with Ian, since he was Maya’s current teacher, and I went on to discuss it with Cam. On Sunday afternoon I received a phone call from Ian saying he had spoken to the younger grade teacher, and she had seen Maya come into her classroom a few times, and she knew who Maya was. When we heard this, we all felt Maya was being drawn there magnetically. With adequate adult council, the decision was made, we would savor Maya’s childhood and development, and put her in the fourth grade class. This was by no means an academic decision, because she was able to do the work of the sixth grader’s (except write in cursive fluently). This decision was made for her whole self. To honor the feminine, and balance her whole being. Now, I feel the need to explain this further.

Symbolically speaking, earth, is feminine, space is masculine, which is why we say mother earth, and lord our father. The earth and water are considered the feminine realm, the stars, planets and heavens are the masculine realm. Things that matter, that materialize, are seen as feminine energy, thoughts, ideas, philosophies, and all that is ethereal, is considered masculine energy. Academics are masculine, the arts are feminine. As I said, this is just symbolism for when we are looking to understand and explain subtle difference in order to find the balance of dualism within a whole. It is all yin and yang, and you need both, and both should be balanced within all and everything. You always may favor one area, but still one must be aware. What we have seen in the world however, is that the energetics which stand in place for the masculine have been outweighed in value, and this has led to a patriarchal governed society. The destruction of the earth, the disrespect of what represents the mother, is largely to do with needing to celebrate and value the feminine in a greater way. If the value of what stands in place for the feminine was to increase, it improves life on earth. In order to balance the masculine and feminine, we need to take greater note when making decisions for children, of the feminine.

As I said, we all have both inside of us, and hopefully people are aware of how this manifests and is balanced within individual expressions. Maya’s masculine side, her academics, her love of maths, her virtual mind was thriving and advanced, but we felt nurturing her physically presence, her heart, was the best way to keep her whole and balanced. Maya does not need to be better at math or spelling. Nurturing, and savoring her childhood, is honoring the feminine spirit. We are fortune to be able to look at the process like this, and not rush her through the grades, just so she appears smart. We know how smart she is already. I should add also, it is rarer given the masculine driven common core of a standard education, but another child may be in a different scenario entirely, where physically they are relative to a grade but they have not learnt to read, write or problems solve with discourse properly. This would mean they need to be in touch with academics and the masculine. Whatever the case may be, what is important is that you seek to have balance, and that you are empowered to do what serves the wellbeing of the whole child within the society and culture they live.

Both Ian and Meg complimented us that we were present, open and aware to see Maya’s needs and act on them.

With confirmation in many ways, Maya started the new week, in another class. We were incredibly grateful to her for starting again, again, with a willing spirit. Her inner strength was serving her in the best possible way. Elle had been singing a song on repeat all week, like a positive affirmation.

Strong lives
Warm Heart
And a true clear mind

When we entered the fourth grade classroom the beauty and warmth washed over me and I felt a resounding “Yes, this is right, this is where she is meant to be.” The blackboard was colored with a rainbow of seasonal ground vegetables, with soil and the roots. Another blackboard had an equally detailed September display. There was a needle felted sculpture scene, fresh flowers, and a large comfortable sofa with children snuggled in close together reading books. A round wooden table, with more fresh flowers, was sprinkled with miniature beeswax fruits and vegetables. This room felt like our home. As I shook hands with the teacher, my mind went into a spiral, she appeared to be a wise bird of prey. Like magic, a portal was opened and a teacher from the past who resided in my heart appeared in my minds eye. I reached out my hand and touched the arm of Maya’s new teacher. “Oh, you reminded me of someone I care about, just like that.” I said, blinking away the vision of Wendy’s protective wings around me.

We are all unique and I value that, but I also value how another can draw out our memories of one who uplifted our lives in some way. That familiarity, is special, it is comforting, it is affirming. It felt very good to leave Maya in her care. We made plans to have a meeting in a week, and this confirmed to me how wise she was. Maya only needed time, that was all, time to settle in. Walking away an inner vigor confirmed that Maya was in an inspiring, skillfully constructed nest.

When Cam and I arrived back at the house, we were preparing to go down to the shore. On the drive home from school he was animated. “What if I take you out on the water this morning? You can sit on the front of the board and I will paddle it like you are on a gondola and sing you songs.” Then he began his best impression of an Italian gondolier signing. I was delighted by this idea and agreed. As we were getting our bathing suit on, I stopped and went and stood in the doorway of his room. “Maya’s new teacher reminds my of my highschool art teacher. She lived at Nimbin and once she had me come and stay at her house, and house sit for a week while she and her husband where away.” I said, thinking of their historical farmhouse and artist studio that looked out onto the sacred rock formations which were the homes of the Nmbngee. The Clever Men. “Don’t you think that is pretty amazing that my high school art teacher invited me to look after her home?” Cam took a moment to think, and then nodded silently.

Upon reflection I felt a little blue. I was not a great art student for her, and sadly I wish I had been. I was regretful for not being more alive, interested and committed. Depressed from life circumstances, or my attitude, or both veiled my light during highschool. I did appreciate the week I spent in her house. The creative energy and love that seeped from the walls was received.

“Anyway, Maya’s new teacher reminded my of Wendy. They are both like eagles. Guardians, protectors.”

Before long Cam and I were out on the water. Cam had hired a paddle board earlier in the week and he and the girls had used it every day. This was my first time sitting on it, and as I tried to maintain balance and agility I was impressed Cam and both the girls had been so calm and able. Eventually I felt myself relax. “What is the worst that can happen Kirsten? You will fall off and get wet!” As we floated along the water was liquid glass. There was not a wisp of wind to be felt, all was still, except us, who were gently gliding through the pristine bay. If there is a way to access a higher dimension, it is certainly by water.

“Oh my goodness, it is so beautiful. I can see the whole world upside down.” I exclaimed. “Every detail is reflected, and I can see it all from a different perspective, simultaneous of seeing how it really is!” I said. The mirror image the water-ways of Maine is famous for, was enchanting me.

With such talkative exuberance, there was not much opportunity for Cam to sing Italian love songs. I was too busy exemplifying awe. There was something to be found in this reflection, I could feel it. I did not know what it was, but it was there. I could sense it with all my being. Seeking, seeking, an answer. I might as well have exploded into a billion particles of light at this point. Looking at the water, being around water, being on the water, swimming in the water, drinking the clean water, caring for the water. Knowing that All life comes from water. Without a doubt, I knew, we have to be one with water.

“I am going to go and see Jennifer again, at The Water Research Institute again.” I said to Cam once my inner realization was complete. “Where is that? In Kennebunkport?” Cam asked. “Oh, no.” I exclaimed, “It is in the Chittenden Sr.’s back yard.”

Thank you for reading Magnesium Blue.


3 thoughts on “17. School, Upside Down Reflections

  1. It is remarkable that you see in Maya that she needs to develop in that feminine space and that you’re able to give her that opportunity. Mothers tend to know best.

    On another note, I am teaching my students (public school) writing with specific details. Your description of Maya as a glum frog without water is perfect! I will be sharing this!

  2. Dear Kirsten, thank you for this post. My baby is very young, and a boy at that, but I think a lot about parenthood and schooling, preparing myself for what is to come. Your stories (especially from the mayalovestrees IG) have made a strong impression on me. While I will never be able to teach drawing the way you have to your girls, you have made me dare to consider home schooling for a part of my son’s life, and immerse myself in dreams and preparations for our path together in the coming decade. Your intimate descriptions of how you navigate your daughters’ emotions are great food for thought. I will reread this post in years to come, I believe. Lots of love to you.

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