Generativity ~ it’s a word that I learned from the psychoanalyst Erik H. Erikson and one that has been on my mind as of late. I quite like the sound and meaning. It’s broadly defined as “creativity” and “productivity” but also more specifically in Erickson’s book as “the interest in establishing and guiding the next generation.” So we’re not only talking about making babies here although implied, but something much greater I think.
Enter the word “values.” Doesn’t have to be a nasty word. They are important to all of us. However, I am particularly fond of those that don’t require exclamation, proclamation, or defending. I prefer values that are simply lived, learned and passed on through observation. No words required. Pretty powerful stuff if you ask me.
How we live and the quality with which we live it is, I am learning, is more formative in shaping our little one’s hearts and minds than mastering the helpful hints offered in any parenting how-to book. Parenting (or mothering/fathering in any form not necessarily biological) is a creative endeavor. An art, not a science. This of course is MUCH easier said than done.
So, what do I hope to model to our little one? There is the obvious: empathy/compassion, the ability to laugh at one’s imperfections, that there are many “right” ways out there, and that all questions are welcome (at least they are under our roof). But there are also some little things that are important to me. A couple as follows:
1. Homemade bread. (I have this fantasy that Milo, years down the road opens up his lunch pail alongside his buddies at recess and to his horror and his mom’s delight, discovers that his is the only PB&J made on really grainy healthy homemade bread).
2. Fresh Flowers. From the garden, preferably.
Why the bread and flowers? Could be because they give me joy or that bread and flowers carry a symbolic meaning much greater than their component parts: flour, flowers, yeast and water. I think it’s more of the latter than the former. I take that back. It’s both. Generativity isn’t limited to character formation but also the preservation of lost arts. Interesting the resurgence today of so many of these lost (home) arts: beer and wine making, knitting, canning…I even surprised myself when we walked home from the library a couple of weeks ago with two quilting books stowed safely in that handy compartment under our boy’s stroller. Perfect for books and other delightful free finds along the side of the road.
Milo will undoubtedly make his own conclusions about things such as: homemade bread sucks where’s the Wonder bread? The kid may even have terrible allergies: no gluten, no peanuts, no pollen. What a dud. But I must remain flexible and respect that he is in fact different from me. But I can only hope that the little things we do count somehow. That fresh bread and flowers communicate something deeper and more lasting. Such as, although life can be at times terribly burdensome it is also peppered with bits of joy.
Or more broadly, how we live matters and the quality with which we live it can be passed on by people big and small.
Otherwise known in these parts as domestic arts. I am reading a deliciously inspirational book that articulates both in word and image what I feel on a good day about those tasks that we engage in daily, weekly, monthly, that help keep the household in order and in turn, our hearts and minds. The author (her name’s Jane Brocket) says it so much better than me, really. My case in point:
“The gentle art of domesticity is the felicitous application of practical skills to the spaces in which we live. It requires a desire to make instead of consume, a triumph of activity over passivity and a return to using our hands and imaginations rather than a reliance on screens and technology…”
So much freedom and abundance at our fingertips. Jane also insists that you don’t have to keep your house spic-and-span to be a domestic artist either. A tear just fell from thine eye. Thank you Jane Brocket for loving me just the way I am. And love your name by the way. It just oozes domestic artist of the English sort. Which I envy.
And so I have dabbled these past few weeks in some explicit domestic artistry not only in terms of how to creatively use my time as we wait for the arrival of our little one but how to “felicitously” consume the food already in the fridge and pantry instead of making my typical reflex run to the grocery. The outcome (besides saving some frozen hot dogs from their impending freezer burn death)?
I have become a zucchini bread MACHINE.
Which takes me back to my childhood, particularly to memories of going to my aunt’s house in the dry dusty mountains of East San Diego County and her slathering a nice buttery portion onto my own slice for me to enjoy as I swing on her outdoor enclosed porch. Aunt Bonnie, can you send me your recipe?
There are oodles of books that address the topic of abundance and scarcity, which I think speaks to the heart of the matter for the home economist, domestic artist, what-have-you. It’s not only about creative use of what we already have but also finding value and dare I say “joy” in the doing so. As one of my mentor’s recently pointed out, it’s not that buying or needing things is BAD but the virtue of discovering that really, we don’t NEED very much to be rich. This is some old wisdom. Nothing new. But wisdom that I always seem to gain in being reminded of.
There is something quite rich about making 6 loaves of zucchini bread out of one gi-NOR-mous squash from the garden. Or even specialer, a friend’s garden.
And also something rich in waiting I am learning. Even though it feels like you are doing nothing.