The title of this series immediately makes us think about food, doesn’t it? And it’s true: serving good food is critical. But that’s Part 2. Today, we’re going to cover what I believe to be the first principle, the primary principle when it comes to raising young humans:
I mentioned in the series introduction that I would be returning again and again to the idea that humans are a unity of body, mind, and soul — that we discuss these things individually because it’s helpful, but that actually we’re indivisible.
“Nourishment,” therefore, can mean more than just nourishment of body. But, yes, that’s where we start. In order for bodies to grow and be healthy (or, as healthy as they can be this side of heaven), they need good food, sunshine, clean air, exercise, sleep, and hydration. We’ll look at these in more depth in the future, but for now it’s a solid list.
But we can also nourish the mind. This means feeding the mind ideas through a diet of good books. That’s like good food. Are there other parallels? What if the mind needs good conversation like the body needs sunshine? A challenging curriculum and useful work the way the body needs exercise? Play and recreation the way the body needs sleep? Free time to pursue interests the way the body needs hydration?
The soul, too, needs its own nourishment. For a soul to truly flourish, an act of God is required. (Much prayer is required for all of this, but perhaps especially here where we are most powerless.) Our hydration is baptism, and our nourishing food is the Lord’s Supper. A loving community of Christians around you is sunshine, laughter is your clean air, learning to rightly relate to life’s challenges (including others’ sin and your own) is your exercise, and prayer is your restful sleep.
I’m sure there are other things we could list, but you get the idea. There are parallels here that are helpful for us. And the principle always remains: humans require nourishment.
When our babies are born, we give them the food fit for them: mother’s milk. It’s life’s first and most perfect food. Even though I had more nursing struggles than I would ever care to revisit, mother’s milk has served me as a paradigm for motherhood in general. What do mothers do? We nourish our offspring.
All babies are weaned eventually, but our job as nourishers never goes away. Even when they move out, what do children do? They come back and eat your food. Or they send their offspring to your house for a similar purpose. (Surely I am not the only person here who sends kids to the grandparents for a snack.)
Children are growing things and growing things grow and flourish of their own accord as long as they receive proper nourishment. God has given each child his own vitality, a seemingly limitless ability to grow. It’s astounding. And He’s also given us a job to do, a vocation to fulfill.
In the midst of daily life, in busyness, in exhaustion, it is easy to get mired in the details. So let’s zoom out and remind ourselves that nourishment is motherhood’s first principle and from this all else follows. When things are going wrong, thinking this way points us toward a helpful question: In what way does this child need nourishment right now? This can be a very uncomfortable question. Sometimes, nourishment is easy and natural, like nursing at its best. But many other times it’s long hours in the kitchen. It’s hard work. It’s sacrifice.
Nourishment comes of love. Just like when our teens were babies and we woke up multiple times in the night to care for them, we are even now called to sacrifice (and even exhaust ourselves) for their sake.
Motherhood is sacrifice. Your body will literally tear up your bones to provide calcium for your unborn baby if you don’t have enough. (That’s emblematic, isn’t it?) Don’t be afraid to pour yourself out like a drink offering. Now I feel like I’m writing scary stories in the dark. (I told you I had fear and trembling! This is why!)
Many times, though, what we must do is not try harder, but rather try smarter. Mothers, Charlotte Mason once said, must offer a thinking love to their children. She quotes Pestalozzi:
The mother is qualified, … and qualified by the Creator Himself, to become the principal agent in the development of her child; … and what is demanded of her is — a thinking love …Home Education, p. 2
As the principle agent in your child’s development, you can offer nourishment in a thinking way. We’ll expand on this more as the series goes on.
The Proper Care and Feeding of Teenagers Series Navigation
- Series Introduction
- Part 1: The First Principle ← you are here