It is no news that history is selective and the greatest human stories are left unwritten. This is one of the reasons I am drawn to authors who bring to light, even through fiction, the stories of those we will not find in historical accounts.
Kristin Hannah tells us why she wrote “The Nightingale”: “In war, women’s stories are all too often forgotten or overlooked. Women tend to come home from the battlefield and say nothing and go on with their lives. The Nightingale is a novel about those women and the daring, dangerous choices they made to save their children and their way of life.”
“The Nightingale” – or rosignol in French – takes the reader to the German-occupied France in the second world war. Nightingale is a code name for a Resistance member who rescued downed airmen in France and took them on foot through Pyrenees mountains to the British consulate in Spain. The main characters’ stage is shared by two sisters – Vianne and Isabelle – who were estranged after their mother’s death and reconnected through unbelievable struggles of war. The characters seem to be opposites at the beginning. As the story unfolds, we see them more alike than apart, each brave in her own way.
Imagine wanting to learn to write and your palm and finger your only “paper and pen”… Inimaginable, right?
From the gaps and holes in history of women mentioned in archives, the author built the story of Helena, a maid in Netherlands, who knew René Descartes for more than a decade. Some say this is the story of Helena’s strugle to learn. For me, it was equally the story of Descartes’s strugle to learn. It was the time before his first publication, which is considerate to date as the basis of modern science and which required numerous explorations from him.
It is also the story of a woman’s aspiration to be independent and free from social expectations and bounds.
It is the story of a loving mother, who passed on to her daughter the love of letters and thirst of knowledge. It is the story of a mother’s grief for her child and her rebirth as a mother through the birth of her second child.
It is the story of a children book writer and her belief that all children – boys and girls – need to learn to write and read.
It is the story of female sisterhood and friendship.
It is a story of love, as impossible as it seemed in that century.
I am child-centered parent and I believe this perspective enables an optimum anchoring into my livelihood. Motherhood, and parenthood for that matter, is not only about us. It’s also about that little human being that has questions, doubts, challenges, ups and downs, as many as we do, or even more sometimes.
I believe in sharing experience in a non-judgemental environment. What sadenns me is when it becomes a mere publicity tool for business interests, even if hidden under a noble “healing” promise, which comes with more side effects than health benefits. Or, what’s even worse, usng vulnerabilities for promoting interests of a particular group with clear net gains. Here is one example of what I mean: “Throwing a new mom pity party” by Kate Rope http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kate-rope/throwing-a-new-mom-pity-party_b_5022680.html
When things are tough, going extreme is the least helpful approach. Been there. Done that. It made me search for a middle way between “sickeningly hard” and ” constantly cheeriful”. The door to this path had two keys. One was to look at it through my inner child eyes retrospectively. The second key was to look at my motherhood through my own child’s big eyes.
My childhood was harsh, shadowed by meds my mother’s doctors prescribed, out of best intentions probably, with the knowledge and abilities they had at that time. What they missed was that meds effects went beyound her body and mind, spreading into my mind. I know now why people call me tough.
My child will become a parent one day. Would I like her to feel guilty because of my doctor’ s choice to prescribe heavy medication? Would calling my life with “a wife, kids and a house “the full catastrophe”” (quote from Kate Rope) help her grow into a happy, balanced, generous adult? My answer is No.
This perspective brought a doctor into my life who, when prescribing remedies for me, asks about my relationship with my child, and similarly, when prescribing remedies for my child, asks about her relationship with us, her parents.
What I try to always remember is that we, adults, make choices and these choices impact our kids lives to levels we may not even suspect. I choose not to bond with pity on my parenthood path. I choose to bond with empathy and love.
This perspective came from my involvement in a shelter for single mothers at risk of abandoning their children in a what is conventionally called a third world country.
When a woman becomes a mother she becomes vulnerable, whatever they say and wherever they are. It is like standing naked in a transit zone where anyone can drop a line, throw a sentence, cast a look without bothering about consequences. A mother is an easy target for whomever is not lazy enough to criticize, evaluate, scrutinize what she does and how she does it.
A single mother is even more vulnerable. Vulnerability is one of those invisible glues that unite us, mothers.
I believe in mothers’ togetherness. Especially, the mothers’ solidarity uniting those more empowered with those less empowered. It’s about opportunities that we can create together for little human beings, whose eyes look with confidence into tomorrow. It’s about opportunities for those empowered to learn how to share their empowerment with others and also learn more about the strength of their vulnerability. It’s about opportunities for those less empowered to gain confidence and trust and to divorce despair and solitude.
What I learned from my experience at the shelter is that no matter how strong I feel, it’s ok to accept that there are times when it’s ok to be vulnerable. Vulnerability is a great teacher. In motherhood and not only.