Going Against The Grain: How Motherhood Pushed Me to Truly Know Myself

Mamas I am so excited for this beautiful mama to share her motherhood journey with you. She’s such an inspiration and a beautiful writer. Here she is Sarah Kurliand!!

Before you have children, you picture what they’ll be like once they’re Earthside. The things you’ll do together, the kind of mama you’ll be, the kind of mom friends you’ll have. And it will all look very much like a picturesque image from a magazine, or someone else’s Instagram account, or the cute family that lives across the street.

And then you will experience the magic of birth and your world will be changed in such a magnificent way, that no book or blog or friendly advice could have ever prepared you for the realness and rawness of your new life. 

But what happens if the child you end up birthing isn’t what you thought they’d be like? What if you don’t know how to parent this kind of child – it wasn’t in the books you’ve read!? Then what are you supposed to do?

This is my story about surrendering to live & finding my truest self.

When my first born son was little, I began getting invited to playdates at the local park. Which mostly just meant putting our crawlers onto the ground together and us moms chatting it up, getting to know each other, and trying to figure out what kind of moms we were in the midst of the sleepless nights, blowouts and milestones. During these playdates, while all the other mamas would stand around making friends, I was chasing my son – who skipped crawling – and went right to sprinting, at 8 months old.  And that was the beginning of me noticing what would come to be, the oh-so-many differences between my guy and everyone else’s.

I began talking with family members, friends and pediatricians about my concerns over these visible differences and everyone poo-pooed me, telling me I just needed to parent him differently. I needed to MAKE my son do the things he didn’t want to do and show him who was boss during his epic and frequent meltdowns. I needed to force him to do these things because that’s how kids learn what’s expected of them in this world.  I was told to buy a big screen t.v. and place it over his crib. I was told to go back to work and hire full time help. Oh, the things I was told! But even from the very beginning, even though I was flailing and felt like I was failing at this Mom gig, those suggestions and ideas of force felt disconnected and wrong to me. They didn’t sit right. The problem was, I didn’t know what my other options were. I didn’t have models of the kind of parent I wanted and needed to be because I didn’t know any other child like mine. He was special and filled with a magic I’d never seen or heard of.  So I set off on my own journey to figure out who my son was and how I could best guide him. Oftentimes, it was a lonely place to be. No one believed or agreed with me and constantly felt like I was swimming upstream. But I KNEW there was a better way to help my son navigate his difficulties and I was determined to figure it out. 

As all the mamas and kiddos in the neighborhood grew up together, we pulled away and did our own thing most of the time. Organized groups, following directions and crowded places were difficult on my guy. So we went to the woods and played in the creek, we built stick houses and threw rocks, we fed the ducks and made leaf soup, we caught toads and butterflies and tadpoles almost every single day. Sometimes a friend would join us, but mostly it was just us and the trees. And it was beautiful. 

When it was time to go to school, we decided that homeschool would be our best option and so we had the opportunity to continue spending most of our days in the woods, learning and growing alongside one another. I think back to this time we shared and how it shaped our connection, as well as his curiosity towards the world around him, and am so grateful that we experienced that, as I truly believe it laid the foundation for each of us to grow into who we are today.

And who are we today? We left the woods of Philadelphia for sunny San Diego after having little brother, Maxus, in 2016 and have settled into a slow paced, beach lifestyle quite nicely. We best fit into the unschooling homeschoolers category, which pretty much just means we are constantly learning through real life, organic experiences in our daily life. We go on lots of adventures and a friend and I started The San Diego Family Nature Club as a way to get kids together for free range nature play twice a week – which has truly nourished my soul through meaningful connections, adventures and experiencing the beauty of the natural world around us. Cultivating an understanding community of open-minded parents and children has made all the difference for me. Sometimes I think back to when I first became a mama and I was struggling so hard to understand my child and figure out ways to help him, and I want to hug that version of me and tell her it will all work out. I want to tell her that she was given this child for a reason. Through each difficult lesson, I found out and continue to find out, exactly what I’m made of. The empowerment that builds from advocating relentlessly for your child is palpable.

If there is one thing I want to pass on to you it is this: listen to your children. They are telling and showing you exactly what they need from you. Be open to hearing what they’re communicating to you. Tune out the background noise of other people telling you what to do and check in with yourself. Don’t be afraid to go against the grain! Listen to your inner voice, it knows. You already have everything you need inside of you.  Trust that. The more you trust this person, the stronger she will grow. 

-Sarah Kurliand

Instagram: @Sarah.Kurliand

Facebook: San Diego Family Nature Club