Motherhood, mentorship and the circle of community

Whether we like it or not, the river of mentorship that runs through us is changing. Currently, our silent and trusted tradition of telling family stories while changing tires, flipping pancakes and breaking bread together has morphed into on purpose, scheduled activities to foster a ‘healthy attachment’ with our spouse and children. We may be gathering together but usually it’s around the coffee table, or on high stools at the family ‘bar’ instead of around a table, and when we take on togetherness, it’s as a mindful task to become a “successful family.” FYI, I’m a huge attachment parenting fan, in fact I use a lot of the principals in both my life and work, because to me, it’s all the same pot of stew. I’m not knocking Gordon Neufeld and his still hugely popular approach, but rather bringing our attention to the need for it in the first place.  
From my own experience, mentorship has been something I’ve fallen into and received easily because my life required it. My mom died when I was eight, and as a result, our family of five kids, some adopted, some not, fractured in to what seemed like a zillion pieces. My dad, god bless him, never recovered. He did marry again, and we blended with another previously blended family of six grown boys. Yes, that’s four blends, and yes, I’m telling you that I was the youngest of eleven children of which eight were my brothers. It was a gong-show as we were all the blind leading, ignoring, blaming and running from the blind. Why do I tell you this? Because as a result of this gobbledy life-goop, I can get drunk with being and giving mentorship. It’s the only thing I’ve ever known.
On to the Bowen part of this story. Mentorship thrives here. Upon my first few weeks on Bowen, my neighbour, Corrina Headley of Home Farm Gardens came over and walked me through the property I live on.  She smiled and pointed at various leaves and shrubs, telling me what they are and how they grow, and how I can use them. I had no idea. My mom had a garden, but we never had a chance to work in it together. Then I met Suzan Philippe who introduced me to the Little Red Church and Shelagh MacKinnon at a time when I was feeling really restless but also awkwardly tentative about embracing the whole ‘faith’ thing in my life. Last June, Todd and I were invited to our first Summer Solstice Soiree. We laughed really hard when we realized there were dozens happening across the island and we had never heard of such a thing before. I would call that ‘cultural mentorship’.   
A few weeks ago I posted a question on Facebook about switching to organic milk and butter, and “What was the best and most economical way to do that?”.  In just over 48 hours, the conversation, full of answers and suggestions had extended to over 67 comments, half of which were from our neighbours here on Bowen Island. Yes we’re a Facebook community, but not because we love to be online, rather because we love to be connected.    
Our schools are fueled with a mentorship and stewardship mindset. BICS focuses on virtues and has ‘big buddy’ practice of connecting the young ones with the more mature ones. Their grade seven ceremony sees each graduate leave the stage while holding hands with a kindie as both students step bravely in to a new stage of their education. IPS raises the bar of professional promise for their grade nine graduates with Masterworks, a mentorship program connecting adult professionals with fourteen year old passionate teens. The end result is a “Ted Talk” of sorts presented by the graduating students after a year of inquiry, focus and practice as their mentors guide them. With our Island Discovery School, mentorship IS the heartbeat as their very focus is to ‘preserve and enrich the central role of family in children’s learning’. Again, brilliant, mindful, and deep with roots of life stewardship.
Mentorship isn’t just for kids either. In this place called home, I’ve learned about love, deepened about marriage, expanded on children, dialed down on divorce, shared secrets, exchanged tragedies, celebrated births and made promises.  I have done most of these things with people, half of whom I may only know by face, and not by name. As of late I find myself leaning on the families who have already been through ‘the teenage years’, have dealt with the ‘professional angst’ of our forties and who frankly, and quite simply, know how to make bread without using wheat.
The other day, I reached out to my friend, Cindi Keep, a long time Bowen Islander who is also a mom to three grown children, musician and a working professional who commutes daily on the shuttle to downtown Vancouver. Our lives are quite different, but still we seem to be mentoring each other these days.  In the next little while she’s going to have me over to show me the difference between various grains and teach me how to cook and bake with each of them. I know that my mom would’ve loved to have done that, and while I may have missed out on what I imagine would’ve been her kind and gentle mothering mentorship, her voice is still coming through the hearts of my friends, neighbours and community. Yes, the role of ‘family mentorship’ may be changing, and yes, attachment to our peers may not be ideal, but perhaps the new family unit is a wider circle that is enriched and strengthened by the roots of our community, and although this article isn’t about this, I suspect our First Nation neighbours might agree.
Many thanks to this family of mine called Bowen Island. This daughter is grateful for your mentorship.

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