We visited the Indigenous Peoples Experience in Fort Edmonton Park recently. It is a beautiful building that is bursting at the seams with history and narrative. You feel immersed as you step into the colour and light, and begin to journey through the displays. The sounds of stories and projected pictures are everywhere as you hear about history, culture and the indigenous view of the world. It is worth a visit if you haven’t been there yet!
So much of the wisdom caught my attention but I thought I’d share this particular one. The quote on the board above details the cycle of life and it spoke to me in this season we are in.
When you are discovering who you are and what life is aboutPatrick Provost, Piikani, Blackfoot
I love hearing about the new things babies are doing. I avidly follow the updates of a friend’s twin granddaughters, watching as they grow and learn. There are so many ways that they experience sounds, smells, tastes and feelings. All of that exploring is shaping who they are becoming and how they see the world around them. In the first year or two it all happens so fast because everything is new, but it doesn’t end there. Children continue to learn and grow as they become more independent. Seeing character and personality appear in my own children was one of the wondrous gifts in our parenting journey. As Foster Parents we are given the privilege of being a part of this journey of discovery when children come into our home.
Where we’re preparing ourselves through our mistakes and how we overcame them.Patrick Provost, Piikani, Blackfoot
I actually did a double take when I first read this. “Preparing through mistakes!!” I don’t think I’ve heard as appropriate of a description of adolescence! Teenagers have a tendency to test the boundaries and jump into things without thinking through the consequences. Mistakes and how they are navigated are a constant thread through teenage existence.
In childhood they learned about who they were and how the world works. In the teen years they take it out for a test drive!
It’s messy. Some mistakes are never discovered (if we all think hard enough we can probably think of some things we did in our teen years that could have had dire consequences but didn’t, so no one was any the wiser). Other things were uncomfortable or even painful in the learning but we were able to overcome and move on. Still other mistakes can cost dearly, sabotaging a future or even forfeiting a life. That is the reality of mistakes in the teen years.
Foster Parent’s of teens can feel like they are in a constant battle of calling teens back to deal with where they went wrong. Many parents invest a lot of time and energy in helping teens overcome mistakes in these years. Indigenous culture accepted that mistakes were the way things rolled through adolescence. If we viewed it that way we would take a lot of guilt off our plates. It isn’t that we as parents did anything wrong in childhood… mistakes are a part of being a teen! Learning how to deal with our mistakes and failures is supposed to happen while we are still under our parents’ roof and have access to their wisdom, guidance and resources. So many parents are afraid of what the teen years will hold. We need to let them make mistakes because when there is no room to fail, make mistakes and face the consequences teens don’t move into adulthood healthy and prepared.
Where we do the work and raise familiesPatrick Provost, Piikani, Blackfoot
Do the work! How many times have I felt it wasn’t fair how much work raising children can be. How many people look at their retired parents and wish they had the time and peace they enjoy. Or at their teens/young adults and wish for the freedoms they take for granted. Raising a family is work. People who think they can just have a child or two and continue to live their life as they used to are being naive. But it is the work we are called to do. When we are in the prime of our life we are able to do the work, we have the capacity and it’s the purpose we’re called to. When teenagers try to parent in the season of mistakes there is chaos. Some adults never learned from their mistakes and are still teenagers regardless of their chronological age. They also produce chaos wherever they go. Foster Care is the business of looking after the children of people who weren’t ready to do the work and raise families. It is a sacred trust to shepherd their children and trust that they get to a place where they can do the work themselves.
Where we use everything we’ve gathered to help guide the young people.Patrick Provost, Piikani, Blackfoot
A life well-lived gathers a lot! A lot of wisdom that can be passed down; as children try to figure out how the world works, as teens make mistakes and figure out how to overcome them, as adults do the work and try to figure out how to raise the families. There are many elders in Foster Care who are still doing the work of raising families. They do double duty and sometimes it’s good and sometimes it becomes a bitter pill to swallow. The work is not theirs to do. Elders hold a special place in Indigenous culture. We could learn a lot from that. Our elders are not meant to be off doing their own thing enjoying retirement free from the discovery, mistakes and work of life. They are meant to be offering what they have to guide the rest of us. I am thankful for parents and aunts and uncles who have modeled that by being a part of our journey. They gather us together, they tell the stories, they share the resources and wisdom they have and in doing so they fulfill their purpose. What an incredible gift. I experience that in my family but many do not!
Indigenous culture understood that we all have a roll to play and we all need to do our part for the circle to complete itself. The breakdown of each of these stages is witnessed in our culture all the time. If we could actually follow this model the world would work a little better.
What stage are you in? Are you walking in your purpose?
In the midst of the mess