Wise Mama Farai
A conversation with Farai Harreld
February 27, 2021
Tell us a bit about you and your family (names, ages, where you live, style of parenting/philosophy)
Our little family of three consists of Mom- Farai, Dad- Anthony, and our child Thandiwe (4). We live and love on unceded Kaw and Osage land in Kansas with our 2 pups Duke and Stanley. I am a Writer, Birth Worker, and Herbalist and my partner is a Realtor. We are urban homesteaders, and animists who believe in the sanctity of all life. Our family is a mix of Zimbabwean, Central African, European, and Cherokee heritage. We’ve only been parenting for roughly four years, so we spend a lot of time figuring out what traditions and philosophies of our ancestry matter to us. Our parenting philosophy is a blend of attachment parenting sprinkled in with some waldorf and unschooling principles. We believe childhood is sacred and community is sanctified. We try to work on loving our child how they show up in the world, and teach them to love and feel responsible for themselves, their actions, their fellow man, and the Earth.
What are some of your favorite activities to do with your children?
Reading folk-lore and fairy tales and retelling and making up our own stories as we go along. At 4, she has reached the stage where she loves to create her own stories full of acorns, foxes, rabbits, and mystical mushrooms and planets. She scribbles her stories in her homemade books and reads them out loud to us as well and watching her little brain create brings me much joy.
Our second favorite activity is walking in our neighborhood and observing as the seasonal changes in the flora and fauna around us. This was something we did from infancy with her. In the summer we go for one or more daily walks and visit our favorite spots and we try to challenge ourselves to get out in the colder months too. She loves to observe the tree where a fungus lives in a hole in the trunk, the squirrels skittering in between the hedges, and the tree root that looks like a fairy pool. There is always something to notice and discuss about nature even though we live in the city.
Another activity we love is hiking and exploring local trails and parks and having picnics outdoors. In the spring and summer we love to have lunch outside and in the fall we try to have at least one or two fire cooked and fire side meals outside. Picnics and eating outside or fireside is always a treat for her and I try to do them as often as I can manage.
Gardening. I’m an Herbalist and watching her go through the motions of planting, watering, talking to, tending to and harvesting the plants and herbs in our garden has been amazing to watch. She loves going through seed catalogues, visiting greenhouses, planning her own garden beds, picking her seeds and planting and watering her favorite plants. She also likes to help me make herbal remedies. It’s a lot of fun for the both of us and gives us needed bonding time.
What are your top 10 favorite toys?
What are your top favorite books?
These are some of the books that she or I will always bring back into rotation over the past several months.
- Birds of Kansas - Stan Tekiela
- Any of Lynn Plourde books
- Any Daniel Tiger books - We are big Mr Roger’s people
- Sonya’s chickens - Phoebe Wahl
- African folk tales - Hugh Vernon Jackson
- The Prickly Hedgehog - Mark Ezra
- Tiny Perfect Things - M. H. Clark….
- Thunder Rose - Kadir Nelson
- The Mushroom Club - Elise Gravel
Bird Nests - Nina Shackelford
Do you have any words of wisdom for new mamas?
You are enough. At the heart of it all, all babies really want/need is a loving, and attentive caregiver. Everything else is a bonus.
You are not meant to do this alone. Community is key. Children and mama’s need community. If possible, go to playdates, library baby and toddler times, babywearing meetups and much more.
BABYWEARING IS LIFE. Find the teaching groups online if you can’t access them in real life right now but babywearing helped me accomplish so much those first few years. Plus it kept her close which was what we both needed.
Open ended toys are totally worth the price. Our wobble board seemed like a big expense for a one year old, but the hours of play it has amassed have surpassed any shiny plastic toy from a box store. Thrifting is also a good place to start.
Prioritize rest for yourself often. Especially in the formative immediate post partum time. Good nutrition, baths, water, and nature are grounding are soothing, but rest is how your body will heal.
Does your family have a special bedtime routine?
If she somehow manages a nap before bedtime, then she typically won’t be be ready for sleep at 7:30 . At this age,I try to avoid naps- but sometimes it happens. I will then make a strong brew of relaxing herbs like lavender and chamomile on the stove and add it to her bath water to help relax her. When she is out of the bath, I rub a nourishing blend of oils and fats like shea butter, mango butter, or almond oil into her skin to help her relax. I also like to do feet soaks with epsom salts and other soothing herbs like rose, linden, or hops for us all to relax.
Then we floss, brush, put on our jammies and say our blessing which right now is:
“Now the Sun has gone to bed,
the stars are shining overhead.
In their nests the birds do sleep,
and to their homes the snails do creep.
Children now will roam no more,
its bed time now ,
and you’re safe in your home”.
We rotate out the prayers every season because she likes to memorize different verses and it gives her brain something to chew on. Afterwards we hop in bed and read stories until she falls asleep. If her dad is not home we will play voice recordings of him reading her favorite stories as well.