Nurturing Chaos and Taming Joy

The Butterfly Effect

The Butterfly Effect Theory  “sensitive dependence on initial conditions”

“Nurturing chaos and taming joy” 

It is meant to be tongue-in-cheek but it’s a pretty accurate way for me to describe what it is like raising five children.

Each have their own agenda; five beautifully vibrant souls in their own orbits, at times coalescing then separating, zigging and zagging.

It is at times a chaotic and joyful life punctuated with periods of peace and contentment.

I spend a lot of time keeping everyone from destroying the house or each other. Most times, I am taming joy. When someone decides to jump across furniture like a leap frog, start a game of chase in the house, or climb the banister like Spiderman, I must step in for safety. You may do parkour outside but you may not do parkour in the living room.”

I repeat myself, a lot. Small victories add up. I just have to have faith some of it sticks. I figure as long as I am consistent 80% of the time that other 20% just means I am human.

A game of tag in the backyard is going well with no yelling or bickering. I peek in on a board or card game underway and everyone is content and harmonious, which is heartening, even if it only lasts for 10 minutes before someone is yelling.

Without my prompting or suggesting, everyone is quietly reading or looking at books; I fall over dead. No, actually I race away to actually get something done for myself. I do as much as one can do with a toddler in tow. Small victories.

I am the manager of chaos. There is order in chaos.


Sparkler in motion, summer 2015.

It may not be readily apparent but it is there all the same. This is especially true in human interactions. We are social creatures and our nature requires that we interact with others. We move in and out of various states of order and disorder, converging and diverging. For most of us, family is the first social group in which we learn to differentiate ourselves from one another while simultaneously embracing our “oneness” or solidarity. It is about our attachment to one another. Family should be our safe base. Home should be our soft place to land.

We attach and we individuate.

This is a sometimes messy but always necessary process. 

I must nurture this process while providing structure and boundaries. I often remind my older kids Mom is a person too. Everyone needs their own time and space to nurture themselves, for self care. This looks different for each family and this is because we are not raising clones but individuals with their own distinct views, drives, and desires of the world. Our world.

Where do you end and I begin?  

"Mother nursing her child" 1906, Mary Cassatt

“Mother nursing her child” 1906, Mary Cassatt

As a mother I am acutely aware of the eternal enormity of my role.

We set the tone of the home. As humans, as mothers, fathers, sisters or brothers; we each influence one another in our own way. There exists a “sensitive dependence on initial conditions.” Some conditions we have control over and others we most certainly do not. Our children come to us with many default features.

Mothers nurture nature. We are all nurturing nature.

Each day I am reminded of my strengths, limitations, and humanity. Doing human is hard and growing them is even harder. I often tell my kids it’s the hardest job you’ll ever love. I am doing my very best and sometimes that has to be good enough.

Chaos Theory

Attachment Theory

Communication and Accommodation Theory

The Principle of Individuation

Behavioral Epigenetics: How Nurture Shapes Nature

The Art of Mary Cassatt

… more on Mary Cassatt

The Art of Josephine Wall


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