I met the Lady Moon one magical night last September. We were camping in the high mountains with our homeschool co-op. It was twilight and the children had gathered around the fire for a story or two before bed. I had a couple of tales prepared for them, but as I faced the circle I was entranced by the otherworldly beauty of a tiny sliver of silver moon setting over the black ridge to the west. I began to speak without knowing where the story was going...
Dear children, tonight I'm going to tell you about the Lady Moon. Do you see her silver boat dipping over the mountains to the west? She is returning home to her Moon Palace, just behind the mountains. Oh, the Moon Palace is a beautiful place! The walls are of crystal and the floor is polished silver. It glows and shines in the night. Each room is more beautiful than the last and all are full of precious gold and silver treasures. And the Lady Moon has one special room where she passes the night all alone. It has a big window that always stands open so sweet breezes can come in and out. The Lady Moon sits in her chair by the window and she looks down at the earth. She sees all the little houses where children are cuddling snug in their beds. She sees the lights go out one by one. There she sits and watches over the sleeping children and as she watches the Lady Moon sends her love down to the earth and sprinkles her sparking moondust down to each child. Her moondust brings the sweetest dreams! If you ever wake up with a happy dream in your heart, you know the Lady Moon has sprinkled your pillow with her magic.
And so the Lady Moon took her place in our family pantheon. She has been a frequent visitor at bedtime this fall and winter. Her stories have grown and spread: in October we learned that she longed for a child of her own. Soon after she adopted a little Star Child, who turned out to be a strong-willed adventurer, always climbing the rigging of the Moon Ship and jumping up into the starry realms to dance and play. The Star Child once spent a year living as a human child on earth. Later she went wandering on the Milky Way and met her friend Red Star, a boy as bold as she. As a creative vein, the Lady Moon was gold to me. But this week our Lady Moon chapter came to an abrupt end, at least for now.
It happened like this: Ida and Emmet were cuddling in Emmet's bed while I put baby Eden to sleep in my room. When I walked in to do the big kids' bedtime, I found them with their heads together conspiritorially on one pillow. They looked cozy enough, but I noticed Emmet was clutching his doll to his chest with a nervous tightness. Hmm...
"Mom," said Ida. "We don't like the Lady Moon anymore. We don't see the moon the way you do." We? I've been hearing quite a bit of this We lately. It is the We of powerful older sister and adoring younger brother.
"That's okay, sweetie. You don't have to like all the stories I tell and we don't have to see everything the same way. Why don't you tell me more about how you see the moon?"
"Well...the moon is like a ball of rock, see, and the light of the sun shines on it and that makes the light we see and it changes shapes because of the angle of the sun and moon."
And so I heard the gates of early childhood closing behind my big girl.
Though I felt it with a pang of sadness, I was not surprised. We have been witnessing Ida's navigation of this new territory for some months. In Waldorf circles, the leap in development that happens around Ida's age is called the Nine Year Change. It's a time of deep transformation, both necessary and sometimes painful for children (and their parents). You can read much about this from more expert minds than mine, here and here. But please bear with me as I attempt to put this progression into my own words:
In the first seven years of life, the child's consciousness is in a state of communion. Though she learns to name herself and speak about herself as an individual, she doesn't really feel herself as seperate from the environment or from other people. She experiences her world powerfully through her senses and unites with what she experiences. And her inner, imaginative life is as real as the material world. Belief is natural and implicit. Wonder and magic live. This is the time for fairy stories and nature tales. Jack Frost paints the world white and gnomes live under tree roots. Imaginary friends share secrets. And the Lady Moon rides her crescent boat through the twilight.
Around the age of six or seven, the child begins to awaken to herself as a separate being. Self-consciousness arises and along with it may come all sorts of feelings: loss, embarrasment, wilfullness, discontent. In Ida we observed that for a time she seemed to lose the ability to play. She noticed it, too, and was distressed. She'd ask me, "Why can't I play anymore? I can't remember what to do." She needed to adjust to a whole new relationship to her imagination and to other people.
Hopefully, this awakening progresses gradually until the child is around nine years old. At this time, the child has really left the Garden. It is no accident that in third grade the Waldorf Schools teach stories from the Old Testament, including the fall from Eden. The children feel their own sense of aloneness and loss of union mirrored in this story. Also taught are practical skills like farming and housebuilding. This supports the children in finding the confidence they need to make their homes on this new earth, in their new identities as separate beings. Soon rational thought will be growing in their fertile soil of their minds. They will be studying physics and astronomy. The mysteries of the night sky will be unveiled and organized into solar systems and galaxies.
Which is all right and good and necessary for my big girl, just two months from her ninth birthday. But for the five-year-old with his head on the same pillow? Oh no, I am not ready for Emmet's Lady Moon to turn into a ball of rock. Not yet. He still has a good two years of fairyland coming to him, as far as I am concerned. And while I dearly hope that Ida can take deep delight in learning about the bricks and mortar of our world, I hope she will always love the magic that lives inside the rock.
So I answered (fingers crossed), "That's true, Ida. You are describing the body of the moon. It is made of rock and is round like a ball and light shines on it. In my story, I am telling about the spirit of the moon. The spirit of the moon is just as real as the body."
She began to complain that she didn't understand, but then she got kind of quiet and said, "It's like a doll or a puppet, like Grandmother. The puppet is made of cloth and your hand is what moves it but it also is real and has a spirit, right?"
Yes. There are different kinds of truth. There is physical truth and there is emotional/spiritual truth. I hope that as Ida continues on her journey into adulthood she'll be able to bring this understanding to the other revelations that she will meet. Someday fairly soon she's going to know that I buy the things in her stocking and that the Easter Rabbit's candy comes from the Co-op. I hope on that day that Santa and the Rabbit will live in her as spirits of joy and giving and that she'll know that mom's debit card is just a helper, really, of these greater realities.
And I deeply hope that as Ida closes the garden gate behind her she can become a guardian of that garden for her little brothers. Some children feel the need to share the pain of the loss of wonder by telling younger children of their discoveries: there is no Santa, the tooth fairy is just your mom, etc. I hope Ida will not need to do this. I see her as another helper of the big Magic. Together we'll sprinkle beauty into the lives of her little brothers: me the Lady Moon and she the Star Child.