Find relief from parenting fears in the natural unfolding of child development

Updated: Sep 25, 2019

What do you trust in or have faith in?

When things get hard, when you worry about your child’s future, or your income, someone’s health, do you believe that you are you in it all alone?

Or are there other forces at work helping you and guiding you along your way?

As a scientist and engineer, I baulk at the idea of a God that says yes to helping some people and some projects and no to others. That view of God strikes me as narcissistic and naive on the part of us humans. And yet the question persists.

Though the word faith itself continues to be loaded with dogma for me, I remain curious about the idea of faith as a support for us on the path.

As someone who struggles with the need for control in situations and outcomes, the notion of trust is both unsettling and relieving for me.

Some people look to scripture, or inspiring quotes to inquire about deeper questions such as what it is we might have faith in. I tend to look to nature. I wonder, does a tree have to worry about how big it’s going to get and how it’s going to fit in? I don’t think so. I think a tree simply grows into the open spaces that are presented to it at a given moment in time. 

The physical supports and limitations for tree growth such as space for growth, the health of the soil and the air, the quality of the sunlight and quantity rain are all factors, limits even, to the potential for growth.

But the tree is not being told to grow faster in one specific direction, and other trees or even humans can’t control the speed of it’s growth. It just grows; at a rate dependent on the environment it is in.

Who or what is “growing the tree”?

How does the tree know how to grow? How does it know how to form leaves with chlorophyll to collect energy from the sun and a stem to draw water up to those leaves. It doesn’t have a brain, or a mother to tell it what to do.

The pattern for it’s natural unfolding (inspired by Hiro Boga’s words) is built right into that little tree. It’s quite magical, is it not?

I believe the human being has the same built-in capacity for growth and development.

It’s not all on us as parents.

The human development pattern is also quite magical, we just don’t always see it - perhaps until something goes awry.

Our role as parents is primarily to nurture, to create the conditions for growth and to create open spaces for growth as best we are able.

And yet it’s so scary to let go of the desire to create a positive outcome for our babies.

Consider watching a child learn to walk. Did you teach him or her each tiny element of walking? I doubt that you did or would even know how to dissect walking into minute parts.

Most of as parents encourage our kids by getting excited when they stand, holding their hands in standing position (scaffolding for new skills) as they explore taking steps, or offer supportive tools like walkers.

And we also likely encourage lots of open space to grow in the form of tummy time on a carpet, that sort of thing. I fear my baby development language and ideas may be sorely out of date! But hopefully you get the picture.

We don’t “teach” a typical child to walk by following a book and breaking down the steps.

We follow the child's lead intuitively and give them opportunities.

Some of us may try to rush the process by “working” on it, while others relax and just allow it to happen. In both cases, whether we work on it constantly, or just provide the right environment and support it typically happens within the first three years of life (provided the child has no physical limitations).


We don’t have to do it all mamas.

We can relax a little because nature and the urge to grow is built into us all.

All of us. Even those of us who are born with learning or neurological differences.

Why would we assume that just because a child is differently abled in some way, that the process would be any different? They are human after all and part of the natural world.

Which means we have support that we can’t always see or give a name to, though some may call it God or Universe or human development.

Natural unfolding

I see it in trees, I see it in the branched path of rivers, I see it in all children.

Sometimes you have to look a little more closely, but I believe it is there. Natural unfolding.

Of course, we have to do our part as parents. Believing in natural unfolding is not permission to be hands off. It’s up to us to show up to our kids and ourselves, to be present and see what is being asked of us, what is needed next.

After all, nature made us as social creatures that nurture their young.

Leaning into trust

We don’t have to control everything or do everything.

We can loosen the reigns a little bit, and ask ourselves which part is for me to do and which part is for the magic of nature’s unfolding to take care of.

To allow nature to do part of the work in our lives requires trust. And to build trust means to look for examples of where nature, God, the Universe has worked for us before.


For me, leaning into trust is ongoing work. It’s a cyclical process of getting overwhelmed and worried, trying to force things and then eventually remembering to trust and thinking back to all the times I fretted, had to let go of something and it worked out.

And then choosing to trust instead of control.

Frankly, it’s a much more pleasant way to live when I can remember to trust.

And so, when I can remember, I ask: what part of this is situation is best left to nature’s unfolding?

If you are sifting through overwhelm and pressure to fix things in your own life or your child’s, a spiritual director can help provide the space to discern which part you can leave to nature’s unfolding. Find a spiritual director here or if you are curious about working with me check out my service offerings here.