Love for Daddy

Yesterday was Father’s Day and it was the first time in my life that my Dad wasn’t alive to get my Father’s Day call or read my Father’s Day card. I’m lucky to still have two living grandpas and also one step-dad, and, of course, my parenting partner is a blessing too. Yet the absence of the man I began life with was hard on my heart. So today, I wanted to share a bit of what I wrote and read about my Dad, Robert Lavender, at his memorial service earlier this year. Remembering my Dad The number one thing to know about my Dad is that his over-riding inspiration was love. His love and devotion for me were something I questioned only in rare moments when my own fears made up stories of how he might lose his love for me. I was certain of his love because it was obvious in the choices he made even if it wasn’t always spoken directly. My Dad – in all his humanity – was one of the most loving and devoted people I know. For 41 years I was blessed by and benefited from the love he had for me. He was present in my life even when the physical distance was great. He was a kind and patient teacher for years that I can’t even consciously remember. He buoyed, applauded, and supported me from sidelines of all sorts. He opened up the world to me in ways I still discover long after the original opportunity was taken. He freely gave his love even when he wished I would choose... read more

How a peaceful parent speaks

Welcome to the April 2013 Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival: Peaceful Parenting Applied This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival hosted by Authentic Parenting and Living Peacefully with Children. This month our participants have written about authenticity through self-expression. We hope you enjoy this month’s posts and consider joining us next month when we share about Peaceful Parenting Applied. ****** “Don’t mix up that which is habitual with that which is natural.” ~Gandhi In our everyday speech as parents — both to our children and about them — we are creating our reality and shaping theirs. Neither sticks nor stones, words are water, a powerful force that works its effect over time. Our speech is often habitual and unconscious which also means that we may remain unaware of whether or not we are creating what we really want through our words. Being more conscious and intentional can help us bring more peace, love, respect, and harmony to our hearts and homes. What do our words mean? How we talk to our children greatly affects their own self-image and sense of self worth. It strongly influences how they will see the world and interpret events. Our language (and tone of voice and body language) communicates approval or disapproval, acknowledgment or disregard, support or withdrawal and either strengthens or weakens the connection we have with our children. While most of us rarely say things that are blatantly hurtful, many, if not most of us occasionally speak to or about our children in negative ways. “My kid is all over the place and everyone else’s child is... read more

Uncluttering Childhood

Welcome to the March edition of the Simply Living Blog Carnival – Clearing the Clutter cohosted by Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children, Laura at Authentic Parenting, Jennifer at True Confessions of a Real Mommy, and Joella at Fine and Fair. This month our participants wrote about de-cluttering and cleaning up. Please check out the links to their thoughts at the end of this post. Before I decided to have a child, part of what I thought I wouldn’t like about being a parent was having a messy home. Yes, I was a neat-freak and still prefer an orderly space (not spic and span, simply clean-ish and well-organized). What I didn’t realize is that children attract clutter in so many ways that decluttering is an ongoing activity of modern family life. Why children are clutter magnets First, let me clarify that when I say “clutter,” I’m referring to anything that I think is unnecessary or unwanted. It’s the stuff that takes up space — physical and mental — that I’d prefer to leave free or use for other purposes. Whether it is an unsuitable gift from a relative, a trinket that your child is “awarded” at a doctor/dentist visit, some flora or fauna your wee naturalist has collected, bits of partially-eaten food, an “experiment” your budding scientist has started, or an art project your beginning painter has created, children draw stuff to them and leave stuff in their wake as they move through their day. There is no criticism here, just my observation of life with child. Children are clutter magnets because: People love to gift the children they... read more

Giving thanks for parenthood

Welcome to the November 2012 Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival: Gratitude and Traditions This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival hosted by Authentic Parenting and Living Peacefully with Children. This month our participants have written about gratitude and traditions by sharing what they are grateful for, how they share gratitude with their children, or about traditions they have with their families. The Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival will be taking a break in December, but we hope you will join us for the great line up of themes we have for 2013! *** “If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, ‘thank you,’ that would suffice.” ~ Meister Eckhart Religious or not, all parents pray in some way or another. We yearn for our children to be happy and healthy. We hope that the ills they bear in life will be minor and easy to recover from. We envision their living well and being fulfilled in their lives. We also wish to be parents who help rather than hinder, love rather than limit, and nurture rather than neglect the children we have to care for. And we say “thank you,” countless times for all the richness and blessings we and our children experience in the course of our lives. What we may find hard or confusing to do is to give thanks for the pain, trials, and tribulations of parenting (for ourselves and for our children). We want to praise the light and celebrate the victories. We find it natural to curse the darkness and regret the losses. But what if we... read more

Sowing seeds of self-love in our children

Welcome to the October 2012 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Instilling a Healthy Self-Image This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared confessions, wisdom, and goals for helping children love who they are. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants. *** “Can you do something so her upper lip will cover more of her gums when she smiles?” my mom asked the orthodontist, not realizing how this question would stick with me for decades. As I sit for a professional photographer my stepdad laughed while calling, “Don’t blink!,” making me even more nervous than I already was in the brightly lit studio. My parents were good people who loved me and were proud of me, yet they unconsciously did things that chipped away at my self-esteem. Like most parents of their era and many parents even today, I think they didn’t realize how great their impact was on how I felt about myself. Instead of feeling comfortable in my own skin, I often looked outside myself for acceptance, relying on others’ praise to feel worthy, loveable, and even normal. Conversely, when others didn’t compliment me or made critical remarks, I withered and doubted myself because I gave their viewpoints so much weight. And I worked diligently to be flawless (at least by the standards my family valued) so that even when I believed myself flawed inside, the outside world would see only a smart, talented, composed, popular, and “in” girl. My parents... read more

Sacredness of family

Our families are sacred. While the relationships among us may get sticky or even occasionally sour, there is still a sacred sweetness among us whether our bonds be of blood or of choice. Part of our duty as parents is to help protect the sacredness within our immediate family, sheltering it from the outside winds that have no reverence for what we’ve created. I write this as an entreaty to all parents — mothers and fathers everywhere — to get serious about giving your family a place of honor in this world and to not let family become just one other part of your lives like work, hobbies, or volunteering. Our culture doesn’t want you to do this. If family is held as sacred like the Sabbath once was, then what happens to work, to commerce, to productivity, to consumption, to profit? American society has no love of family despite plenty who will claim “family values” are important. The law allows parents to take 12-weeks of unpaid job-protected leave upon the birth/adoption of a child which, while better than no leave, basically says that children are worth 3 months of devoted attention and no more. Our employers, our government, our culture places no importance on family so that is up to us. More specifically it’s up to us as parents with sufficient financial means to reclaim the sacredness of family. What does it mean to hold family as sacred? Do an internet search on “family as sacred” and though google can find 141 million results, the first five pages are mostly about religious institutions or rituals or are from... read more

Baby steps are bold

Recently a client mentioned being able to see herself taking baby steps towards her goals, the implication being that these would be small actions. Hearing her words I saw my newly walking baby in my mind’s eye. Her “baby steps” were bold, trusting, joyful, and graceful (for someone completely new to bipedal locomotion) — gigantic from a spiritual perspective if relatively small when viewed on a physical scale. It was the first time I’d ever considered that the way we use the term “baby steps” was completely wrong — baby steps are HUGE and BOLD and we most of us could use more of this baby step energy in our lives. How babies make bold steps (and how we can emulate them) They trust themselves and the universe. Sure they are new to walking (or feeding themselves, or tying their shoes) but they don’t fear failure because they don’t know what failure is. They fall and use that experience to refine their walking (they don’t judge themselves as clumsy or curse the floor). They are guided by passion, curiosity, and interest. They don’t do something with baby steps because they “have to,” they do it because they can’t not do it. Their excitement to explore the world around them compels them to act. They pay attention. Our little ones don’t sleep walk though life like we often do. They notice details about the world around them — “Birdie singing, mama.” Or “See this, daddy?” (as she places a piece of gravel in your hand) — and thus are sparked to investigate or examine further what they’ve discovered. They crave... read more

Kids and passion — Are you fanning or dousing the flames?

“Your children are genius creators who have just arrived from Nonphysical, who are feeling empowered. And if they would be left to their own devices, they would not go astray. They would maintain worthiness; they would maintain their feeling of Well-Being. They would thrive, unless it was taught otherwise to them. In other words, if others don’t do something to change their vibration, they are in a vibration of thriving.” ~ Abraham One of our most profound opportunities as parents is to support our children in becoming themselves. Not merely the son or daughter mom or dad thinks they should be or the person grandma/uncle/teacher/preacher would like to have them become, but who they were meant to be. The seed is there from conception, ready to become its full embodiment. It needs not our instructions on how to grow, nor our judgement of its form. In fact, like the quote from Abraham above notes, these inputs will restrict our child’s flowering rather than fostering this unfolding. How to help a child blossom If your desire is to support your son or daughter to become the fullest expression of him/herself, here are some ways to succeed. Pay attention to what they are naturally drawn to and encourage their exploration and passion. The video below from human development specialist, Peter L. Benson, has some practical ideas for encouraging children’s spark (Sparks: How Parents Can Help Ignite the Hidden Strengths of Teenagers. One powerful tool to use in knowing our children is listening fully to them, seeking simply to hear them and care about what they’re saying. Give them plenty of free... read more

Parents don’t know what our kids should do

Parents truthfully have no knowledge of what our kids should or shouldn’t do. I’m quite certain that most parents would ardently disagree with this statement. And even though I wrote this and wholeheartedly agree with it, I sometimes act as if I do think I know what my daughter should/shouldn’t do. So why, if we parents truly don’t know what our children should do, do we keep up the charade? We believe that parenting is about teaching our children what to do Whether you call it “teaching,” “training,” “guiding,” or “parenting,” most of us see ourselves in the capacity of “wise elder” to our child’s “beginner” status. Unconsciously or consciously we see our children as lacking knowledge of how to behave and we feel compelled to build that knowledge base. There are two problems with this perspective: It casts our children as “less than” rather than whole, worthy, and enough exactly as they are; and it casts us as “better than” rather than simply a child with more enculturation. It ascribes to us a false sense of authority which can shut down our child’s openness to alternative ideas and also put us on a very shaky pedestal of omniscience. What I believe that most parents know is how our culture tells us to behave and how we actually do behave. We’ve assimilated the beliefs of our culture and made up other beliefs out of our own growing up experience. We call it by many names — the “rules,” the “way life works,” the “facts” — but the truth is that our shoulds/shouldn’ts are merely beliefs. “Forgive him, for he... read more

Continually falling in love with your child

“A happy wedlock is a long falling in love.” ~ Theodore Parker For me this quote could be altered to apply equally to parenting: a happy family life is a long falling in love. Thinking back to time with my newborn daughter I’m reminded of the overflowing emotion, especially a feeling of love, that pervaded our home. I could while away hours simply watching her, smelling her, or stroking her soft skin. Each day with her brought new experiences, discoveries about who she was, what she needed, how she communicated and, of course discoveries about myself as a mother — who I was, what I had to give, how I communicated. As my daughter has grown the discoveries haven’t ended, yet I sometimes forget that each day is still new and our journey together uncharted. As a mama I think one of the greatest gifts I can offer my daughter is to be open to seeing her with new eyes daily, tuning in to who she is in this moment and this experience and seeking to learn what it is she’s asking for from me (and what she’s offering to me as well). Staying in the now It’s so easy to rely on our history with someone and forget to keep paying attention. Though we often say it in words — “They grow up so fast.” — we seem to sometimes act as if who are children are is frozen in time. I want to offer my daughter the space to change and grow, to try on new ways of being, new ideas, new choices. I want to grant... read more

Be fallible

“If you shut your door to all errors truth will be shut out.” ~ Rabindranath Tagore Growing up my parents read to me from the Berenstain Bears stories where the papa bear often touted his wisdom whilst in the midst of doing unwise things. It was funny to watch him say “do as I do,” then get into a big mess, and pretend like his own action hadn’t caused his predicament. Papa bear’s model, however, reminds me of one of the things we often do as parents — pretend like or try to present the image that we’re perfect. Our children know we’re not perfect — heck they’re usually are on the receiving end of our greatest moments of imperfection — so acting as if we are doesn’t fool them. And, of course, even if we don’t like to admit it, we know we’re simply human, so we can’t fool ourselves either. “It is very easy to forgive others their mistakes; it takes more grit to forgive them for having witnessed your own.” ~ Jessamyn West Why show your fallibility to your children? I grew up thinking my mom was perfect in some fundamental way. Yes, I knew she yelled at me, was sometimes inattentive, and perhaps a bit too nice, but I carted her around as my role model for how I should be. From this I created an unattainable standard that I was to meet if I was to be loveable and worthy. I’ve spent many of my adult years releasing this impossible demand and still get tripped up by it from time to time. So let’s... read more

Guilt free parenting

Feeling guilty over what we’ve done or not done, how we did “it” or why, or what we’re contemplating or fantasizing about doing is probably a universal parenting experience. We’ve been taught that our actions are either “right” or “wrong,” and thus we constantly judge ourselves as either “good enough” or “not enough” based on this judgment (and/or we judge other parents and they judge us). “Guilt upon the conscience, like rust upon iron, both defiles and consumes it, gnawing and creeping into it, as that does which at last eats out the very heart and substance of the metal.” ~ Bishop Robert South Guilt doesn’t make us better parents The problem is that feeling guilty doesn’t serve us or our children and it only reinforces the notion that our loveability — and that of our children — is conditional. In other words, when we do “right” we believe we’re worthy, loveable, keep-able but when we do “wrong” we suddenly think we’re unworthy, unloveable, and easy to discard. When this is what we believe and experience ourselves, this is the legacy we pass on to our children. Scott Noelle of has a great substitution for our guilt. When we feel guilt, let it redirect rather than reduce us. He describes the scenario this way: “You’d simply feel ‘off’ whenever your behavior was out of alignment with your values. That ‘off’ feeling would be a welcome sign that you need to adjust your course. And with your self-worth beyond dispute [because you know you’re loveable regardless of how you behave], you’d be confident in your ability to get back... read more

When parents judge

Do you ever feel superior to other parents? Do you ever think your way is THE right way? Have you ever felt negatively judged by other parents? Have you ever felt guilty for not doing parenting “right”? I recently read Perchance to Dream, a post about infant sleep and the passion of the commenters and the original author got me thinking more about parenting and judgment and defensiveness. Why we get judgmental or defensive about parenting Parenting is one of the most important and lasting factors in helping each of us become who we are as adults. While there are numerous influences that shape who we are, there is likely no one who would say that parenting has no effect. Given this baseline, most parents have the sense of parenting as a high-stakes endeavor which couples with the nearly universal desire to be a good parent to our children and leaves most of us feeling an incredible amount of pressure to “do it right.” In this pressurized state, many of us seek expertise and answers so we’ll feel “okay” about ourselves and our actions. Unfortunately one of a couple of things may happen once we find the answers. We believe we KNOW what is right and we act as if this knowledge is THE TRUTH. This can make it easy for us to proselytize and simultaneously judge others who haven’t found “the light.” When we’re on the receiving end of a true believer’s judgment, we’re likely to either feel guilty for doing it “wrong,” and/or defend ourselves as right and become just as staunch in our position and practice.... read more

Needy parents create needy kids

If we want our children to live fulfilling lives, one of the most useful things we can do is to help them be in “right relationship” with personal power and responsibility. Mindful speech is one very effective tool for creating — or destroying — this relationship. A common way that we parents undermine our children’s power is by misusing the word “need.” What is a need anyway? If we truly need something, it’s essential. Oxygen, water, food, sleep are physical needs whose absence ensure our death. Psychological needs include freedom, power, and belonging. A want (which is what we often confuse with a “need”) is a desire that no matter it’s strength won’t kill us if it goes unfulfilled. Parents are frequently “needy” with their children expressing wants disguised as needs either consciously or unconsciously. See if any of these examples sound familiar: “You need to clean up your room.” “We need to leave for school now.” “I need you to be quiet.” “You need to give that toy back to your friend who had it first.” “Mama needs to take this phone call right now.” Unless any of these “needs” being unfulfilled would lead to death or the actual inability for a subsequent action to take place, they are actually wants, not needs. Sure there are consequences to any of them not happening — a room remaining dirty might mean a punishment in your family or failing to give back a toy may lead to a fight — but they don’t actually “need” to happen. These actions happening might be your preference, desire, or even your demand but... read more

We are one

Being a “good” parent cannot happen without being a “good” person. Another way to think of it is that our mastery as parents is directly linked to our self-mastery and personal transformation. I mention this because so often parents (including me) look for ways to get our children to do this or that. Or we think that we can somehow train them to behave in a certain way. What we forget is that they behave the way they see us (and others around them) behave. Thus, if we desire for them to be peaceful, loving, courageous, and honest people, the way this will most likely to happen is if we are that kind of person first. Below I offer wise words from two other parents as reminders to me and all other parents out there that we are one with our children. As we transform ourselves our children will transform themselves. We are mirrors for each other on this magical journey. “Our children literally resonate with us. They’re downloading our state all the time; our emotions, our beliefs, our values. Their stress rises with ours and comes down with ours…. We make conscious choices to manage our stress and anxiety levels, while our children are depended on the energetic and emotional environment that we create. To tell a child to be reasonable or calm down while we feel negative towards them, is like telling them to go outside and play while we restrain them tightly.” ~ Genevieve of The Peaceful Parent Institute “Your *child* is the mirror! When you don’t like what you see in your child, there’s a... read more

What’s an authentic parenting path anyway?

We’re all on a journey in life . . . as individuals and as parents. Part of our challenge on this voyage is to navigate our own way rather than taking the path destined for someone else. Culture, our own upbringing, peers, family, religious and other institutions provide a long list of “shoulds” regarding parenting. Whether you think these methods are “right” or “wrong,” one thing is true about them all — they are others’ ideas. Finding your authentic parenting path is about discovering or selecting ideas, philosophies, practices, and ways that are true for YOU…and letting go of anything that’s not a fit (no matter who says you “should” think/do/say/be it). Suggestions for finding YOUR authentic path No one but you can know the path that’s right for you (that’s the “good” and “bad” news). Having worked with people on many such discernment projects over the years, here are a few things that may help you uncover your true parenting path. Pay attention to any doubts you have about your parenting practices. If you have twinges of guilt for choices you make, look deeper to examine why. If you repeatedly don’t do something that you’ve said you’ll do, ask yourself “why not.” If you catch yourself hesitating before taking a specific action investigate what might be fueling your reluctance. Notice when you feel really wonderful about yourself as a parent. Make a note of what you just did (or didn’t do). Remember how you are being in that moment and practice repeating it to see if it brings the same satisfied feelings. Consider what about your parenting leaves... read more