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parenting

In sickness and in health – such is the commitment to care, nurturing and to love that each parent makes towards a child.

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Nature's Child

Nature's Child

"Your children are not your children," wrote the Lebanese poet Kahil Gibran, "They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself...You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth." It is a quote I like, not only because - having raised four children on my own - I believe it to be just about the most accurate description of parenthood I have ever come across, but also because it emphasizes the `lightness' which develops when you give up trying to be perfect and come to trust the processes of Nature - in feeding, in healing, in guiding you and your child towards what is best for his or her development at any moment in time. Like the seed of a plant which has encoded within its genetic material the characteristics that will in time produce the full-grown flower, every baby comes into this world carrying a package of as yet unrealized but incredibly rich potential. Within each child is nestled his or her very own brand of unique seedpower encompassing far greater physical, creative and spiritual potential than he or she could realize in ten lifetimes. Your child is like the brush stroke the zen painter uses to represent one leaf on a shaft of bamboo. The leaf he paints is totally singular - like no leaf that has ever existed. Yet within this uniqueness is encompassed universal beauty and life energy of the highest order.

Motivation From Within

Motivation From Within

We think we must teach our children about discipline - particularly self-discipline. But have you ever watched a baby at play? If a baby sees a toy he wants across the room, he doesn't stop to consider whether it's worthwhile going to get it. Neither does he begrudge the time taken to crawl across the room. The seeing, the crawling, the taking it in his hand are all of a piece, all part of the experience, all a source of pleasure. For a young child there is no separation between the work of seeking a reward and the pleasure of having it, as is so often the case in my life. Like most adults, I have learned to live for goals. I have lost the great joy of the seeking itself by relegating that part of my life to the `unpleasant duty of working for what I want.' Yet many of life's pleasures are to be found as much in the seeking as in the finding. Young children have helped me see this - although I am a long way from putting it into practice in everything I do. As parents, we feel obliged to correct our children when they make mistakes in speaking. Yet so often the words they coin seem much more sensible and charming than their proper counterparts. `It's a froggy day,' Jesse used to say when he meant `foggy.' `Where are the `ouches'?' Susannah would ask when she wanted to hang something on the clothesline. (She had once caught a finger in a clothes peg and her great-grandmother had consoled her by saying, `Ouch, that hurts.') Then there were `flat tireds', the things you get when your car runs over a nail in the road, and the `constructions' which you read to find out how to use something for the first time. Aaron, my youngest, announced one day after playing with one of our Burmese cats `Mummy, guess what, pussy cats have dangerous toes'. Children have also taught me to express anger and not be afraid of it. Watch two children fight. They sling the most appalling insults at each other. One gives the other a whack and swears not to play with him or her again. Two hours later they are best friends once more. They know so much better than we do how to forgive. Somehow they will seem to understand that being angry with someone, no matter how important it seems at the time, is not half as interesting as all the things you can do, see, say and make together as soon as the anger has passed.

How I Learned That Love Is Real

How I Learned That Love Is Real

My first child was born in a huge teaching hospital in Los Angeles. The labor was long and regrettably not natural. I was given an analgesic during labor and an epidural for the delivery. It was all very cold, efficient and mechanical. The hospital I was in happened to be a Catholic one in which every other woman there seemed already to know the ropes since she was giving birth to her fifth or eighth or tenth child. Nobody bothered to tell me much about what was going on or what was expected of me. My baby was taken from me immediately after the birth and put into a nursery with all of the other babies while I was wheeled off to a private room. Soon they brought this tiny creature to me. I held him in my arms and stared at him in stark wonder. Then at three hourly intervals he would reappear for twenty minutes at a time and I'd hold him in bed beside me until the nurse would come and take him away again. The third or fourth time they brought him to me, he began to cry. I nestled him, rocked him, and spoke gently to him but he wouldn't stop so I rang for the nurse. `My baby's crying,' I said, `What should I do?' `Have you burped him?' `Burped him?' `You have fed him haven't you?' `Fed him? Am I supposed to feed him?` The nurse took him and put him to my breast. His tiny mouth opened and reached for me as if he had known forever what to do. He began to suck with such force it took my breath away. It was like being attached to a vacuum cleaner. I began to laugh. I couldn't help myself. It seemed incredible that such a tiny creature could have such power and determination. He too had a purpose. He was raw, insistent and real. With every fiber of his being, this child was drawing his life and he would not be denied. Tears of joy ran shamelessly down my cheeks while he sucked. There in the midst of all that clinical green and white, I had discovered what love was all about. It was really quite simple—a meeting of two beings. The age, the sex, the relationship didn't matter. That day two creatures - he and I — had met. We touched each other in utter honesty and simplicity. This experience was for me a true epiphany. My life was forever altered by it. There was nothing romantic or solemn about it. No obligations, no duties, no fancy games, and you didn't have to read an encyclopedia of baby care to experience it. We'd met, just that. Somewhere in spirit we were friends. I knew beyond all doubt that I had found something real and real it has remained.

Sweets & Treats

Sweets & Treats

The worst health offenders in children's diets are processed sweets made from refined sugar. Not only are they bad for teeth, they can cause more serious problems in children such as subclinical deficiencies or hyperactivity, and in adults can contribute to the development of degenerative diseases such as diabetes, arthritis and coronary heart disease. However, trying to get children to give them up is like pulling teeth from a hippopotamus. Far better to give them a wholesome alternative to replace those chocolate bars, biscuits and cakes. Here are some recipes for fruit desserts and all sorts of sweet treats, each made from nutritious ingredients - nuts, seeds, dried fruit, coconut, carob and honey - which can be served at tea time with one of our delicious shakes or smoothies, or taken to school in a lunch box to snack on. They are as tasty as they are wholesome, and they are uncooked to supply your child with the highest level of  life order possible. Use them for tea and for snacks and parties. sorbets The easiest way to make sorbets is with a sorbetière - a special machine which stirs the sorbet or ice cream as it freezes it. I have survived for many years without one by improvising... orange sorbet Juice 6 oranges and then combine in a food processor with 2 juicy seedless oranges which have been peeled and quartered. Add enough honey or natural stevia to sweeten, and some nutmeg or ginger if desired. I sometimes like to add a grated peach or two to give the sorbet texture. Pour the mixture into ice-cube trays or a plastic lunch-box type container and freeze. Remove from the freezer and leave to thaw slightly for about ten minutes. Blend the mixture again immediately before serving, and spoon into glass dishes or into empty halved orange shells. strawberry or blackberry sorbet Combine 3 cups berries with 2 bananas and a little honey. Follow the method as above. The bananas give a creamy texture to the sorbet. carob and honey ice cream This recipe is one of my family's favorites. The combination of carob and honey I find unbeatable. 2 pints (about a liter) milk (we use goat's) 2 egg yolks 3 tbsp granular lecithin (optional but very nice since it gives a creamier texture) 1 cup unheated carob powder 1/2 cup clear honey 1 tsp pure vanilla essence We use goat's milk but raw cow's milk is good - if you can get it - or sheep's milk or buffalo milk.  Sheep's milk makes wonderful drinks and desserts, and it usually comes in a convenient powder. Freeze the milk in a low flat plastic container. When frozen, remove from the freezer and let sit for about half an hour until it is just soft enough to slice into pieces. Put the egg yolks into the food processor, add about a cup of the frozen milk, the lecithin, carob powder, honey and vanilla, and blend thoroughly using the blade attachment. Add the rest of the frozen milk and continue to blend until it is just mixed. (Don't overblend or you will make the ice cream too liquid.) Should it become too liquid simply return to the freezer for a few minutes then stir before serving. Serve immediately. cherry whip (for 1) 1 cup natural yogurt 1/2 cup pitted black cherries 2 tsp honey or natural stevia to taste Double cream (optional) Blend the yogurt, cherries and honey or stevia and pour into a tall glass. Top with a spoonful of double cream and garnish with a pair of cherries hung over the edge of the glass. As a variation, use strawberries or raspberries instead of cherries. raspberry fruit freeze pie There are many variations that can be made on this theme - using different berries and fruit to fill the pie base. pie base: 1 cup pitted dried dates 1/2  cup almonds 1/2  cup oat flakes 1 tsp honey or natural stevia to taste A little water Grind the dates and almonds as finely as possible in a food processor. Add the oats, honey (or stevia) and a little water and blend again. You need to add the water slowly to get the right consistency. You want the mixture to bind but not be sticky. Remove the base from the processor in a ball and flatten it into a pie dish with your fingers. As a variation you can add a tablespoon or two of coconut. pie filling: 2 bananas 2 cups raspberries Sherry Honey or natural stevia to sweeten Peel the bananas and chop into pieces about an inch or so thick. Freeze in a polythene bag with the raspberries until firm. Remove from freezer and blend the fruits together with a dash of sherry and a little honey or stevia to sweeten if desired. Pour into the pie crust and serve immediately, garnished with a few banana slices or raspberries. strawberries and cashew cream Make your own non-dairy `cream' from cashew nuts, and pour it over a bowl of ripe fresh strawberries (or any other fruit). cashew cream 1 cup nuts 1/2  cup water or orange juice 1-2 tsp honey or natural stevia to taste Nutmeg Blend the nuts and liquid as finely as possible in the blender or processor. Add a little honey, or stevia, and nutmeg and use as a topping for any fruit. sweet treats These attractive little sweets can be wrapped in colored paper and given in boxes as gifts for Easter, Christmas, etc. 1 cup mixture of almonds and hazelnuts 1 cup mixed dried fruit (such as date and apricot, peach and raisin, or sultana and pear 1 tbsp honey or natural stevia to taste Juice of 1 orange or 3 cups apple juice, dash of orange liqueur (optional), coconut flakes and sesame seeds. Put the nuts and the dried fruit in the food processor and chop thoroughly. Add the honey or stevia and enough fruit juice to make the mixture bind, plus a dash of orange liqueur if desired. Remove from the processor and roll into spheres the size of large marbles. Sprinkle a plate with the coconut flakes (toasted if desired) and sesame seeds and roll the balls in either one or both. Chill in the fridge and serve on a platter decorated with fresh fruit. rocky road bananas This is a great recipe if you have too many ripe bananas on your hands. Once frozen, the bananas will keep for weeks - unless they are eaten immediately as in my house! 4 ripe bananas 1/2 -1 cup coarsely ground Brazil nuts Honey Simply peel the bananas and skewer onto kebab or ice lolly sticks. Roll in honey and then in chopped nuts. Put on a freezer-proof plate and freeze until hard. Eat straight from the stick. If you prefer you can first slice the bananas crosswise, coat in honey and sprinkle with nuts, then freeze to make bite-sized treats. As a variation try mixing a few tablespoons of carob powder into the honey to make chocolate coated bananas and then roll them in coconut, dates or nuts...or all three! yogurt lollies The best ice-lollies are homemade. You can buy ice-lolly molds and sticks in most department stores. Mix a large bowl of plain yogurt with some frozen concentrated orange juice, then pour the mixture into the lolly molds and freeze. You can also add fresh fruit and honey to natural yogurt and blend it together to use, or simply freeze fresh fruit juices such as orange, grape, apple and pineapple. refrigerator cookies 1 cup rolled oats 1/4-1/2 cup blanched almonds 3 tbsp almond or cashew butter or 1/3 cup ground almonds 1-2 tbsp honey Handful of raisins Handful of dates 1 tsp vanilla essence 1 tsp cinnamon Pinch of allspice Finely grind the almonds, raisins and dates in the food processor. Add the nut butter, honey, vanilla and spices and combine well. Mix the oats with the rest of the ingredients. Form the mixture into flat cookie shapes in the palms of your hands (you may need to add a few drops of water) and place on a baking sheet. Refrigerate until firm. carob fudge Once chilled, these wonderful fudge balls have the texture of ordinary fudge, and their carob flavor makes them ideal chocolate substitutes. 1 cup sesame seeds 1/2 cup dried coconut 1/2 cup carob powder 1 tsp honey 1/2 tsp vanilla essence Grind the seeds very finely in the food processor. Add the other ingredients and process again. Form the mixture into little balls and chill. sunflower snacks 1/2  cup sunflower seeds 1/2  cup carob powder 1/4 tsp cinnamon A little apple juice Finely grind the sunflower seeds and mix with the carob and cinnamon. Add a few drops of apple juice, just enough to make the mixture bind. Form into a roll about 1in/2.5cm thick, chill and then slice. Alternatively, break off little bits and press them into coin-size wafers and chill.

Principle Wholeness

Principle Wholeness

When it comes to food for this kind of total health, there is one basic principle to remember - the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Know this and you can stop worrying about all of the contradictory advice that is continually being thrown at us from the media about what you and your child should and shouldn't eat. The best foods are whole foods - fresh natural foods - such as fruits and vegetables (preferably organically grown), pulses, whole grains, eggs, a few dairy products. Whole foods have not had every nutrient refined or processed out of them, neither do they come swimming in syrup or emulsified in junk fats. They arrive on your child's plate and enter his body just as Nature intended them, radiant with their own natural colors and textures and brimming with a complexity of structural information essential to maintaining a healthy body and balanced mind. Just what is this structural information? It is something you will find mentioned in few books on nutrition. Yet in an understanding of it lies not only your ability to establish real health for yourself and your children, but an ability skillfully to support your child's seedpower - his individual nature - so that it unfolds beautifully as he grows. The term structural information was coined by an eminent Russian scientist - winner of the much coveted Lenin Prize For Science - Izrail Brekhman. He used it to describe the infinitely complex synergistic, energetic and chemical order in living plants and animals on which human beings must feed if they are to maintain high-level health. Living systems are unique in the universe. Unlike non-living things - from rocks to rubber hoses - they do not continually degrade and disintegrate as described by one of the most important laws of physics - the Second Law of Thermodynamics. Your own body and the body of your child defies this law. It avoids decaying into an inert state because it is able to assimilate energy from outside. Put simply, the better quality the energy it takes in, the more alive it will be. The very high order of the sun's own electromagnetic energy is converted by plants through photosynthesis into material form, then stored in complex ways. This high order of structural information is embodied in the healthy plant as it comes out of the ground - a fruit or vegetable, pulse or grain. It is the embodiment of its wholeness - implicit in the plant's structure. The plant (or the animal which has fed on the plant) brings to the person who eats it a high degree of structural information - living energetic order - which makes him able to resist degeneration, simply because its wholeness has not been degraded by processing, fractionation or chemical distortion. Nobel Laureate, physicist Erwin Schrodinger, put it another way. He says that for a person to stay really healthy he needs to drink order from his environment. This is exactly what your baby or child fed on wholesome natural food does. The more order he drinks, the more support you are giving him for balanced high-level health and growth - in every way. drinking order For it is not only nutrients in a food which can be measured chemically - vitamins, minerals, protein etc - that are important for health. It is also the complexity of the way these, and other, as yet unidentified factors - positive and negative magnetic fields and subtle energies for instance - are present and combined in a particular food that matter. Processing foods not only destroys vitamins and minerals (which cannot be adequately added afterwards despite what food manufacturers would have us believe) it disrupts its structural information, impeding or destroying a food's ability to carry life energy into the body and brain of the child who eats it. Feeding your child on such foods year after year - convenience cereals, white bread and pasta, refined sugar, phony snacks and drinks full of chemical flavorings, colorings and preservatives - steadily degrades the natural order of his own body and mind, creating a poor seedbed for his growth and inner development. It also lowers his immunity, making him susceptible to illness, and contributes to the kind of mental and emotional imbalance which is becoming endemic amongst kids in our society who are being raised on junk foods. At the core of hyperactivity and many emotional problems you see in children lies this inability of the ready-made frozen foods, drinks, chips cooked in junk fats and poor quality school dinners to offer a child order - the structural information needed for sustained physical and emotional balance. Chemical additives, food colorings and flavorings, hydrogenated `junk' fats - they are all products of a multi-billion pound food industry whose main purpose is not to serve your health, but to fill its own coffers at your expense. They are a poor excuse for good food. As an experiment, a biochemist at the University of Georgia bought one of the new munchy-crunchy children's cereals. He emulsified both the box and the cereal, then fed one white rat the box and another the cereal. The rat that ate the box thrived. The other did not. So poor is the quality of our common convenience foods that the packaging can sometimes be nutritionally superior to the food it contains. Foods grown on healthy soils (preferably organic) and eaten as close as possible to their natural state offer your child the highest quality of structural information. There are two major concerns which parents voice about feeding their children. The first is the question of cost, and the second is the question of time. Contrary to popular belief, feeding a family on good natural food - fresh vegetables and fruits, whole grain cereals and breads, pulses and so forth (whether or not you choose to eat meat and fish) - is far cheaper than relying on the poor quality, prepackaged convenience foods a lot of mothers use these days. A pound of good boiling potatoes is fifty times less expensive than the same quantity of potatoes made into crisps. Growing your own sprouted seeds and grains is very cheap. It can be done in a couple of old jam jars in your kitchen, and kids love helping, since these little plants grow so quickly. Sprout a seed, and within three or four days you will have increased its vitamin C content as much as 600 percent. Like home grown organic vegetables, these little powerhouses for health are not only delicious, they are some of the healthiest foods you can feed any child. As far as time is concerned, I have never found that it takes a lot more time to prepare meals from scratch using natural foods than it does to dish out their poor relations - convenience foods. A hearty homemade soup based on brown rice and vegetables, with pulses or a bit of meat or fish, is one of the best whole meals you can eat, and it is only a question of putting the ingredients into a pot and letting the stove get on with it. Besides, kids love to cook. Involve your children in food preparation from the time they are very small. They love it. I have always used the opportunity of us being together in the kitchen to explain to them about the goodness and bounty of foods and about why I don't let them eat sweets and mass market drinks and junk foods, and to help them become aware of the way in which television and magazines are continually trying to sell kids and parents foods which are not really going to do good for them. I believe it is important that, right from the beginning, children are made to understand the ways in which our highly commercial society tends to exploit human beings and that such exploitation needs to be resisted if they are to live out the truth of who they are. You will be surprised at how savvy even very young children can come to be about such things.

What The Daily Mail Didn't Publish

What The Daily Mail Didn't Publish

London’s Daily Mail approached me a few weeks ago asking me to write a piece on what it’s like to have 4 children by 4 different men. The idea intrigued me so I did. The piece wasn’t published since, they said, “It’s not written in the Mail style.” So here it is as a personal gift from me to you. I hope you enjoy it. Struggling to hold back the tears, my daughter’s voice on the crackly phone line was barely a whisper. “Mama, Dan died this morning,” she said. Dan Smith, biological father to my third child, Jesse, was much loved by all of my children. He had been seriously ill with a rare form of leukaemia. We knew he could die any moment. Still, the news that reached me at my Primrose Hill home that cold February morning in 2010 sent shock waves through me. “We’re already organising the funeral,” Susannah went on. “We want to play jazz music, tell fun stories about Dan and celebrate his life. Don’t worry about being 12,000 miles away, we’ll video all of it for you to watch later.” I would love to have been there to celebrate Dan’s life. It had been a good life. He was an honorable man—one who kept his promises. Dan had long adored each of my four children although only one of them was a child of his own body. Four years earlier, Dan had chosen to move to New Zealand to be near the children. Together they had searched for and found a house for him so that all of us—me included—could spend precious time with Dan and care for him so long as he lived. NOT THE MARRYING KIND I had met Dan 53 years earlier when I was seventeen years old. We became friends. Later, in my mid-twenties, we were briefly married. I was never much in favor of marriage, however. That’s probably why I chose to give birth to four children by four different men. Now I’m being called a trailblazer for what is becoming an increasingly popular brand of mothering, commonly referred to as ‘multi-dadding.’ I am supposed to be what is fashionably termed a ‘4x4.’ Mothering children by more than one man recently hit the headlines with the news that actress Kate Winslet is expecting her third child by her third husband, the rock star Ned Rocknroll. Kate, 37, has a 12-year-old daughter, Mia, with her first husband, Jim Threapleton, and a nine-year-old son, Joe, with her second husband, Sam Mendes. The former weather girl Ulrika Jonsson is a 4x4, and the late TV presenter Paula Yates was a 4x2. While supposedly gaining popularity, this style of mothering is still hugely controversial. I am told that the news that a woman has children by more than one man is still met with a mixture of horror and fascination. Maybe I’ve been lucky, but I have never had to deal with either of these attitudes. To tell the truth, I have never much cared what people think about me, how I chose to live my life or the way I have raised my children. Perhaps that’s a good thing, or maybe I am just naïve. One thing is for sure: I’ve always been one of those women so fertile that that a man could almost look at me and I’d get pregnant. I would never miscarry. I rode horses, went surfing and danced all night while pregnant and suffered no consequences. I am told that women like me are often looked upon as monstrously selfish, bad mothers. They are accused of being feckless for having multiple lovers and just plain wrong for not providing their children with a ‘traditional family setup.’ I’m sure some traditional families are genuinely wise, stable and happy. The parents love each other and care for their children with great devotion and joy. But, in my experience, such families are few and far between. KIDS MATTER MOST What matters most in child rearing is neither convention nor family labels. It is the children. Children brought up by a devoted single mother (or single father) who lovingly trusts their own parental instincts and forms honest relationships with each child in their care, thrive. I believe this is far better than desperately trying to hold on to a marriage that doesn’t work ‘for the children’s sake.’ What I find sad is the way an ordinary single woman—not a movie star or media giant—who has children by more than one man and has to bring them up by herself, earning a living and juggling the needs not only of her children but also increasingly of their fathers, doesn't get the attention, sympathy, or anywhere near the admiration she deserves. It’s a challenging job for any woman. I know, I’ve done it. I’ve raised four children all on my own, earned the money for our family, stayed up all night caring for them when they had measles, chicken pox or mumps, then got up the next morning to make breakfast and iron that school uniform about which I was told, “Mama...my teacher says it has to be perfect.” Many a time I worried where the money was coming from to pay for food that week. LION-HEARTED MOTHERHOOD I champion any woman making a life for the children she loves in this way. It is the child that matters most and his or her relationship to a mother, father, or a caring friend. Every woman has a powerful lion-hearted passion to care for and protect her children. Women should trust themselves, give thanks for such power and use it for the benefit of their children. Kids are notoriously smart. They know when they are being fed a line about what they are “supposed” to think and say. They easily distinguish between what’s real and what’s contrived. As parents, if we want to gain the respect of our children we must always tell them the truth and treat them with respect as well as demand that they respect us in return. As far as the fathers of our children are concerned, they deserve the same respect and honesty from a woman as the child does, whether or not she is married to them. I believe that each child needs to get to know its father in its own way and make its own judgements. MY OWN STORY I grew up in a wildly unconventional family of highly creative, unstable people. Until I was 5, I was raised by my maternal grandmother. Later I was raped by my father and had my brain fried with ECT in an attempt to make me forget all that had happened to me. I was always a tomboy. I hated dolls. I loved to climb trees and play football. Yet from 5 years old I was sure that I wanted to have children. When I told my grandmother my plan she said I would need to get married to have children. “What’s married?” I asked. “It’s when you wear a white dress and have a big beautiful cake and promise to love and obey a man,” she said. “Ugh, I’ll never do that,” I replied. “I hate cake.” In any case, I knew she was lying to me since none of our Siamese cats were married, but they gave birth to masses of kittens. At the age of 17, while in my Freshman year at Stanford University, I got pregnant by a 22 year old man named Peter Dau. I rang my father. “I’m pregnant,” I told him. “What are you going to do?” “Give birth and keep the baby.” “You can’t keep the baby unless you get married,” he said. Had I been a little more gutsy I would have told him to get stuffed. But at the age of 17, still wrestling with all that had happened to me in my own childhood, he wielded a lot of influence over me. So I agreed. Peter was all for the idea. Single-handedly I put together an all-white wedding for 250 people in the garden of our Beverley Hills home. I made the decision to wear black shoes under my white satin dress. I felt I was giving my life away by marrying Peter, but I was willing to make the sacrifice since I so wanted this child. As soon as Dan learned of the wedding, he sent me a beautiful sterling silver bowl as a present which I still have. My first son, Branton, was born six months later. When I held this tiny baby in my arms he taught me the most important lesson I ever learned: Love exists. It is simple, real and has nothing to do with highfalutin notions or flowery words. At the age of 18, I realized my life had found its purpose—to love and be loved. PREGNANT AGAIN A year later, Peter and I left California for New York where he was to attend medical school while I went to work as a model to help support us. At that time, Dan left his job as a journalist in Massachusetts and moved to New York to be near us. My marriage to Peter ended amicably three years later. It should never have happened in the first place. Three days after leaving Peter back in California, I stopped overnight at my father’s house in Beverley Hills on my way back to New York. Barry Comden, a man much older than I whom I had known since I was 14 but never had a sexual relationship with, discovered I was in town and came to see me. I made love to him once and knew immediately that I was pregnant again. Marry Barry? No way. I was determined not to make the same mistake twice. (Years later Barry would marry the actress Doris Day.) Nine months later my only daughter, Susannah, was born. It was then that a large tumor growing off of my right ovary was discovered. It had been hidden behind the baby during my pregnancy. It was dangerous and had to be surgically removed. HELP WHEN IT MATTERS Once again Dan appeared in my life. He had always insisted that he fell in love with me from the first day we met. He had written me letters every single day my first year at Stanford. I never answered any of them. I didn’t share his love and I didn’t want to lead him on. He had also sent me book after book which he thought I should read. I read them all and loved them. Dan had always been kind and generous to me. He was always keen to protect and care for me when I needed it. So, when I ended up penniless and alone with two children and in need of major surgery, he offered me a home. I accepted. For several months the four of us lived together in New York. Dan adored Branton and Susannah and treated them as if they were his own. I was longing to leave the United States. I wanted to live in Paris—a city I loved more than any other. Dan was able to arrange a job for himself there as a foreign correspondent. In early 1964 we went. Dan had repeatedly told me that he was sure we were meant to be together forever. I hoped that he was right and believed that if I tried hard enough to be a good wife I would learn to love him as he deserved. On July 29, 1964, we were married in Paris. Like every other man I have ever been close to, Dan knew long before we were married that my children would always come first. I had sat him down and told him that he would have to treat Susannah and Branton exactly the same as he would treat any child of his who might come along. He agreed. On June 12, 1965, Dan’s son Jesse was born. He was delighted. True to his word, never once did he favor Jesse over Branton and Susannah. This was great for all three children who came to know him well and to adore him. When presents were passed out, each child was equally favored. Dan belonged to all of them and they knew it. FATHERS, FATHERS Because Branton’s father lived in America and we lived in Europe, Branton did not see him again until he was 11. By that age I figured he was old enough to make the trip on his own and spend a week or two with Peter. Susannah was not really interested in her father—also in the United States—until she was about 17. She then went to Los Angeles to meet him. A good friendship developed between them which remained until Barry died. A non-traditional, unconventional family? Absolutely, but it worked because there was honesty and there was love—the two most important things in any family, anytime, anywhere. For five years I had told myself that, if only I could learn to love Dan more, then everything would be all right. But I couldn’t. And it wasn’t. Confused and disappointed, at the age of 27, I faced the fact that our marriage had failed. We moved to England and we separated. It was Easter. I went to a Buddhist monastery in Scotland to clear my head. Of course Dan grieved over the failure. But that never stopped him from being a welcome person in our family right up to his death. Years later he would marry Gerda Boyeson, a psychotherapist who died a few years before he did. BLESSED MEN The men who made my life rich after Dan and I divorced were, each in their own way, as special as he had been. Each accepted that my children came before all else in the world to me. I never compromised. I chose men, be they friends or lovers, who brought wonderful things to my children. No man ever came before my children. If any man didn’t understand and accept this, he had to go. One man whom I loved, Graham, taught my children to climb and sail and mountaineer. All my children forged deep bonds with Graham which have remained to this day. Another man, Garth, gave Branton, Susannah and Jesse his much cherished toy collection from his own childhood. Garth took us all on wonderful picnics, introduced us to hidden beaches, sang songs with us and blessed us with his unique brand of joy. Then there was David, a man with whom I lived with for 5 years in my late twenties. David constructed beautiful rooms for each of my children in the tiny house I had bought with the little money that my grandfather had left me, when Dan and I separated. David wrote and recorded songs for each of my children. That was 40 years ago. Last year, Susannah and her partner visited David and his wife in Barcelona where he now lives. AN UNCONVENTIONAL MOTHER Ironically, the only complaint I ever got from any of my children about my not being conventional enough was from Dan’s son Jesse. “Why aren’t you like other mothers?” Jesse asked one day when he was 7. “I don’t know, Jesse, what are other mothers like?” “Oh you know,” he said, “They’re fat and bake cookies.” Jesse even grumbled if, while I was waiting to pick him up from school, I sat on the playground swings. He was adamant that such behavior was not “proper” for his mother. Sixteen years after Jesse was born, I became pregnant for the last time by yet another special man—Paul. I announced my condition to 17 year old Susannah as we were all setting off for a six week holiday in Canada with Graham and his son Ruan. “I’m going to have a baby,” I told her. “Don’t worry Mama,” she laughed, “We’ll say it is mine!” FAMILY CELEBRATION In March of 1981, I gave birth to my fourth child, Aaron, at our home in Pembrokeshire. All three of my other children helped deliver him. While I was in labor, they prepared the most delicious lunch I have ever tasted from fruits and vegetables from the garden. I had insisted on giving birth naturally at home, not in some clinical, cold hospital. Jesse had been born via natural childbirth, at a clinique d’accouchement in Paris. After the experience of natural childbirth I swore if ever I had another child it would have to be this way. As for Dan, one way or another he was always close by. He knew David, Graham, Garth and every other man who was to play a role in my own life and my children’s lives. For many years he spent Christmases with us and with our other male friends when they were there. Dan loved to play saxophone at family gatherings. One year he dressed up as Santa Claus. Aaron, then 5 years old, was completely taken in by the costume and terrified when this rotund man belted out, “Ho, Ho, Ho, little boy, what do you want for Christmas?” It took a lot of reassurance from Aaron’s big brothers and sister to convince him that Santa was really ‘good old Dan.’ UNIQUE & INDEPENDENT As for my children, each of them is totally unique and highly independent. I have always fought hard to encourage them to trust themselves and listen to their own heart instead of doing or saying what the rest of the world tells kids they are supposed to do and say. After graduating with a first class degree from Lancaster University, Branton, now 53, developed a series of successful businesses. Susannah, 50, with whom I have written 5 books and done two television series, is a sought-after voice artist. Jesse, 48, is a highly skilled plastic surgeon. Jesse and I have also written a book together. Aaron, now 32, is a designer and filmmaker. He and I have worked together for the past four years developing Cura Romana—a spiritually based program for health, lasting weight loss and spiritual transformation. Branton and Jesse have been happily married for many years. Both have three children each. As for me, I am probably the world’s worst grandmother. I don't babysit, or do any of the things grandmothers are ‘supposed’ to do. (Including baking those cookies Jesse once complained about.) Why? I’m not sure. I guess because for forty-five years of my life I was a mother. I loved this more than all the books I’ve written, all the television programs I’ve devised and presented, all the workshops I’ve taught, and all the other things I’ve done and enjoyed. Right now, my life belongs to me alone. I love the freedom this brings me. I am passionate about being a catalyst in people’s lives, helping them realize their own magnificence and live out their potentials both for their own benefit and for the benefit of all. Who knows what exciting challenges lie before me. Bring them on!

More Stuff Kids Done Taught Me

More Stuff Kids Done Taught Me

A few years ago I had lunch with a beautiful and successful American woman in her mid thirties. Sooner or later the conversation got around - as it often does with me - to children. This woman told me that she had a five year old daughter. I asked her if it was difficult living and working in New York while raising a child on her own. She replied that it had been hard but that now it should get better since she and her little girl were going to parenting classes. `Parenting classes,' I asked, `whatever are they?' `You know, where you learn how to be a parent. We go twice a week together,' she reported with enthusiasm. Curious about what was taught in these new programs, and at the same time suppressing a smile at the latest American attempt to package up something as rich and complex as parenthood and spoonfeed it to clients well-heeled enough to afford the indulgence, I asked, `What do they teach you?' `Oh, they teach you just everything’ she screeched, sweeping her hand across the table in a way that makes British head waiters loathe American clients. `For instance, when your child goes to pick up something from the coffee table which you don't want her to have you must never be negative,' she said. `Negativity is not good for children,' she added, leaning closer in a conspiratorial fashion. `So instead of saying, "No, no," which might crush your child's spirit, you say, "Now darling that is a no, but this is a yes (pointing to other objects near by), and this is a yes and this is a yes."' OUT OF PATIENCE I have little patience with such practices - nor do I believe there are a lot of set rules to follow to raise a child well. That is because, like a lot of seasoned parents, I have learned about parenthood the hard way. When my first child was born—more than fifty years ago now—I was determined to bring him up right: not to make the mistakes that my parents had made with me, to ensure that he developed quickly both physically and mentally, and that he turned into the kind of person that I thought he should be. I worked hard at it. I read everything I could get my hands on about child development - all the latest theories and all the traditional wisdom. No time or expense was to be spared in bringing up this child. He would be breast-fed, disciplined, and taught to read by the time he was a year old using special equipment designed for the task. I would instill in him a strong sense of moral rectitude and good manners and he would be given every kind of educational toy I could lay my hands on to help develop his creativity. Also I would never lose my temper, always be patient and kind (but firm of course) and make sure he didn't watch too much television. My master plan for child rearing might have sounded good on paper, but it had a couple of big drawbacks. First, no human being could ever have carried it out. Second, it completely ignored the most important truth there is about child rearing - a truth which I did not myself come to know until I had two or three more children under my belt. It is this: You don't have to read a thousand books and follow a lot of rules the so-called experts make up to raise a healthy, happy, creative child. You only need to learn to trust in yourself and in the incredible powers of Nature. You also need to develop the art of listening—with your heart and mind and instincts as well as your ears—to your child. Most of the time he will tell you what you need to know. TO HELL WITH “PERFECT PARENTING” Once I finally figured this out - many tried and failed strategies down the road - I let go of my anxieties and theories. Then motherhood became not only a joy for me but a source of never-ending wonder. I discovered that each child—not only my own children, but boys and girls with whom I worked as a nursery school teacher, and others—is utterly unique and perfect in his or her own way. I also learned that your relationship to a child has a life of its own. So long as you are willing to face each child honestly and openly day by day and so long as you honor and respect this relationship, not only does this empower you to give the best guidance and care for the child. In some magic way which I still don't fully understand, it can even help heal deep emotional wounds within you yourself as a learning parent. Most important of all I discovered that the whole idea of perfect parenthood is a big fraud. There ain't nothing perfect when it comes to parenthood. Perfect by whose criteria anyway? The sooner you accept this fact, the sooner you can get down to the business of child rearing and enjoying it. For me, raising children—whether it be dealing with a tiny baby or seeing your twenty-five year old develop year by year—has been the most exciting and rewarding thing I have ever done—or for that matter, ever hope to do. And as for the widespread belief that unless you have been well mothered while you were growing up you are doomed to be a bad mother yourself. It just ain’t so—no matter what those high falutin’ experts keep sayin’.

Stages Of Unfolding

Stages Of Unfolding

The fact that your child's physical development is biologically timed to unfold is well known. His genes contain the information which directs this growth step by step. All healthy children get their baby teeth, twelve-year molars, and develop genital sexuality at roughly the same ages, irrespective of minor individual and cultural variations. Thanks to the work of Swiss biologist/psychologist Jean Piaget - who spent 45 years observing the growth of intelligence in children - American educator Joseph Chilton Pearce, and others, we now know that a similar development pattern exists for your child's intelligence, creativity and emotional life - his inner growth. For instance, there is a universal pattern in brain development and learning which researchers now agree constitutes a movement from the concrete to the abstract, from the physical to the mental, from an identity with matter to an identity with mind, which each child passes through as he matures. Through nearly half a century's study of hundreds of children, Piaget observed that, driven by some internal non-volitional power, at particular ages a child will interact with his outside world in archetypal ways, so that step by step, thought patterns within the brain become organized. Piaget traced four of these stages in the development of human thinking. The first takes place during the first two years of life. It is characterized by nonverbal interactions your child carries out with his world as he experiments with objects. During the second stage - between two and seven - the objects which your child perceives become related to words which he delights in manipulating, much in the way he previously experimented with physical things. At the third stage, around seven, yet another shift takes place as his brain starts to perform logical operations. He starts to classify objects by their similarities and their differences. In the final or fourth phase of childhood, from around the age of twelve onwards, your child begins to experiment with abstract concepts and formal logic so that even thinking itself becomes an exciting experimental game to him, until finally the process from the concrete experience of the toddler to the abstract thinking of an adult has become complete. brain growth These shifts in thinking processes which Piaget describes have a physiological basis in what is going on in your child's brain as he grows. Herman Epstein, biophysicist at Brandeis University in the United States, has shown that there are brain spurts during which a child's brain actually grows new biological material for learning. They, too, take place in all children at about the same ages. And all but one of these spurts coincide with what Piaget's calls `logical transitions'. These brain growth spurts are genetically predetermined, just as physical growth and intellectual development are. These events make up an integral system of genetic coding for the full development of the inner child - a development which, as educator Joseph Chilton Pearce says, takes place from one matrix to the next. One of the important implications of Piaget's findings is that your child's mind is capable of dealing with different kinds of thought and experience only when the relevant stage in his brain's development has been reached. Piaget says that it is useless to try and get a two year old to do abstract equations. As parents, what this means is that it is important to be aware of your child's pattern of inner unfolding, to trust it and to learn to work with it, instead of trying to force him to do or be what you think he should. Raising a child this way takes a lot of the pressure out of parenthood. It means you don't have to be dashing about buying a lot of early reading materials, or trying to turn your three year into a child prodigy to do your best for him. There is much evidence that when we do push him, we not only interfere with the ordered development of his inner life, we actually do him deep damage. matrix shifts Pearce's concept of a growth matrix is a very important idea to grasp if you are to help Nature's child realize his full potential. The Latin word for womb - a matrix - is a place where something is bred, produced, or developed. Your own womb was your child's first matrix. It provided him with the possibility for new life, energy for growth, and safety. But that was only the beginning. The biological plan for the development of his inner life - intelligence, emotions and creativity - had to be made up of a series of matrix formations and shifts. 'Each matrix shift is both a kind of birth because we move into greater possibilities' says Pearce, `and a kind of death because the old matrix must be given up in order to move into the new.' The infant in his first matrix - the uterus - needs about nine months, give or take a bit, to be ready for the first shift. After that, the newborn baby requires about another eight or nine months to structure a knowledge of his connection with his mother. This experience forms the core of his second matrix. Only when he has had it is he ready to move out to explore the third and larger matrix - the earth itself. Your child then needs some seven years more to structure a knowledge of this third matrix, and to shift from mother as `safe space' to the planet with all the physical objects it contains. And so it goes. At each matrix shift, in an ordered pattern of inner unfolding, your child's brain undergoes one of Epstein's brain spurts to make him ready for a new growth phase. Researchers studying these matrix shifts have found that they happen automatically from within at roughly the same time in all cultures in the world. What nature's `biological plan for growth' does not (indeed can not) take into account, is the failure of a child to develop at any particular stage. And that is where we can create serious problems for our children. Just as baby teeth poke through whether or not the nutritional support is there to make them strong, and genital sexuality appears whether or not your child or you yourself are ready for it, all these matrix shifts take place automatically and involuntarily whether or not the previous matrix has provided a proper medium for full development. Too often these days - indeed almost always, laments Pearce - it has not. matrix problems For instance, if a pregnant mother has been given drugs during pregnancy, or if she is chronically unhappy or anxious, then the chemicals and stress hormones produced by her body are shared with her fetus, placing the infant in a state of permanent bodily stress so that he cannot fully develop mentally and physically within his first matrix. But nature's biological plan waits for no man; there is no time for this chronic stress to be removed and its effects treated. So the first matrix shift takes place anyway, leaving the infant to cope as best he can. In such a situation, a child will be forced to use its intelligence not to interact with the new matrix and further develop, as it should be used, but only to compensate for his deficiencies - in effect, remaining behind in many ways, in order to try and get his basic patterns together. When if the first matrix formation is incomplete or insufficient, the next matrix formation will be doubly difficult for him to make, so that a child's young life becomes more and more jeopardized. If all of this is bad enough, eventually he can even become crippled mentally, emotionally and physically. He suffers from anxiety - considered to be the single most crushing influence on intelligence by modern psychology - instead of unfolding from within as nature programmed him to do. His compounded anguish expresses itself either immediately or later on as an adult, not only in limited intelligence and creativity, but by any number of symptoms from mild withdrawal or indifference to aggression, fear, feelings of hopelessness and meaninglessness or even in compulsively collecting things which ultimately don't fulfill him, whether they be physical objects, money or worldly power. prevention better than cure Once such damage has occurred, Pearce believes there is not a lot one can do to go back and repair it. This is what makes it essential for us as parents to understand the nature of each matrix, know when the shifts occur and be aware of what is needed by the child at each stage. For only then can we provide the medium - the periodically shifting environment in which nature's biological plan can work itself out to produce a highly intelligent, autonomous and strong adult. Such an environment is not just the modern, rather sentimental, notion of a `secure place' either. Each matrix has very specific requirements which are needed at that moment in time, not only for the child's emotional development but also for the physical development of his brain. Take the physical interaction with the mother in the second matrix, for instance, when the baby is held and caressed and when his cries are heeded. It provides him with a basic set of brain patterns through which the sensory information he receives can be organized into perceptions. The three areas of his brain - the reptilian primitive brain, the old mammalian mid brain and the cerebral cortex or new brain, with its various lobes and hemispheres - can all develop. At this matrix, the mother is the infant's world, his power, his possibility and his safe place to grow from. When he experiences this stage fully, he can move towards the next matrix shift not only with all the brain development which nature intends at that stage, but with a sense of confidence and power. The big commercial world out there and the hawkers of pop psychology would have you believe that as a parent, unless you buy the latest educational toy, or teach your child to read by the time he is three, you are not doing your best for him. Not only are such suggestions untrue, following them can lead you - however unknowingly - into pushing your child's development forward towards the next matrix before he is ready for it, overriding his own biological clock for unfolding. Yes, it is possible to teach a child toilet training at ten months old or have him read by the age of three. So what? You can also teach a lion to jump through hoops in a circus. But, in the light of Piaget, Pearce, and Epstein's work you may, with the best will in the world, be doing him more harm than good.

Nature's Child: Allergy Awareness

Nature's Child: Allergy Awareness

The curious thing about food sensitivities is that whatever a child happens to be allergic to, whether it be wheat or milk - the two most common culprits - or chocolate or what have you, he will have a craving for it. If a child is sensitive to, say, milk products, he will want more and more milk, yogurt, cream, butter and cheese. Here is how it works. By now, just about every parent knows that food colorings and flavorings in convenience foods, squashes and drinks have been implicated in the development of behavioral problems such as hyperactivity in children. This is another reason why they are best avoided. Food allergies have a similar effect on some children. Sometimes called a food sensitivity, intolerance to specific foods are increasing all the time largely, too, as a result of the mass consumption of highly processed foods. Such sensitivities can occur because a baby or child does not have the enzymes he needs to digest a certain food, because the total stress on his system is simply too high, or because his digestive system is confused and sensitized from feeding on junk foods. When you are allergic to a food on first contact you react negatively to it. If you use it continually, however, these first negative symptoms - such as catarrh or coughing, or behavior changes like banging the head or crying in children - become `masked' so they become less frequent. Instead you will develop a craving or addiction to the food. For so long as you continue to expose yourself to it, you can avoid much of the unpleasant allergic response you had first time round. This is such a strange and unexpected phenomenon that many parents are not even conscious that their children, who suffer constant catarrh or act out fear or aggression in their behavior, may be suffering from a food or chemical sensitivity. If you suspect your child is sensitive to something or if he demonstrates an inordinate desire for a particular food (i.e. addiction) try taking him off it altogether for a fortnight. See if his behavior changes or if his physical condition improves (but be prepared for it to get worse at first while the substance or food to which he is allergic is in the process of clearing from his system). Then you can try reintroducing it one day into his diet and see if this changes him. You may find that once you have helped him break the addiction/allergy bond to a particular food he will be able to eat the food, say once a week, with no problem. One of my sons is like this. He is allergic to milk products. If he takes them too often he develops the symptoms of a cold. However we have found he can have a bowl of yogurt or a piece of cheese once a week and get away with it. milk - not the perfect food A word about cow's milk. There is some long-standing assumption that to be healthy and to develop strong bones children have to drink plenty of it. This is not the case. Children eating a good mixed diet of fresh vegetables, whole grains, pulses and protein foods get plenty of calcium and protein. They do not need extra milk. Milk is highly mucous-forming, and tends to create a lot of catarrh in children - to some extent this may be because even the milk and milk products we buy these days are highly processed and by no means the same natural wholesome food our grandmothers went to the local farmer each morning to buy. Certainly if your child is ill, every tradition of natural health counsels not to give him milk or any milk products until he recovers. I have always found it good advice. I also find that using a lot of raw foods - for breakfasts, drinks, sandwich fillings and salads - helps protect children from frequent illnesses and encourages healing when illness strikes. Just in case you think children don't like salads, take a look at the recipe for what my youngest has dubbed `Spiderman Salad.' It is simple to make, delicious, and can be spread on toast or crackers.

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