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raising kids

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

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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.

Wow Love Is Real

Wow 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.

Health Nature's Way

Health Nature's Way

In sickness and in health - such is the commitment to care, nurturing and to love that each parent makes towards a child. The health part is manageable, but when sickness strikes it can get scary. Yet this is when Nature's power can shine brightest of all. Natural healing views the doctor's and the parent's role in caring for a sick child as that of a helper. It sees illness - from vomiting to measles to a simple cold - as a manifestation of the body's attempt to eliminate whatever does not belong to it, and by doing so restore order and balance. It also recognizes that the only true healing can come from within. And it identifies the helper's role as that of supporting the body of the sick child in what it is attempting to do - to banish the microbe, remove the poison from his system, readjust hormonal balance or whatever else happens to be necessary to restore equilibrium. When I was young, I was lucky to become good friends with a handful of inspired doctors who not only understood the theory behind natural healing, but some of whom had been practicing it for as much as half a century. The techniques they taught me - from using a compress to quell a fever or calm vomiting, to methods of hydrotherapy for treating earache and athletic injuries - have served me well not only in helping all four of my children to heal themselves, but in helping myself and many others too. Each of these techniques, in its own way, supports the body's own wisdom in healing and/or helps the sick child feel more relaxed and comfortable while healing takes place. beware of antibiotics Antibiotics are great for life-threatening diseases. To employ them for anything less can be a big mistake. Thanks to their overuse by doctors in the past 30 years, malevolent microbes which they were designed to kill have fought back valiantly by developing strains of resistant super bugs. As a result, what once were easily treated bacterial ailments now often do not respond to drugs. Antibiotics are also completely useless in the treatment of viral conditions such as colds, even though some doctors still prescribe them. When they do work on bacterial conditions they not only kill the bacteria they have been designed to kill, they also wipe out a lot of the `good guys' too - helpful bacteria which are part of a child's intestinal flora, on which the continued competence of his immune system depends. I, like the doctors from whom I have learned about natural healing, do not give them to my children. The only way I would ever consider using antibiotics would be in case of a disease which was literally life-threatening and even then I would only do it after consulting a handful of doctors in whose judgment I trust, one of whom would be my second son, Jesse, who is himself a doctor. If for any reason your child has to be treated with antibiotics, it is wise for up to six weeks afterwards to give him supplements of enteric bacteria including acidophilus to help recolonize the good intestinal flora they will have destroyed. the healing power of fever Illness is his body's attempt to reestablish balance and harmony both energetically and biochemically. When it strikes, whether it be cold or sore throat, or childhood disease such as chickenpox or German measles, the parent of a Nature's child is most concerned with how to work together with the child's own natural processes of healing: First, to help speed recovery without causing long term health risks, and second, to help the child be as comfortable and pain free as possible while healing is taking place. Let's look at fever first since that is the thing most parents are most frightened of. Fever is not something which needs, as most parents these days believe, to be suppressed the moment it appears using aspirin or other drugs - for fear it will damage the child. Far from it. Fever is a sign that your child's body is trying to burn off something which is not supposed to be there - a virus for instance, a bacteria, or some element in his food or his environment to which his body takes exception. When an infection develops, your child responds by manufacturing new white blood cells called leukocytes, whose purpose is the destruction of viruses and bacteria and the elimination of wastes and other damaging materials from his body. Then white blood cells become very active in his body - dashing to the site of infection to fight the `baddies'. In the process - which is known as leukotaxis - certain chemicals called pyrogens are released, designed to raise body temperature and make the cleansing more efficient. So important a part does this rise in temperature - fever - play in the process of healing, that artificially created fevers have been used throughout history as a way of treating illness in people who do not have the vitality to produce high enough fevers in themselves. Luckily, kids do. One of the reasons children develop such high fevers when they are ill is that their bodies are enormously vital. That is also why a child can get very sick suddenly, as well as why the sickness will frequently clear just as rapidly. Governed from within, the natural process of healing in a vital young body is intense and highly efficient. As we get older, our bodies lose that efficiency so we heal less rapidly and less effectively. We are taught that 98.6 F is the normal temperature. Yet temperatures vary from person to person. They also depend on how the temperature has been taken - for instance by mouth, under the arm, or rectally. Generally speaking the best - and safest - way of taking a young child's temperature is axillary - by tucking the thermometer in the fold beneath his armpit and leaving it there for five minutes. It is far safer than trying to do it rectally and risk damaging the child, or putting a thermometer into his mouth where he might crunch on it and break it. Not all fevers are dangerous, nor is the degree of your child's temperature much measure of how sick he is. Unless there are other symptoms such as great listlessness, difficulty in breathing, severe pain or some other sign which could indicate the presence of a serious illness such as meningitis or diphtheria, doctors who use natural methods of treating illness will wisely tell you that you should keep an eye on the fever but leave well enough alone. hot for what? There are lots of reasons why your child may develop a fever - overexposure to heat as a result of being too bundled up (particularly in babies), a reaction to food or some poisonous substance, too much sun, a long journey, changes in the weather, a tooth breaking through, over-excitement. If you suspect that he has swallowed some poisonous substance, you need to seek medical help immediately. And in newborn babies, it is important to pay more attention to fever and get a doctor's advice since there is always the chance of an infection having developed as a result of fetal monitoring during birth, or forced obstetric procedures, such as the overmedication of women in labor. Most fevers, however, occur as a result of viral or bacterial infection and are part of the body's own immune response to invasion which, left alone, the body will clear. When your child is running a temperature it is important to make sure he is not dehydrated since the perspiration, runny nose, vomiting and diarrhea which often accompany fever can deplete his body of fluid. This is easy to do by giving plenty of cool water and pure fruit juice - not the so-called fruit drinks which contain sugar and other additives. brain damage and other fears Ninety five percent of childhood fevers never reach 105F, which to many parents represents the so-called danger level. In fact, a fever of 105F which in an adult is extremely high can be quite normal in a child who is fighting off infection. The greatest fear most parents have of fever is that it will cause convulsions. In truth, it is not the size of a fever which is indicative of the likelihood of convulsion but the rapidity with which it rises. If you have ever seen a child in a convulsive seizure it can be a very frightening thing to witness. I have lived through a number - strangely enough, not with my own children, but with other people's. In the midst of watching a child in the throws of convulsion, it is hard to remember that this kind of seizure is uncommon, and that even when it does occur it seldom results in any serious side effects. For instance, in one large study involving 1706 children who had experienced febrile convulsions, not one of them suffered death or motor defects. My doctor friends have always taught me to work with fever, to allow it to burn through while making sure it does not get high enough to cause seizures. This practice was first introduced to me by my grandmother who looked after me when I was sick as a child. She kept my fevers within `safe' range by sponging my body every hour or so with cool water. In the beginning when I had a sick child I would ring one of my doctor friends, worried by my child's temperature and his crying and say, `My son is ill, should I bring him to see you?' After asking me a few questions such as, `How high is his temperature? When did it start? Is he eating?' and so forth, the doctor would advise me to keep an eye on him, give him plenty of fluids and use a compress around his middle to keep the fever under control. So that was what I did. And it has worked beautifully. the abdominal compress This is one of the most effective techniques for helping to eliminate wastes from the body and to keep fever under control while it carries out its job of cleansing. Applying cold water around the middle of the body in the form of a compress charges the local cells with energy, activates circulation and stimulates the liver - the body's organ of detoxification - so that stored wastes can be released more efficiently. Here's how: Tear a piece of old cotton cloth wide enough to reach from under your child's arms down to his hips and long enough to wrap around him once comfortably. An old cotton sheet or pillowcase (not nylon or cotton and polyester) is ideal. Dip the cloth into cold water and wring it out. Then wrap it around the child's middle and secure with safety pins. Wrap a thick dry towel around this and put him into a warm bed. You may want to put a pair of thick socks on him, too. It is important that he doesn't feel cold. Keep it on him for half an hour. If he drops off to sleep for the night you can remove the compress in the morning. Repeat several times a day as needed depending upon the level of his temperature. don't insist your child eats When animals are ill they stop eating. So do children. This is a natural part of their body's attempt to heal itself. It is also a source of great concern to parents. It shouldn't be - especially during an acute illness. Your child's body knows that its energies should be directed towards clearing itself of viruses, bacteria, or what have you, which lie at the core of his illness. To put unwanted food into a body in such circumstances is not only unhelpful, it can actually undermine the healing process by making your child's body turn its attention away from the elimination processes to having to deal with digestion and assimilation - both of which take a lot of energy. Instead, offer him plenty of water and fruit or carrot juices - preferably made fresh with a juice extractor - and keep him in bed until he gets better. Freshly made juices require almost no energy to be assimilated yet they carry a high degree of structural information for health and healing, including many of the most important vitamins and minerals such as beta carotene, which helps strengthen immunity, and vitamin C. Such juices also encourage the elimination of toxicity from the body. Your child can literally live on juices alone during any minor illness. Most kids love them. I also believe in a lot of tender loving care when your child is sick. Massaging his feet with a little ordinary kitchen oil while he lies in bed well covered can be a wonderful way of giving it. You don't need to know how. There isn't any right way, it is just a matter of intuitively letting your hands follow where they want to go. It is enormously soothing, and helps draw the negative energy in his body down towards the feet to be eliminated from his body. It also helps reassure him that you are there and love him, in a way that words can never do. waterpower Hydrotherapy can help too. Particularly if he has an earache - a condition which is agonizing yet rarely dangerous. This technique was taught me by one of the doctors I admire most in the world, Gordon Latto, who has looked after my family - mostly by phone - for almost thirty years. I have used it again and again - for earache in kids, for conjunctivitis myself, for headaches and for childhood and adult athletic injuries to ankles and legs and feet. It, too, works on the principle of drawing energy downwards in the body. In doing so, it not only relieves pain, but also congestion. Finally it increases circulation to the leg and feet area, speeding any healing that is needed there, say, from a turned ankle at football practice. Here's how: Take two buckets large enough to put the child's feet in and deep enough to submerge his legs up to the knee. Fill the first with water as hot as he can take. Fill the second with cold water. Let him plunge his calves and feet into the hot water and stay there for 3 minutes. Then get him to take them out and put them into the cold water for 30 seconds, then back immediately into the hot again (you might have to top up with more hot before you do since it does tend to cool down during the procedure). Do this until you have repeated both hot and cold three times, ending with cold. While this is going on, it is important he is kept warm. Make sure he is in a warm room and that his body is well clothed, so that on no account is he allowed to get chilled. Immediately afterward, put warm socks on his feet and pop him into bed. Repeat this procedure three times a day - or even more often when there is pain. care for colds and coughs In the tradition of natural medicine, a cold is considered the body's most common way of eliminating waste from the system rapidly. In addition to offering a child fresh raw fruit juices I have always given extra supplements of vitamin C and beta carotene - the precursor to Vitamin A - which comes in good quantity in carrots and green vegetables. Both are natural anti-viral agents. I like to give children these nutrients in supplement form (but in much smaller quantities) when they are healthy too, as a way of helping to support their immune system so they become resistant to disease. One of the most important things I have learned from some of my doctor friends has been that at the first sign of a sniffle you cut out any and all dairy products from a child's diet - milk, yogurt, cream, butter, cheese, and any other food which might even have the tiniest bit of any of these things in it. This helps speed recovery and stops even more mucous from forming. Aromatherapy can help with colds too. If you have a little aromatherapy burner - the kind you put water into the top of then light a candle underneath - you can add a few drops of tea tree oil to the water and let its molecules fill the room to help ease a child's breathing. Sage is another essential oil good for this. Both have anti-microbial properties. If you don't have a burner, try heating a saucepan on the stove. When it is steaming drop five or six drops of the essential oil into the water. (Be sure to keep it well out of harm's way in the room your child is in and never leave it unattended with a young child.) You can also fill a basin with hot water, drop some essential oil into it and let the child put his head, covered loosely by a towel, over the steam for five minutes several times a day to clear his head. Manuka Honey with a little lemon juice is excellent for sore throats. This honey, from New Zealand, is unique in the world. It has been shown to destroy many strains of bacteria including staphylococcus, streptococcus, staphaureus - even heliobacter pylori, the bacteria associated with peptic ulcers. Mix it with a little fresh lemon juice and give it on a teaspoon as a soothing linctus. choose supplements carefully When choosing a multiple vitamin or mineral supplement for your child, be careful. His body has a natural affinity for vitamins and minerals as they occur in Nature and are found in wholesome fresh unprocessed foods, not for the synthetic form. Not all vitamins and minerals are the same. The human body cannot easily absorb most of the synthetic, chemical vitamins on the market. And regardless of what the labels say about being `natural', the truth is almost every vitamin you can buy these days is synthetic, and therefore not very bio-available. This means your body or your child's body can absorb very little of them, because the chemical form of vitamins is so different from the natural form you find in good wholesome food. `Food-state' vitamins are different. They are grown instead of being chemically made, using a unique bio-tech process which allows living plant cells to take up vitamin concentrates and transform them into a form the human body can easily assimilate and use. This means you don't have to go for megadoses to get real benefits. Food-state nutrients are particularly good for children. They are the only kind I give mine. I began with a liquid multi vitamin and mineral when they were babies (plus some extra vitamin C) and then gradually increased the amounts as they grew. At 12 for instance, I gave Aaron two 250 milligram tablets of food-state vitamin C a day with his breakfast along with a food-state multiple vitamin and mineral. During the winter months, I also give him one or two 4.5 milligram tablets of beta carotene a day. So protective an influence can vitamin A exert, and so supporting is it to a child's immune system, that a recent study published in the British Medical Journal states that vitamin A may also play an important role in those with life threatening infections. While on the subject of protection, I would never let my children drink fluoridated water. There is too much evidence that, while it does help protect against dental carries, it has also been implicated in the development of degenerative conditions later in life. I believe it is far better to have a child's teeth painted with fluoride once every 6 months at the dentist if you want, or to give him fluoride toothpaste to use. Then at least it doesn't pervade his whole system. herbs and homeopathy I use only a few herbs. I find that red sage, for instance, over which you have poured boiling water and allowed to steep for ten minutes then let cool for later use, makes an excellent gargle for an older child (or adult) with any kind of head or throat or chest infection. Mint tea sweetened with a little honey can do wonders for upset tummies and flatulence. So can the American Indian herb slippery elm, which you mix with a little warm water and add some honey to (preferably Manuka). With older children in bed with any kind of head or throat or chest infection, I also ask them to place a small clove of garlic - complete with its skin coating - between the cheek and the teeth inside their mouth and to keep it there for an hour morning and night. (Not possible if they are up and about or too young since they might choke.) Garlic kills the `nasties' quickly and efficiently. I use only a little homeopathy, it is all I find I need. I use Arnica 30 for instance. It is good for shock, or any kind of injury or emotional upset. I give two tablets immediately and then two every half hour until the crisis has passed. The second remedy I like is Aconite 30, which I give every three or four hours when there is fever to help in the cleansing process that is taking place. Long ago I put together what in the family is known as `Mummy's First Aid Kit'. There you will find vitamin C, some zinc and beta carotene, herbs and homeopathics, plus a compress or two torn from an old sheet, a couple of unipolar magnets and crepe bandages for helping to heal bruises and sprains. It goes everywhere with us throughout the world and has become so popular as a result of being used by children and adults outside the family that I have been forced to put together several for other people as well. Of course, it won't fix broken legs. And if my child's fever suddenly shot up to 106 in the space of an hour or there was any emergency I felt incapable of handling I would be on the phone in a minute for help from the doctor. But for over thirty years, this little collection of things - together with some hydrotherapy, a good dollop of patience, great respect for Nature's ways and a lot of tender loving care - has been all that was required to see my kids through everything that has ailed them. All I can ever hope to be is a helper. It is Nature that does the real work.

Inner Child

Inner Child

Children have astonishing potential for creativity built into their genes. In fact, the innate capacities of the human mind are almost limitless. Yet brain research shows that even when we grow up, we use only a small portion of the brain's capacity. And our society is peopled with children of all ages who have never fully grown up - never become whole - never experienced the joy of simply being who they are and the excitement of facing each day ahead as though it were their last. Why? Just as physical growth is determined through DNA coding, so does there appear to be a finely coordinated plan for each child's inner development - the growth of his intelligence and emotional reactions, and the expanding of his creativity. This too is all part of his own individual seedpower unfolding so it eventually comes into full flower. However, it is a plan of which most of us as parents are not only unaware, but which we often unknowingly disrupt - sometimes with disastrous results - from loss of discipline in our children and a greater incidence of brain damage and schizophrenia in childhood, to the growth in infantile autism and widespread aggression - all of which we see growing in the societies around us year by year. I believe that we will only begin to be able to deal with such problems once we understand a bit more about Nature's biological plan for a child's inner development, and have enough trust and respect to work with it rather than against it.

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.

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’.

What I’ve Learned From Kids

What I’ve Learned From Kids

As parents we feel obliged to correct our children when they make mistakes when speaking. Yet so often the words they coin seem much more sensible and charming than their “proper” counterparts. ‘It's a froggy day,’ my son, Jesse, used to say when he meant ‘foggy.’ ‘Where are the ouches?’ My daughter, Susannah, would ask when she wanted to hang something on the clothesline. (She 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 child, announced one day after playing with one of our Burmese cats, ‘Mummy, guess what, pussy cats have dangerous toes'. Kids have taught me to express my anger instead of being 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 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. LIVING DEATH One summer day, many years ago, everything seemed to go wrong for me. For no apparent reason I awakened in the morning with the awful feeling that nothing was worthwhile. At 10am I received a telegram from a publisher saying that two manuscripts (of which I had no copies) had been lost in the mail. By noon not even the brilliance of Californian sunshine (where we were on holiday at the time) could shake off the heavy black cloud that surrounded me. I was angry with myself and trying to avoid being angry with everyone else. Jesse, then aged eight, and Susannah, ten, kept hounding me to take them to the beach. I didn't want to go anywhere, especially the beach. I didn’t want to do anything for anyone. In the worst possible spirit I eventually consented—making sure, of course, that they realized I was doing them a great big favor. The pure white sand and fresh sea air on an almost deserted beach did nothing to improve my mood. It seemed to me that life was ‘out there’ and I was ‘in here’, locked away in the depths of the gloomy dungeon I'd somehow built for myself and was powerless to break out of. As the sun shone brighter and more beautifully I grew steadily more gloomy. Finally I could stand it no longer. Despite the fact that the children were playing in the sand nearby and I didn't want to upset them, I broke down and cried. Susannah asked what was wrong. ‘I don't know, just about everything seems wrong at the moment,’ I whined. ‘I feel like that sometimes,’ Jesse said, offering no sympathy whatsoever. ‘I think you must be angry.’ ‘So what if I am?’ I snapped. ‘Why don't you hit something?’ he suggested. ‘There's nothing to hit,’ I replied irritably, ‘and anyway that's stupid.’ ‘No, it's not,’ Susannah chimed in. ‘It’ll make you feel ever so much better, Mummy. Or maybe you should try growling like a dog.’ REDISCOVERING LIFE I was willing to try anything. So, feeling like a complete fool and admonishing myself for behaving so stupidly in front of my own children, I growled and complained. I hated everyone, I said. I hated myself. I was lonely and I felt the whole world was stupid. Then I growled some more while the two of them sat listening silently. Not once did they try to console me, or tell me I was wrong or protest that the world was really a lovely place to live. Not once did they pass judgment on me or make me feel ashamed of myself or foolish. They just sat and waited. Finally I felt a little better. Jesse had been right, I thought, but I still had no idea where to go from here. At last I was quiet. Only then did Susannah say, ‘I think maybe I know what's wrong with you.’ ‘What?’ I asked skeptically. ‘You're always thinking about such serious stuff. You're always telling yourself what to do and what not to do. No wonder you're angry. You've forgotten how to have fun, Mummy.’ She was certainly right. Having fun seemed as far away as the moon at that moment. I realized then that for several months I had saddled myself with my work as if work were the only thing that mattered. I'd hated almost every minute of it but had felt proud of being such a ‘responsible adult.’ ‘Maybe you're right,’ I replied. ‘But how does somebody who's forgotten something so important remember it?’ ‘Come on, let's did a hole,’ was her reply. ‘Yeah, I like holes,’ Jesse chimed in. HIPPOPOTAMUS THAW Feeling like a half-frozen hippopotamus, I lifted myself off the towel and mechanically moved toward the site they'd chosen for the hole. I started to dig. Jesse, who often acted the role of a clown, was soon sliding down into it. Susannah was snapping at him for ‘ruining the shape.’ I looked at the two of them fiercely sneering at each other and saw myself as I had been just a few minutes before. I began to laugh. So did they. Before long we had a beautiful hole dug. It was the most gorgeous hole I’d ever seen... or so it seemed to me. We had a contest to see who was best at running up and leaping over it. Then we drew pictures in the sand and ran into the ice-cold water, splashing each other. By the time the first wave struck me, I, like the two of them, had become part of the sea and the sky. There was no more gloom and no more supercilious self-assurances that I was ‘doing the best thing.’ I was alive again. Later that evening I thanked Jesse and Susannah for helping me and teaching me to have fun again. Then in typical adult fashion, I added, ‘You know I'm likely to forget and be all grumbly again before long.’ ‘That's all right,’ replied Susannah, ‘we'll remind you.’

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.

Love With Muscle

Love With Muscle

Children have also taught me much of what I know about love. They have a singularly unsentimental attitude toward love and show little patience with an adult's romantic notions. To a child love is nothing fancy. It is a real and tangible feeling to be taken highly seriously. `If you love somebody,' a six-year-old boy named Charlie once told me, `then you help him put his boots on when they get stuck.' `When I grow up,' said eight-year-old Marlene, `I'm going to love somebody even if his handwriting is messy.' I once had a real demonstration of what love is all about from my eldest son, Branton, who was then eight and to all appearances totally indifferent to his little sister, Susannah. One Autumn evening, after we'd all been out in the yard, we discovered Susannah was missing. Through a series of misunderstandings she thought we'd gone off for a walk in the woods - and we thought she'd gone back to the house. By the time I realized she was gone, Branton had a dachshund under each arm and was firmly ensconced on the sofa watching his favorite television program with a friend. If one thing was certain in our house, it was that Branton would do absolutely nothing anyone wanted him to do - such as set the table or wash his hands - while this particular program was on. I could stand in the middle of the room and scream at the top of my lungs but he wouldn't hear me. After I'd searched every room for Susannah, I began to be frightened. It was dark by then, and she was only five years old. Our house in the country had enormous expanses of land and woods surrounding it. She could have been anywhere. Careful not to betray my anxiety, I announced, `Branton, Susannah is gone.' There was a pause, rather like a slow take in a cartoon film, then he turned and looked at me. `I can't find Susannah,' I repeated. `She isn't in the house, and I don't know where she is.' He was up as if dynamite had blown him off the sofa. The poor sleepy dachshunds were shaken out of their stupor. `I'll find her,' he said on his way to the door. Then he stopped and turned to his friend, still engrossed in the television program. `Get up, Jeff,' he commanded, `we've got to find Susu. Hurry up.' I have never seen any human being move faster. Within two minutes he had been around the acre of land surrounding the house and rung two doorbells to ask if the neighbors knew where his sister was. By then I had remembered our talk about going for a walk in the woods, and had headed toward the thicket. Branton, still running at top speed, came up and passed me by, all the time calling: `Susannah, Susannah.' As we headed up the big path into the woods, I heard the faraway sound of a child crying out. It was Susannah. I tried to reassure her we were coming - while attempting to avoid falling in the wet mud - meanwhile Branton plunged on ahead, apparently afraid of nothing. In another minute he had her in his arms. As I approached, I heard him saying over and over, `Oh, Susu, Susu, are you all right?' as tears streamed down his cheeks. Later that night at the dinner table I told Susannah, who frequently suffered Branton's scorn, that now she knew what Branton really felt about her. I suggested she remember this evening whenever she became discouraged by his taunts - calling her a drip, for instance. She smiled. `You're a drip,' said Branton.

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