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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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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.

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.

Eyes Of A Child

Eyes Of A Child

The greatest art any parent needs to develop to support the graceful unfolding of a child's unique seedpower is the art of listening. Not only can it help you learn from each child what you need to know at any moment in time to help heal, guide and nurture him, it can also help you rediscover the joy of living within yourself - a sense which we as busy, responsible adults so often lose. Children make the greatest teachers when we are willing to enter their worlds, lay aside our preconceived ideas and learn about how each of them views life. It is only in doing this that a real relationship develops between you and your child, and it is in honest and vital relationships that the power to rear Nature's child easily and gracefully lies. Looking at the world through the eyes of a child transforms humdrum reality into a magical land of the unexpected. It can also teach you a lot about how your child thinks and grows emotionally. `Cigars are fattening,' my eight-year-old son Jesse announced one day. `I know because all the men who smoke them are fat.' Children have incredible wit and freshness. Everything is new to them. The most trivial event can bring to a child the kind of pleasure we adults spend a lot of money searching for. But that's not all. In subtle ways, they are able to teach us truths that we might otherwise never learn. Once, when we were experiencing gale-force winds, five year old Jesse sat at the window watching what the wind did to the trees. Finally he turned to me and said, `Reflexible trees are stronger than ordinary trees. Do you think reflexible people are stronger than other people?' I was slow to answer as I couldn't imagine what he was talking about. `Jesse, what are reflexible trees?' I asked. `They're the kind that bend all the way to the ground when the wind blows instead of pushing against it,' he said. `The reflexible ones don't get cracked like the others.' `Yes,' I replied, `I guess you're right. Reflexible trees and reflexible people really are stronger than the rest.' Through thirty four years of motherhood, plus years working with young children in nursery school, I have never stopped learning from them. I know it is supposed to be the other way around - and I have always done my best to explain the intricacies of life to my children and pupils - but in the meantime, they have taught me lessons I won't soon forget: lessons in courtesy, humor, responsibility. They have shown me how to be angry and how to forgive, how to care for another and still demand my own right to separateness. Most of all, through knowing and watching them, I've begun learning how to love - an art that, on too many occasions during these years, I had almost forgotten.

How To Raise A Nature's Child

How To Raise A Nature's Child

The most rewarding thing I’ve ever done was giving birth to four children and learning how to be a successful mother.  "Your children are not your children," the Lebanese poet Kahil Gibran wrote. "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."   I love this quote, not only because—having brought up four children by four different men all on my own—I believe it’s  just about the most accurate description of parenthood I have ever heard.  It also emphasizes the 'lightness' that develops when we give up trying to be perfect, and come to trust the processes of Nature while feeding, healing, and guiding each of our children towards what works best for them at any moment in time.   Like the seed of a plant that has encoded within its genetic material the characteristics that will, in time, produce a full-grown flower, every baby comes into this world carrying a package of incredibly rich potential that encompasses his or her unique nature.  I call it seedpower.  It holds far greater physical, creative and spiritual energy than any of us could hope to experience in ten lifetimes.   Each child is like the brush stroke a zen painter makes to represent one leaf on a shaft of bamboo. The leaf he paints is totally singular—like no leaf that has ever existed before. Yet within this uniqueness, your child’s universal beauty is to be found, as well as life energy of the highest order.   When my first son Branton was born, I was 18 years old in university.  Like most parents, I had some harebrained idea that we parents need to mold our children from the outside.  We need to impose on them our ideas about what they should act like, think like, look like, and all the rest. Of course, this never works—but when we are young and naïve as I was, we just don’t know any better.   With a bit of luck, sooner or later we come to realize that what most certainly does work is not trying to mold a child at all, but listening to the whispers of each child's seedpower that comes from within. By doing this, we can respond to our children by offering whatever at any moment seems most useful to them, in the form of food, health, guidance, education and so on. This is infinitely easier and more successful all round.   Taking on the job of guardian for any child from birth to adulthood involves having to make 'contractual agreements', which of course must be re-negotiated from time to time as a child grows. Like every contract, the parent/child relationship is always a two-way deal. It has to be fair on both sides. It also has to nurture both people involved. How well your own contracts develop and how much joy there is for the both of you in fulfilling them depends to a great extent on how clearly the agreements between the two of you are understood. Let me show you what I mean.   In establishing 'contracts' with my own children, I was sure of a few things. First, I was committed to supplying them with wholesome food and clean surroundings, as well as physical warmth and safety. I also wanted them to have the right to their own opinions, even when they markedly differed from my own. In return, I expected them to appreciate the home, food and care I provided for them, although I knew it would never be perfect.  I also demanded that they be as honest and respectful of me and my decisions as their age would allow.   What I never asked of any of my children—and I think this is where so many parents go wrong—is that they love me. Trying to get into that particular agreement creates nothing but trouble. Whether or not your child loves you is fundamentally beside the point. Our responsibility as a parent is to use our best judgment and physical resources to help our child grow, and to discover his or her unique gifts.   Early on, I decided that I would try to do my best for my children, but they were stuck with me as a parent for better or for worse—complete with all my warts. And while I didn't expect them to love me, I did expect them to know that whatever I did, I did because I believed it to be right. Whenever some decision I made or action I took turned out to be wrong, I always owned up and asked for their forgiveness—just as I forgave them their mistakes.   What I discovered, quite by accident, was that there is a certain magic to all this. You see, when you decide to give up all claims to being a so-called 'good parent', or having your child love you, this creates a vast expanse of freedom for you both. What’s more, not only do children eventually end up loving you of their own accord, they develop a lot of respect for you—whether they agree with you or not. Most important of all, they come to feel safe, because they know that even though you can be unreasonable at times and unbending, your strength—on which they rely for security—remains uncorrupted by flattery or the kind of emotional blackmail which even very young children are masters at. In time, your children learn that your strength is there to serve them. It’s a discovery that can bring a sense of joy, even during the most challenging of times.   Now, of course, all my four children are grown up.  My daughter Susannah and I have written five books together.  My youngest son Aaron and I work together, developing internet sites which some say can be life-changing. My other two sons—Branton and Jesse—now have families of their own, including six unique and highly independent children.  This makes me a grandmother.  I adore all of them. But I confess that I am probably the world’s worst grandmother.  I don’t bake cookies, babysit or do any of the expected grandmotherly things. Why? Well, I loved being a mother more than anything in the world. But I’ve done that. So now my future belongs to me. I sense there are lots more adventures that lie ahead for me now.  I intend to be free to explore them.  What I find so wonderful is that all four of my children respect and understand where I’m coming from and, without judgment, bless me for just being who I am.

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.

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.

Nourishing Body & Soul

Nourishing Body & Soul

Being healthy means a lot more than just not being sick. A child that is healthy experiences a sense of grace in his life. He feels at ease. He has access to all of his being - his imagination, his intellect, his physical strength, and his ability to connect with the world around him through his senses. Buoyant health depends on there being a high degree of biochemical and emotional order in his life. These days, such order is not always easy to come by. It begins with the way you feed your child, and ends with creating structures for his day to day life that establish a safe arena - emotionally, physically and spiritually - in which he can operate. When you do, the child develops a sense of trust in himself, a huge resistance to illness, and a sense of real connection with his outside world as well as an excitement about his life and what is going to happen next. This is what real health is all about - nurturing Nature's child, body and soul.

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.

Principle Guidelines

Principle Guidelines

The important thing is to build your own menus around what you yourself like best and then share your own enthusiasm with your growing child. Enthusiasm about anything tends to be contagious. the health makers Fresh fruits, especially eaten raw Fresh vegetables, preferably organic - especially eaten raw 100% whole grain bread and pastas - dark and delicious whole grain cereals such as porridge made from steel-cut oats, muesli and granola (but read the labels and watch out for hidden sugars) Fresh fruit and vegetable juices Pulses Low-fat cheeses like cottage cheese, ricotta and Edam in moderate quantities (provided no milk allergies are present) Dried fruits (naturally dried, not sulfur dried) such as raisins, dates, sultanas, apricots Nuts (make sure they are ground to a powder for young children) Free range eggs Fish Free range chicken Game Butter Olive oil the health breakers White bread, rolls, pastries and pies Pasta - spaghetti, macaroni, etc Sugar and anything containing it Biscuits made from white flour Jelly Jams Tinned fruits Packet and tinned soups Chips Crisps Fizzy drinks containing sugar or artificial sweeteners Greasy fried foods Chocolate and sweets Artificial fruit drinks Ice cream (except homemade) Margarine Processed oils such as the golden varieties you find on supermarket shelves.

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