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raising kids

25 articles in raising kids

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.

Out Of The Mouth Of Babes

Out Of The Mouth Of Babes

Children are extraordinary people - neither the dewy-eyed little darlings we put on our Christmas cards nor the wild savages we fear will grow up to be criminals if not disciplined properly. And Nature's child is indeed wild - wild because he doesn't fit into our idea of what is and isn't done, wild because he hasn't learned the subtle art of concealment and hypocrisy we cultivate as adults, wild because no matter how much we try to make him conform to our will, if he is lucky he never will, so strongly directed from within is he by his own destiny. As adults, most of us can't help trying. When we try too hard, we succeed only in turning our children into the same hypocrites we ourselves have learned to be. It was a little girl named Jill - a freckle-faced, runny-nosed, redheaded three year old - and two of her nursery-school friends who first made me aware of my own hypocrisy. Jill and a friend were setting up an imaginary tea party. They had carefully laid the small table with battered plastic cups, filled the cracked teapot and put wadded-up pieces of paper in a paper cup for sugar cubes. During all of this the two girls chattered in obvious imitation of their mothers. `Who else is coming to tea?' asked Jill. `Oh, you know that awful old Mrs Simpson - the one who always has her hair in curlers,' replied her friend. `Do you know she doesn't even bother to put a coat over her nightgown when she goes out for the milk?' So the conversation went as the two girls, unaware that anyone was listening, prepared for their guest. When the table was all set, Jill leaned out the window and told a third little girl she could come to the party now. She entered the play house and was greeted with exclamations of: `Why, dear Mrs Simpson, how very nice of you to come. It is so lovely to see you.' I thought to myself how often a scene similar to the one I was witnessing takes place. I was trying to remember the last time I'd been guilty of this kind of two-faced behavior, when my thoughts were interrupted by `Mrs Simpson,' who had been seated at the table. Suddenly she rose, dumped her `tea' back into the cracked teapot, and said very slowly and deliberately: `I heard what you said about me from under the window, and I don't like it. I'm not going to be your old Mrs Simpson any more no matter how nice you are to me, so there!' Young children hate being patronized. They react strongly when someone is false with them. The less privileged the family background of the child, the easier it seems to be for him to see through superficial geniality - and the more demanding he becomes of true, undivided attention and real relationships with adults.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Kids Stuff

Kids Stuff

A child is born. The waiting and planning, the exercises for birth, the hoping that everything will be all right has finished. Parenthood begins. Oh my God - where do we go from here..? The task ahead seems monumental and you feel completely inadequate in the face of what is required. One moment you are filled with tenderness and wonder as your baby's tiny hand grasps your little finger in complete trust. The next you wish the thing would go away and leave you in peace. Why didn't somebody warn you that within the first three weeks, every item of clothing you own would be stained with baby vomit? Becoming a parent changes your life beyond all description. It could be years before you get another night's uninterrupted sleep. You learn about self-sacrifice for the first time in your life when a baby arrives. All at once everything revolves around caring for this tiny but determined creature who has entered your home, and finding the wisdom to do what is right for your child. There are so many unanswered questions. What do you do when he gets ill, or is unhappy? How do you feed him? Do you let him cry so he won't get spoiled, or do you see to his every wish so he won't be scarred by neglect? Welcome to the world of parenthood. Take heart. You are not alone in your confusion. Now for the good news: the task of raising a child is not as difficult as all the doctors and psychologists would have us believe - especially if you decide to raise a Nature's child. child rearing by the rules 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 spoon feed it to clients well heeled enough to afford the indulgence, I asked, `What do they teach you?' `Oh, they teach you everything!' she replied, 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 that 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."' forget perfect parenting 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 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. 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 one's relationship to a child has a life of its own and that, 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 as a 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 who's 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 ever hope to do.

First Foods

First Foods

From the time he is ready to start weaning until he is five or six - or even beyond - how do you feed a child well? It is the question mothers most frequently ask me. If you really care about your child eating the best possible way for his long-term health and emotional balance, it is the easiest thing in the world to do. Babies and children always do - not what you tell them to do - but what they see you do. The way to feed a child well is to feed yourself well on simple, wholesome, natural foods and not to keep any foods in the house which are not health promoting - right from the beginning. Introducing a breast-fed baby to new drinks and to solid food is easy and lots of fun provided you don't get seduced by advertisers into believing that the best foods to feed him on come ready made in jars and packets from the shelves of supermarkets. They don't. Commercially prepared baby foods are not only more expensive, they are far less nutritious than wholesome homemade dishes from your own table since most of them have been processed to death. The best foods for weaning a baby are the same foods you eat yourself provided you prepare your meals from scratch and don't rely on the manufactured convenience stuff. Your breast-fed baby will not need solid foods at all for the first four or five months of his life. Until then any solids fed him - cereals or fruits or what have you - will tend to pass right through him. His digestive system is not developed enough to process them. Also, during the early months of a baby's life his defenses against allergies are rudimentary. If you give him solids too early there is a much greater chance that he could end up allergic to milk or grains or eggs or just about anything else. By the time he is five or six months old, however he will not only enjoy sitting up at the table with you while he eats but will also want to explore the world around him. For a baby that means putting whatever is offered into his mouth. This is the time for him to begin experimenting with new drinks and foods. learning to eat and drink Begin by offering him a little fresh fruit juice or vegetable juice diluted one part juice to three parts spring or filtered water. I started Aaron, my youngest, on diluted carrot juice made from an organic carrot or two in a centrifuge juice extractor and offered it to him immediately so it was full of vitamins, minerals and life energies. He adored the stuff. Fresh carrot and apple juice diluted in the same way is also a favorite with babies and children. Give them just a taste to begin with either on a little spoon or in a bottle. If your baby doesn't like the taste then forget it for the moment and try him again in another week or two. As they get older you can gradually decrease the water until they are taking it full strength. Offer your baby his first taste of solid foods while he is sitting at the table watching you eat. Mash a banana and give him just a taste, or a little flesh from a baked potato with a tiny bit of butter on it. Make it a game. If he likes it, great, let him have a bit more. If not, eat it yourself and forget it. You can buy one of the inexpensive hand held blenders and puree just about any wholesome natural food you are eating - from soups to nuts and from Brussels sprouts to whole grain bread to which a little spring water has been added. Let it be a game for the both of you - not some serious effort to get him to eat. If you want to avoid eating problems both now and later, never, ever, force food or drink on a baby or child. This is one of the cardinal rules of child rearing. Above all stop worrying about how much he needs to take. He will show you that himself by his responses. What so many parents forget is that the powerful will to live which lies at the core of his own seedpower and has brought your baby into the world will continue to sustain him. He will know how much food he needs now and later as he grows (provided of course his natural mechanisms for knowing have not become distorted by force feeding or being given lots of convenience foods loaded with refined sugar, junk fats and chemical additives). Children who have been raised on breast milk when gradually introduced to simple wholesome fruits and vegetables, grains and home made protein foods right from the table, learn to eat simply and gleefully. Every new taste is an adventure. a little of what he fancies Interesting studies have been carried out with small children. They show that provided the only foods offered them are good foods - that is not highly processed or filled with refined sugar, white flour or additives - babies and children left to their own devices will instinctively choose a wholesome diet. A child may eat nothing but bananas one day, then turn to carrots or whole grain bread or eggs the next. Looked at over a period of a week or two, his picking and choosing prompted by his own internal messages and instincts, spontaneously selects for him a diet which is virtually ideal when measured against what nutritional science says a growing child needs. Because his palate and instincts have not become distorted by manufactured foods, Nature's child is in touch with his body and its needs. He never has to give a thought to eating well. He does it the same way a bird sings or a waterfall tumbles over rocks down into a pool a hundred feet below. He not only supports his health and well-being in the best possible way, his own inner wisdom enables his own brand of individual seedpower to unfold beautifully into the unique individual he is designed to be - physically, emotionally and spiritually. When what your child eats day after day, year after year, supports the energy balancing, energy-producing functions in his body it creates for him an experience of grace in his life and in yours. He is far more likely to be centered in his demeanor, resistant to illness and cheerful in his outlook. When, on the other hand his diet is made up of highly processed convenience foods filled with junk fats and chemical additives - foods which have lost the complex balance and synergy in all living things - then you create metabolic confusion in his body and a greater susceptibility to illness and behavioral disturbances from hyperactivity to aggression.

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!

Leslie Kenton’s Cura Romana®

Fast, Healthy Weight Loss

Leslie Kenton’s Cura Romana® has proudly supported 18,000+ weight loss journeys over the past 13 years. With an overall average daily weight loss of 0.5 - 0.6 lb for women and 0.8 - 1.0 lb for men.

Yesterday’s Average Daily Weight Loss:

on the 23rd of July 2021 (updated every 12 hours)

-0.74 lb
for women
-1.28 lb
for men
-0.74 lb
for women
-1.28 lb
for men

Yesterday’s Average Daily Weight Loss:

on the 23rd of July 2021 (updated every 12 hours)

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