Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The first day of school

Tomorrow is the first day of school for the children in our school district.

Here are our plans for the first day of school:

*Sleep in

*Eat ice cream sundaes for lunch

*Chew gum

*Watch Harry Potter (The Hogwarts year begins on September 1st, which is tomorrow.)

*Take not back to school pictures

*Use our outside voices inside

*Have friends over who are also not going to school, and Skype with those who live far away

*What ever else we want to do, when we want to do it, depending on how we are feeling at the time.

This list came from asking the question, "What do you want to do on the first day of school?" Different members of the family contributed ideas. We will be spending our day together so our day is a collaborative effort. That makes sense since our life is a collaborative effort.


What do you want to do on the first day of school?

What do your children want to do on the first day of school?


You have choices. Your children should have choices, too. I am not going to tell you that your first day of school should look just like ours. It shouldn't. Every family is different. However, I am going to tell you that school is optional for everyone. There are families of different shapes and sizes, with different financial situations and different levels of health, who find creative solutions so that their children have the freedom to make choices about what and when and how they learn. If your child choose school there are a lot of options within the school system that are worth exploring. There are also an ever increasing number of private and charter schools.

If you find yourself saying, "We could never homeschool because we would argue all the time," take a good look at your relationship with your child and your methods of parenting. The truth is, I said that for years. I knew I could not handle homeschooling my girls. Homeschool moms were those super organized women who made their kids sit at the kitchen table for hours each morning doing work. That was not going to work for me or my children, so I assumed homeschooling was out of the question. With a change in perspective, a change in parenting and a change of heart I realized that homeschooling was something we could do, we just had to do it in a way that fit our family.

Whatever you do on the first day of school, I hope it strengthens your relationship with your child. If your child dreads school figure out why and find a way to meet their needs. If your child is begging to go to school let go of your need to homeschool. Your child may cheerfully wave from the school bus window on the first day, but if after the first week school mornings have become something to dread it is time to look for options. Ask yourself, "What are my child's needs and how can I meet those needs?" No matter how official and in control of your child's life school may seem, remember: School is not more important than your relationship with your child. It took me years to figure that out. This will be our second first day of school that we celebrate in our own way. Last year we went to a park and made S'mores. How are you going to celebrate the first day of school with your children?


Monday, August 30, 2010

Dreams

We spent our weekend at an event for children and young adults who were hoping to connect with an agent and start a career in acting or modeling. Stress was unavoidable. And yet, everyone was choosing to be in this stressful environment because of a dream. The kids came to make their dreams come true. The parents attended to support their children. Most were obviously involved parents, in a positive sense. Some had flown in from other states, some had driven long hours, all were paying the bill. Many of them, myself included, were way out of their comfort zone. We were taking in huge amounts of information while staying on top of where our kids were supposed to be, who was being called for auditions or to be on stage, and doing our best to meet our children's needs - often while loud music rocked the room. Even though everyone was feeling varying degrees of tension, there was no yelling, no screaming, or cringe worthy parent/child interactions.

Watching parents reunite with their children who had just performed a 30 second monologue, starting at the word "action" and stopping when they were done or at the word "time," was fascinating. Most of the parents smiled and shared words of encouragement, support or excitement. Here were children as young as 4 standing in line waiting their turn to perform in front of two strangers, who sat behind a table only a few feet away. Most of us watched with our hearts pounding, amazed at our child's courage and determination. Those who managed to watch with a critical eye, who greeted their child afterward tight lipped and dissatisfied, were most likely the parents who were trying to live their own dream through their child. There were a few. The mother of the twin girls, no older than 5, who said to me, as we waited to hear if our children had caught the eye of an agent, "They just want to go swimming. They are like, 'We've done what you asked. Now can we go swimming?'" How different from the mother who explained, "She says she wants to be Matilda. It's all about her." The latter was a child, age 4, who performed a 30 second commercial at the word "action" without hesitation and with expression. She took her afternoon nap in her mother's arms, woke up and 5 minutes later was on stage learning how to hit the X on the corner and turn to wave at the agents who would be watching her the next day. A child of 4 who had a dream. A mother who was doing whatever it took to support that dream.

As I was walking through this mass of remarkable people, I thought "Everyone has a dream." At this event that was true. However, in society at large that does not ring true. Everyone should have a dream, but dreams are often discouraged. Parents and grandparents may encourage children toward practical careers. They want their children to grow up and have security, stability and a "good life," without considering what kind of life might be good for their child. Schools encourage children to get good grades, prepare for tests, and score well on those tests. Schools are created with required classes, expected behaviors, generic benchmarks, and a rigid schedule. In schools children are told what to learn, when to sit, move, speak, eat and even when they can go to the bathroom. It is a rare school that leaves space for dreams. Even then, your dream has to fit within the school's approved dreams. Often there is no allowance for dreams until high school. Then, if your school is large enough, there may be sports, dance, art, and theater, along with advanced academic opportunities. Unfortunately, by the time kids have reached high school their dreams may have already been lost, or they did not had opportunities to explore the world and find a dream to hold onto.

Encourage dreams. Part of encouraging dreams is validating interests and passions however odd or irrelevant they may seem. Do not discount someone else's dream just because it does not resonate with you and your dreams. Do not discount someone else's dream because you are jealous that they have opportunities that you did not have, or that they dared to dream when you went with what was expected. Do not encourage conformity for conformity's sake. If your child says, "When I grow up I'm going to be a car salesperson." do not belittle that idea. She may grow up and happily sell cars, because helping people buy the car that is right for them brings her joy. Or she may leave the desire to sell cars behind and move on to designing cars or building cars or racing cars. If your child wants to play basketball do not tell him that he is too short. Instead, support his love of the game and see where it leads. He may end up being the next Muggsy Bogues, but he also might go into sports medicine, become a coach or end up working for ESPN as a commentator. As parents it is not up to us to determine what our child's dream should or should not be. It is not for us to decide what our child can and cannot achieve in their life time. As parents we have the opportunity to explore the world with our children. We can suggest new things to try or find new outlets for our child's interests, accepting their interest or lack of interest in our suggestions. We have the opportunity to expand our horizons as we support our children when their dreams take us places we would have never gone on our own.

As parents we need to give our children the opportunity to own their dreams. It is easy to get wrapped up in our child's dream and find ourselves pushing them when we should let them move forward when they are ready. We may find ourselves saying that we are proud of their accomplishments when they should be free to be proud of themselves. We may need to step back and let them try new things on their own even if it makes us nervous. We may need to remind ourselves that this is their journey, not ours. We may be their support person, their chauffeur, the person who pays the bills and makes sure the clothes they need is clean, but our child must be comfortable with our level of involvement. We must make sure that we are there for them when they need us, but we must also make sure that we do not infringe on their dreams because of our need to feel needed or our need to be in control. One way to avoid getting overly involved in our children's dreams is to follow dreams of our own. If we have lost touch with our dreams, or perhaps were never encouraged to dream, our children may be a source of inspiration as we see their joy in following their dreams. When we take the time to follow our dreams we may find that our children are our biggest fans, just as we are theirs.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Why?

Why should I?

When a parent asks a child to do something and the child resists or refuses, the parent may interpret this as the child being disrespectful or disobedient. Some parents come from a place of authority that sees "Because I said so, that's why!" or "Don't ask questions, just do as you're told," as reasonable responses to a child's question of why they need to do something.

When a child resists or refuses to do something it is an opportunity for us to look at how and what we are asking. Perhaps the problem isn't with our child and his or her seeming unwillingness to cooperate. The problem may lie with what we are asking. Is this something the child really needs to do? Are we asking them to do something because we don't want to do it ourselves? Are we asking the child to do something that makes them uncomfortable, afraid, or anxious? There may also be a problem with how we are asking. Are we actually making a request, or are we making a demand or giving an order? If we are making a request then we should be able to accept "no" as a possible response. "Yes" or "I am doing something else right now, and I will do that later" are also options. Sometimes the child's response may have little to do with our request and more to do with something else that is going on in their life.

Perhaps the real problem is that parents often do not stop and find out why the child does not want to do what has been requested. When a child says "No!" there is a reason. Parents seem to have been conditioned to view children's negative responses as being willful, disobedient, stubborn, strong willed, challenging, testing the limits, being difficult, or attributed to a certain age group - two years old and teens in particular. Parent's willingness to dismiss a child's behavior as "she's just being difficult" is a failure to recognize that children do not wake up in the morning saying "Today I'm just going to be difficult." "My life as a child isn't challenging enough. Today I think I'll be extra difficult so that my parents will get really frustrated with me and end up punishing me for my behavior."

If a child is not doing what we want him to do it's time to work together to figure out why. It is not time to make threats and demands and dole out punishments for lack of compliance. Ultimately children's behavior is tied to their needs. If their needs are not being met they will do whatever they can, with the resources they have, to get them met. If a child feels a lack of control over their own life they will grab control of whatever they can. Often with young children this involves controlling bodily functions: using the potty or not, eating or not, and sleeping or not. If children feel a lack of control or power in their life saying "No!" may be a way that they are trying to gain some control. However, the "why" may be something else. A child may not want to wear a certain piece of clothing because the tag itches. She may not want to wear a jacket because it makes her feel constrained. He may not want to go to a friend's house because a dog there scared him the last time he visited. He may not want to leave the house because he is worried about missing a favorite TV show. She may not want to eat a certain food because the texture is icky in her mouth. She may not want to go swimming because she saw an advertisement for "Shark Week" on TV. We won't know why unless we take the time to figure it out. And, if we don't take the time to figure it out we are missing an opportunity to connect with our child.

Finding out the why behind the "No!" or "Why should I?" or "I don't want to," helps us support our children as they explore the world. We are able to validate their feelings and problem solve if needed. When we listen to them we learn more about who they are, what they like, what they don't like, and what helps them feel confident and comfortable. If we avoid using punishments, praise, threats, and other forms of manipulation to extract compliance from our child, we are free to develop a relationship that allows for honest trust filled communication. If children learn that obedience is required, or that compliance will be extracted from them through any means necessary, they will stop trying to communicate the why of their refusals. They will learn to stuff their feelings, hide their fears and to do what other people tell them to do without question. They will accept that how they feel, what they need, and who they are is not as important as what we want them to do. When we take the time to discuss what needs to be done, or if something needs to be done, or how something could be done differently, if we listen to how our children feel about something we think they should do, our children learn to express how they feel and how to constructively get their needs met.

When we take the time to find out what is really going on, our child will learn that who they are is more important than our need to control them and their behavior. When we let go of our need to control our children and their behavior we create space for a relationship based on connection, unconditional love and trust filled communication. And that is the Why behind the way that I choose to interact with my children.











Friday, August 20, 2010

Living the Life You Want

Living your life the way you want it to be enables you to live your way into the life you want. We sometimes live life on hold, waiting for the right moment to begin making changes. There is no "right moment," there is only this moment. In this moment we can make choices that bring us closer to the life we dream of living. For this to work we need to have a vision, some idea of the life we want to be living. We have to know what we want for our life in order to begin living the life we want. If I say, "In my perfect life I will get up and do yoga, and then blog while drinking hot tea," I have a blueprint for my morning. When I get up I can start doing yoga, even if it's just a few minutes, and blog, even if it's just a few sentences, while drinking hot tea. Now I'm living my dream life. I may only be living it for fifteen minutes each morning, but I am moving in the direction of living the life I want to live.

This same concept applies to parenthood. If we have a vision of the relationship we want to have with our children when they are older we can start making choices, living the life, that will bring us to that relationship years in the future. We may say, "When my child is 18 I would like for us to have a close relationship. I would like to be able to talk openly about life and social issues and choices and passions. I want to enjoy spending time together." Perhaps you picture your relationship when your child is even older. "If my child chooses to have children, it is my that hope she will welcome my involvement in their lives. When my child is an adult I would like to continue to have a close, loving, fun relationship."

When I remember to ask myself, "How will this affect my relationship with my child?" I can make decisions that strengthen our connection in each moment. Each time I make a choice that creates connection, nurtures trust, and enables us to both feel understood, I am creating the relationship we will have 20 years into the future right now, in this moment.

I have some clear hopes for the future of this family. I want my children to be comfortable in their skin and I want them to feel accepted and loved for who they are, not just for what they do. As my children grow older I want them to know that this is their home as long as they want to be here. And when they do venture off into the world, I want them to know that they will always be welcome to return and stay where ever their parents might be living at the time. It is my hope that my girls will grow up as attached and loving sisters who enjoy each other. It is also my hope that they will continue to enjoy my company and the company of their father. I want our family to continue to have fun and enjoy exploring life together, even when we are all grown up and living our own lives more separately. And in the future, if the time comes when I need a place to stay, I hope they will feel comfortable welcoming me into their homes without hesitation.

Watching the interactions of the parents and children around me can be like looking into a crystal ball. The vision of their future can be very clear. I see the connection or the disconnection and I am reminded that my choices in this moment influence the relationship I will have with my children in the future. I cannot parent with praise and punishment, and expect my child to feel my unconditional love. I cannot require my children to grow up to be the person I want them to be, and expect them to feel comfortable being authentic around me when they are an adult. I cannot parent using the withdrawal of attention, approval, love or my presence, and expect my child to trust that I will be there for them no matter what. If I choose to parent through manipulation and control I should not be shocked when my teenager feels the need to separate from me to be her own person, or to hang out with friends who like her just the way she is. If I do not treat my child with respect it should come as no surprise that she does not treat me with respect.

My interactions with my children each day, my attitude towards them as they pass through the many stages of life, my ability to choose to act from a place of connection, respect, trust and unconditional love in each moment determines the relationship we will have 10 years from now. Because I have a vision for our relationship I am looking forward to our future together. I think about how amazing it will be when there are three teenage girls living in this house! 

What kind of relationship do you want with your children when they are teens? What do you want it to be like when they are 40? How do you want them to relate to you when you are 80? Is it time to create a positive vision for your future together?

Friday, August 13, 2010

Today was a "Good Day"

Wednesday I felt like a successful unschooler. We had one of those magical days full of activity, wonder, social connection and diversity that other unschooling parents post about.

I got up early and saw Jess off to work. After watering the garden I started a blog post and caught up on my e-mails and facebook before the girls were awake. I cheerfully greeted my three girls and our visiting girl. I offered a variety of food with no takers, so I turned the whole kitchen table into a monkey platter. I called the airport and found that the cell phone of visiting girl had been turned in to lost and found, and I arranged for transportation for girls to the airport since the car was at work.

The girls worked on recording a song and planning a music video. They played computer games and watched youtube videos. They walked to the park and our wonderful corner gas station where they bought goodies. They fit in some dramatic play and a visit to the neighbor's chickens. We added another girl to the mix while her mom stayed for coffee and her dad was the taxi to the airport. My youngest passed some time sketching amazing pictures that are now on the refrigerator. More friends came over. We experimented with using coconut oil to help start a fire. Soon there were six girls on the patio making s'mores. Another friend and her young son stopped by. We visited while he explored our house for the first time and I made the dough for our pizza dinner.

Somewhere in all of this we got the hamster out and discovered that she had mites, so the girls treated her while I cleaned out her entire cage. After dinner two of the girls made cookies. My oldest daughter and I went for our nightly walk. Afterward, even though it was very late, my youngest wanted a walk and we ended up seeing the most amazing meteor ever!

Along the way I managed to fit into the day washing 4 loads of laundry, 2 loads of dishes and a sink full of pots and bowls, vacuuming the downstairs, scrubbing the upstairs shower, picking beans and pea pods in the garden, making food as needed, and planning my next crochet project.

It was a very good day.

Upon reflection, I realized that while these are the days we tend to write about because there is a lot going on externally. That doesn't make them more valuable than other days, it just makes them more interesting to other people. Every day is valuable, but some days what is going on is more internal. Resting, recovering, growing, processing, reflecting, and relaxing are all vitally important to our physical and mental well being, not to mention our creative processes. They are also not very impressive to the casual observer.

One of the concepts that can challenge people new to unschooling is that one activity is not more valuable than another. We get sucked into thinking that spending the day reading about American history is more worth while than a day spent playing computer games. We can feel that a day spent writing a story is more worth while than a day spent staring out the window. We may think that spending the day with a group of people is more worth while than a day spent alone in a room. We think that a successful experiment is more worth while than a failure.

The truth is that if every day were as packed full as Wednesday, I would burn out before a week was half over. In a society that focuses on external activities, and fitting as much as possible into the schedule, I find life much more enjoyable, and learning much more possible, when we are free to have days full of nothing as well as days full of everything. A local radio station recently had a "busy mom" contest. As the DJ went on and on about how busy the winner was I realized that I am not a busy mom. The thought made me smile. My schedule does not have to be packed full beyond capacity for my life to be complete. I do not need to be over scheduled to feel successful.

Life is a flow of activity and rest. Busy times and times to reflect. Time to stare out the window and think thoughts, and time to write those thoughts down in a story. Every day is of value, every experience leads to learning, and every moment we are living authentically is worth our while. Every day is a good day.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Conflict or Connection?

Where does conflict begin?

Sighing, eye rolling, and selective hearing. Feet planted, arms crossed, and scowling face.

Does this describe your kid?

Do you say any of the following:

"Don't you use that tone with me!"
"How many times do I have to tell you?"
"Weren't you listening?!"
"You can't always have what you want."
"That's not for you."
"Why can't you get it through your head..."
"Grow up!"
"Act your age!"
"Stop that Right Now!"


Sighing, eye rolling, and selective hearing. Feet planted, arms crossed, and scowling face. Parents do these things, too. We direct them at our children. Chances are that there are times when you send less than respectful, non-verbal messages to your children, when you are feeling annoyed or frustrated or worn thin. Why then do we feel justified in getting angry when our children do the exact same thing back? Our children who are new to this world, who have less experience coping, and many more frustrations than we are often willing to admit.

Now read the quotes again and imagine times when your child would have reason to say them back to you.

"Don't you use that tone with me!"
Do you use a sarcastic or sassy voice with your child?
Do you use a mean, harsh, threatening voice?
Do you speak to your child in a voice you would never use with another adult?

"How many times do I have to tell you?"
Does your child have to tell you over and over what they like and don't like?
Does your child have to remind you how to cut their sandwich or what shirt is their favorite? Does your child have to remind you that it hurts when you brush their hair?

"Weren't you listening?!"
Do you tune your child out?
Does your child start talking only to realize that you have glazed over
and are thinking about what's for dinner,
or the game you are playing on the computer,
or that vacation, without children, you want to take with your spouse?

"You can't always have what you want."
Do you insist that things go the way that you planned?
Do you get frustrated and angry
and let your children know about those feelings loud and clear
when you don't get what you want?

"That's not for you."
Do you lack respect for your child's personal property?
Do you invade your child's privacy?
Do you fail to recognize that children have special places or possessions
that are private and not for you?

"Why can't you get it through your head..."
Do you insist that you know what your child needs
even when they are trying to let you know that their needs are different?
Do you tell them to go to bed because they are tired,
when they know they aren't sleepy?
Do you tell them there is nothing to be afraid of,
when they know that their fear is real?
Do you tell them they need to sit still
when they really need to go run around outside?
Do you try and make them discuss
things when they really just need some time alone
to sort out how they feel?

"Grow up!"
Do you get tired or hungry or over stimulated and throw fits?
Do you yell and scream and stomp your feet?
Throw things?

"Act your age!"
Do you act less like an adult some times
and more like the child of your past
who didn't get their needs met?

"Stop that Right Now!"
Do you get into a project and ignore your children?
Do you ever just need a good cry?
(Imagine your child saying "Stop Crying Right NOW!")
Do you ever get really excited about something
and feel the need to jump up and down?
What about laughing so hard you just can't stop?

Getting back to the original questions, "Where does conflict begin?" Who actually creates the conflict? Most parents will point to the child. "My child won't do what I ask. He has a bad attitude." "My child needs to learn how to control her behavior." "My child can be very disrespectful."

Watch this interaction with me:
A mom is sitting in the shade watching her kids play at the beach. Her teenage daughter walks up and asks, "Mom, where's the sunscreen?"
The mom sighs loudly, "It's in the bag."
The daughter asks,"Where's the bag?"
The mom makes a face and points somewhere vaguely to her left, "It's over there."
The daughter is not sure where the bag is so she asks, "Will you get it for me?"
The mother snaps, "No! You can get it yourself."
The daughter still doesn't know where exactly the bag is and is feeling frustrated, a whining tone creeps into her voice, "But I don't know where it is."
The mom is clearly angry at the daughter now,"You need to stop it with the attitude!"
The daughter is upset, "Fine, I won't put on sunscreen."
To which her mom replies, "You can't go swimming without sunscreen."
Now it is the daughter's turn to sigh. The argument continues until the girl gives up and goes to search in the general direction of the bag with the sunscreen.

I didn't make this story up. The daughter wanted the sunscreen. That's a good thing, right? The mother was annoyed from the beginning of the interaction because of the inconvenience of having to answer a question. The girl was clearly uncomfortable wandering through a group of people trying to find the bag with the sunscreen. As soon as the girl was gone the mother smiled and started chatting with the woman next to her. It never crossed her mind that she could have gotten up, found the bag, offered to put sunscreen on her child and in the process connected with her teen daughter. Instead, the mother created the conflict, blamed it on the daughter, and they both ended up feeling irritated and unhappy. What a lovey day at the beach.

The next time there is conflict in your relationship with your child look at your body language. Are you open to conversation, are you willing to hear their perspective, are you showing them with your body that you want to hear what they have to say? What tone of voice are you using? Are you focusing on them and not your cell phone, or the computer, or another adult? Even if you are convinced that your child is the source of the conflict, ask yourself what you can do to connect with your child. What behavior on your part will help you both feel better in the situation? Who started the conflict is not nearly as important as finding a way to create connection. When we focus on finding solutions and meeting needs, instead of focusing on who is to blame, it becomes easier to find ways to connect with our children.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

...and my husband

Whenever I use the phrase "Nothing is more important to me than my relationship with my children" it feels incomplete. Nothing is more important to me than my relationship with my children and my husband. Some parents have to make a choice between their relationship with their children and their relationship with their spouse or partner, my heart hurts for them even as I'm thankful that is not true in my life. Perhaps I should say that nothing is more important to me than my relationship with my family. In my life that began with a commitment to an unborn child.

Our life, as a couple, has been a winding path (isn't everyone's?) and in our relationship we made a commitment to our children before we fully made a commitment to each other. We were at a point of transition in our relationship and in our individual lives. We were preparing to go our separate ways because our life paths seemed to be diverging when an unplanned pregnancy added a new set of variables to our choices. We chose to stay together to be parents. That decision set us on the path of spending the rest of our lives together. We had choices and this is the choice we made: we would stay together, to parent together, out of unconditional love for an unborn child. A bit backwards for most people, but we made a commitment to the family we would become, it was never just a commitment to each other and our relationship as a couple. Our commitment to each other grew out of the choice to be parents together. Through the challenges , the struggles, and even dark moments of desperation, we have always been able to count on each other because our relationship is rooted in our commitment to our family. Our respect for each other also grew from these roots. We both have scars from the past. Broken relationships, attachment and abandonment issues and personal pain that could easily have destroyed our marriage if we were not absolutely committed to our children and our family. We have supported each other through huge amounts of personal growth and here we are today in a much healthier place than either of us were more than a decade ago.

Our commitment to our family, our choice to parent together, lead us to a respectful partnership and unconditional love for each other. For me, this smoothed the transition to being a respectful partner in the lives of our children. Because, even though I would have always told you I loved my children unconditionally, and even though I made a conscious choice to be a parent, my evolution as a truly unconditional parent who lives in respectful partnership with her children has happened relatively recently.

Everyone has their own story, the pattern of their life before they had children, the relationship they have or don't have with the other biological parent of their children, the relationship they have with their partner or spouse if they have one, and their relationship with extended family.

If you had years together with your partner or spouse before you had children then your experience will be different from mine. If you were single well into adulthood before having children you had plenty of time to establish routines that may have shifted when you started sharing your life with another adult, and which were then were completely disrupted upon the arrival of your child or children. If you committed to a relationship with someone who was already a parent hopefully you made a commitment to their children, too. Usually adults make a commitment to their relationship with another adult and when children come into their lives, into the relationship, the adults may see this as secondary, or an infringement on, or an inconvenience to their relationship as a couple, even though they chose to be a parent.

Some times it is the parents who have had to wait the longest, who have over come the biggest barriers in order to have children, who seem then to struggle the most with how being a parent impacts their own life and their relationships with other adults. I think this can be particularly true for women who came of age in the 80's and 90's who were told they can and should have it all: a career, marriage, children, and plenty of time for themselves. These are messages I grew up with, too. I'm not saying you cannot or should not have it all. However, if you've spent at least 15 years of your adult life having "it all" except the children and then you choose to add children to the mix you need to expect that the transition to being an involved, connected, respectful partner in the life of your child is going to require a huge reevaluation of every priority you ever had. If you are at that point, if you are considering becoming a parent, are trying to find a more peaceful way to parent, or are trying to find a greater sense of balance in your life and relationships I have a phrase for you: Nothing is more important to me than my relationship with my family.

For me the commitment to being a parent lead me down the path to an amazing and wonderful relationship with my husband. For you it may be that your commitment to your relationship with your partner or spouse will lead you down the path to an amazing and wonderful relationship with your children. Either way, living by choice in a family with a foundation of unconditional love and respectful partnership is an amazing place to be.