My daughters


Loved this song in 1970 when my daughter Lilla was two, and I love it now as my daughter Gracelyn is about to turn five. “Teach Your Children Well” by Crosby, Still, Nash and Young

You, who are on the road must have a code that you can live by.
And so become yourself because the past is just a good bye.
Teach your children well, their father’s hell did slowly go by,
And feed them on your dreams, the one they fix, the one you’ll know by.
Don’t you ever ask them why, if they told you, you would cry,
So just look at them and sigh and know they love you.

And you, of the tender years can’t know the fears that your elders grew by,
And so please help them with your youth, they seek the truth before they can die.
Teach your parents well, their children’s hell will slowly go by,
And feed them on your dreams, the one they fix,the one you’ll know by.
Don’t you ever ask them why, if they told you, you would cry,
So just look at them and sigh and know they love you.

“What is your purpose in life?” the guardian of the gate at the men’s retreat demanded.
“To work toward a more compassionate, just and sustainable world,” I immediately replied.
“You may enter!”

I guess I’ve known why I’m on this planet for 15 years or so,
And at first I organized workshops that encouraged folks to wake up,
To get off automatic pilot,
To live and love more fully.

Later I took to writing,
Hundreds of op-eds for a variety of publications,
On peace, simple living, climate change, treating our children well, the connection between us all,
Taking a few potshots at George Bush and his pals in the process.

Next I endeavored to shift the course of our nation by working for worthy candidates,
As a field organizer for Obama in Ohio in’08,
As a campaign adviser for Cecil Bothwell’s victorious campaign for the Asheville City Council in ’09,
And as the communications director for Patsy Keever’s successful race for the North Carolina State House in ’10.

And now on the final day of 2010,
I sit down to reflect on how I’ll help bring about,
Compassion, justice and sustainability in the coming year.

I call out to Life: “I am your instrument; I am ready; show me the way.”
And when I get no response, the relentless planner in my head jumps into overdrive,
Maybe I should complete my book on happiness . . . or my essay on gay rights,
Or I maybe I should go to work in the 2011 city council campaign . . . or the 2012 presidential race.

But Life finally answers my plea with the joyful giggle of a 16-week-old baby girl.
And immediately I understand,
This is my mission, my purpose in life:
To honor the sacred responsibility of consciously parenting this lovely, loving, loveable child,
To love Gracelyn unconditionally,
To trust my intuition,
To allow her her independence,
To be fully present with her . . . moment by moment by moment.

With Shonnie, to create safe, secure, loving, fun, enlivening space,
In which Gracelyn is empowered to grow into exactly who she is intended to be.

Thus we three begin our 18-year meditation retreat . . .BabyG14
And I follow my breath as I change Gracelyn’s diaper,
I buckle her into her car seat, and I breathe,
I gaze into her brilliant blue eyes . . . and I breathe.
As she cries and I wonder what to do . . . again, I breathe.

And something imperceptibly shifts . . .
Within Gracelyn, within me, within the universe,
And nothing will ever be the same again.

December 31, 2010

Our parenting choices have been made with discernment and purposefulness with the intention that Gracelyn remain authentic, powerful, creative, self-sufficient, grounded, happy, healthy and whole.

  • We practice the Golden Rule with Gracelyn: We treat her exactly as we would want to be treated if we were her age.
  • We express our love for Gracelyn frequently, openly and unconditionally.
  • We believe that love, compassion, creativity and authenticity are innate qualities, among others, with which Gracelyn was born. We can merely provide a safe, nurturing space in which she retains these qualities.Family
  • Gracelyn always makes her own decisions about whether she wants to be hugged, picked up or touched in any manner. The only exception would be an action necessary to protect her or others from harm.
  • Gracelyn is a sovereign being and is involved in almost all aspects of our daily life, including decision-making, conversations, conflict resolution, meal preparation, daily chores, etc.
  • Gracelyn does as much for herself as possible, including dressing herself, using the toilet, doing simple chores and cleaning up after herself.
  • Gracelyn is an adventurous explorer with excellent body consciousness who runs, climbs and jumps with great enthusiasm. So that she retains her strong sense of competence and independence, we do not use language such as “Be careful,” “Look out” or “Watch your step.”
  • We provide healthy, mostly-organic, unprocessed, sugar-free, tasty food for Gracelyn, and she decides what and how much she eats.
  • We communicate with Gracelyn honestly and directly as a fellow human being.
  • We use our normal tone of voice and vocabulary with Gracelyn. If she doesn’t know what a word means, she will typically ask.
  • We speak directly to Gracelyn when she is present, rather than about her.
  • We listen to Gracelyn when she speaks, and treat her wants and needs respectfully.
  • When Gracelyn makes a request, we endeavor to say “yes” unless there is a good reason not to. However, we don’t refrain from saying “no” when appropriate.
  • If Gracelyn makes a demand, we typically ask her if she could make it a request. If she speaks to us in a voice we consider disrespectful, we use a neutral tone to tell her that we don’t wish to be spoken to in that manner.
  • Gracelyn is given the daily opportunity to express her gratitude, however, she only says “please,” “thank you,” etc. when she is genuinely moved to do so, not when she is asked to do so or as an automatic response.
  • We avoid adult topics when Gracelyn is present, including such things as war, violent crimes, pestilence, etc., whether in conversation, on radio programs or on TV.
  • We encourage Gracelyn to use anatomically correct words for body parts–vulva, vagina, anus, etc.
  • We give Gracelyn the space to unreservedly express a full range of emotions–from love and connection to anger and frustration–as long as she is not harming herself, others or important material objects.
  • When she Gracelyn is upset, we merely sit with her, acknowledge her upset and empathize with her until it passes.
  • We do not ignore Gracelyn’s upsets, endeavor in any way to end them or try to “fix” it for her.
  • When issues arise with Gracelyn, we endeavor to work them out with her as we would with any other person.
  • We do not hit, spank, slap, handle Gracelyn roughly or hold her against her will.
  • We do not use timeouts, withholding of treats, withholding love or any other negative means of discipline with Gracelyn.
  • We do not use shaming, blaming or wrong-making language with Gracelyn. In addition, we do not yell or speak harshly to her or say anything that might harm or hinder her in any way.
  • We refrain from using positive reinforcement to obtain the behaviors we might desire with Gracelyn.
  • Gracelyn is typically generous with others, however it’s always her choice regarding whether she wants to share with someone else or not.
  • Should differences or conflict arise between Gracelyn and other children, we allow them to work it out.
  • On her birthday and at Christmas, we prefer to gift Gracelyn with a few simple gifts that are meaningful to her and, perhaps, have an educational component. Books are always a good choice as are hand-made gifts. We avoid commercialized gifts (licensed characters or commercial logos) for the most part.
  • We practice forgiveness with Gracelyn, apologizing for any mistakes we might make and forgiving her when needed.

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Postscript: Many of us have unfulfilled dreams and visions, and if we are not conscious of these aspirations, we may pass them on to our kids in the vain hope that they might live out our forsaken dreams for us. On the other hand, we may just want what we consider best for our child. Yet what we consider best might not be. Each child who enters the world is unique, each with her own special gift. Our job is to love and respect them unconditionally just as they are, open the door to as many opportunities for growth and awareness as possible, then let them spread their wings and fly. We don’t have to tell them what to do or how to be; they already know much better than we.

We didn’t tell her what to think,
Or any rules to follow.10-9-14 035

We didn’t tell her what to feel,
Or how to anger swallow.

We couldn’t teach her to be real,
And not to feign emotion.

We wouldn’t tell her how life is,
We let go of that notion.

But in the end we knew that she,
Would get just what she needed.

By loving her right here, right now,
This moment . . . then repeat it.

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