The foundation beneath us

20180127-DSC_6882

20180127-DSC_6882

20180127-DSC_6882

20180127-DSC_6882

20180127-DSC_6882

I'm not sure where the time has gone. 

Didn't we just move here? 

I remember hauling boxes up the stairs, an eager ten- and six-year old by my side. I remember setting to work making a home here, finding our place here, settling in. Even now it feels as thought we've only just begun.

But suddenly and without warning my kids are growing up. 11 and 15, adulthood just beyond the horizon.

 

Eleven. Fifteen.

And time accelerates again.

 

Life feels fuller now, faster than ever – in the speed at which they grow; the pace at which we live; the natural and ever-growing separateness of our lives.

There are more trips to town, more reasons for spiraling outward into the world than ever before, more of a feeling of hurrying, doing, going.

And I am more grateful now than ever for the slow, quiet moments that we manage savor, while the rest of the world buzzes past. 

 

We mindfully slow ourselves, and gather. We sit by the fire, reading books or making art or playing cards. We mindfully slow, walking together to the creek in twos or threes or fours, depending on who is at home and who is off and away in the world.

We savor every morsel that we can of this delicious life between worlds, as we quietly but steadily move in a singular direction.

Which is to say: we continue to place layer after layer of foundation beneath our family, even as our lives continually shift.

 

In an instant they'll both be grown; off to pursue their own adventures. 

And we'll adapt again, and find a new rhythm and path for our own days.

"The only thing constant is change," my mom always told me. And how very right she is.

 

I'm not sure where I'm going with this except to acknowledge how quickly and invisibly these pages are turning.

And looking back, I'm grateful for every day that I found the time to connect with my kids when they were young. Not only for the sake of that moment of togetherness, but because that is the foundation upon which we now stand.  

And as I scramble once more to stock my toolkit for a new and unknown chapter of parenting, I am thankful for this firm foundation beneath our feet as we stumble through the darkness, toward these final chapters of childhood.

 

Together

 

 

 

Time

I've talked before about my bumpy, imperfect entrance into motherhood. I've shared with you my reflections on how fleeting this chapter of childhood truly is. 

But sometimes when we're standing in too close it can still be hard to see. 

So when our friends Kelly and Ray came out to reshoot our family photos for the LüSa Organics website, the side-by-side of these two sets of images took my breath away.

Especially when we realized that the first batch was taken only two years and a couple of months before the second. 

LusaFarm15-075 (1) 4.19.43 PM

LusaFarm15-075 (1) 4.19.43 PM

Two years. A blip. A blur!

And yet also a lifetime, during which Sage in particular transformed from little boy into young man. 

These images, caught at precisely the right moment (the first just before a major growth spurt and the latter just after) illuminated for me how very quickly these years unfold.

LusaFarm15-075 (1) 4.19.43 PM

LusaFarm15-075 (1) 4.19.43 PM

Because suddenly, here we stand.

I'm no longer the mother of young children.

The living room floor is free of toys, replaced instead by books and projects and research. The laundry is free of diapers, replaced by a another pair of jeans in the same size as Pete's and my own. The work of running a family – from caring for animals to cooking meals to laundry and dishes and housekeeping – no longer rests on the shoulders of adults alone, but is divide evenly among us. 

I am no longer the mother of young children. I am instead the mom of a young man and a young lady, both of them on the cusp of grown.

In an instant it happened. And here we stand. 

LusaFarm15-075 (1) 4.19.43 PM
And as I look into these eyes and these faces I am lost for words but awash with gratitude for the time we have invested in these hearts, these minds, and these relationships.

However imperfect my mothering journey has been, today I am thankful for each time I managed to chose connection instead correction. I'm glad for the times I made space to play, or made time to refill my own cup so I would have more patience tomorrow. I'm grateful for the moments when – after I blew it as a mother – I found the humble courage to apologize. I'm grateful for listening without judgement and for simply holding space. 

I am crazy about my kids, you guys. As my kids, yes, but mostly as people. They are bright and kind and interesting and passionate. It isn't always easy (what worthwhile thing is?) and there are days when we're all in over our heads. (Exhibit A: me, the past two days, blowing it again and again.) But my dominant take-away is that being a mother is the most difficult, rewarding, transformative job I have ever had. 

I feel so grateful to have been here to witness, however blurred, their constant transformation toward adulthood.

And today I'm surprised to discover that I carry more confidence about them than worry, perhaps for the first time. 

Because now more than ever I'm aware that it's not kids I am raising – it's adults I am gently attempting to shape.

 LusaFarm15-075 (1) 4.19.43 PM

Though my time as a mother of kids (actual kids) is fleeting indeed, I am doing my best to raise them to be relentless questioners; forces for justice; and authentically, unapologetically, joyfully themselves. 

It's the least I can do.

Because it is exactly what they have both done for me. 

Looking back

Fourteen years ago, when Sage was just one year old, we wrangled him into Pete's old leather jacket on the day after his birthday. We propped him up on our vintage purple couch and took a few photos (on film, of course), the mid-day light streaming in the western windows of our little hillside home.

I remember laughing as we tried in vain to stuff his little arms into the massive sleeves. There was no point even trying, so we wrapped the coat around his shoulders instead. He smiled away happily – no teeth yet, but lots of gums. 

20171022-DSC_0927

Looking back at that face, it's easy to remember our life then. What was hard, what was good, and all that had yet to come.

Each year the jacket photo tradition was repeated.

I remember details of our life in each picture: which house we lived in; if they were pre- or post-seizures; before or after our move to town; when our family of three became four. 

And like a metronome, this somewhat silly, somewhat sentimental tradition marks the rhythm of my motherhood, reminding me of the constant flow of time. That nothing lasts forever. 

What is hard in our life ever shifts, what is good continues to ebb and flow, and what had yet to come arrives slowly with each passing year. 

20171022-DSC_0929

20171022-DSC_0930

20171022-DSC_0931

20171022-DSC_0933

When Sage was small I would sing "Sweet Baby James" to him while he drifted off to sleep. Do you remember that line "with ten miles behind me, and ten thousand more to go"? (I always sang it with "us" instead of "me".) That line always hung in my mind. 

Because then it was true.

Today it is not. 

And this year (as if to prove the point) quite suddenly and surprising us all, the jacket fits.

Fifteen years have flown by, and that baby – the one who turned my life upside down and made me into a mother – is nearly grown.

20171020-DSC_0599

20171020-DSC_0572

I went to the basement this morning and pulled out the pictures from the first five years (pre-digital) and loaded the rest onto my screen. And as I look through those piles of dusty jacket photos, one per year for the past fifteen, the flood of memories come rushing in.

I'll be the first to admit that the baby years can be unreasonably, incomprehensibly hard. No, perhaps not for all parents or for all babies, but for many of us they are. For us it certainly was. 

No one warned us that it would be so hard, and we were thrown into it blind. Disoriented and exhausted I remember wondering, "Why?! Why did we do this?"

And why did no one tell us it would be so hard? 

Perhaps the why is this: they grow. They grow and they change and they amaze you and inspire you and fill your heart with the most indescribable mix of hope and fear all in one go.

And suddenly the person who stands before you has taught you more about yourself, about life, about love and trust and courage and patience than anyone else you have ever known.

And those gray, foggy, tear-streaked baby days? They fade. They stop hurting. They become nothing more than stories.

Maybe that's why no one warns you. Because everything that comes after shifts your perspective forever.

Or perhaps it's because they think that if you knew you might not have the courage to do it anyway. 

And the cost is worth the reward, a thousand fold.

What is hard in our life ever shifts, what is good continues to ebb and flow, and what had yet to come arrives slowly with each passing year.

20171020-DSC_0700

And it's not just my teen who's growing up before my eyes. My daughter is doing it, too. Nearly 11 now, she knows who she is better than I did at twice her age. Confident, bright, a shining light in the darkness.

And before we know it, this jacket, too, (made a lifetime ago for her mother's mother's mother) will fit.

And all too soon October will cease to bring with it our annual ice cream bribe and an afternoon spent marking time out in the yard.

20171020-DSC_0541

20171020-DSC_0530

So what can I say, mamas of little ones, except this: if the chapter you stand in is unbelievably hard, know that you do not stand in that pain alone. Do what you can to simply survive this day. Remember to eat, to drink water, and sleep when and if you possibly can. Find forgiveness and grace wherever you're able, and just make it through today if that's the best that you've got.

The dishes can wait. The laundry can wait. Everything but you and this baby can wait. 

You're not doing it wrong. It's just that sometimes it is unbelievably hard.

(And no, despite the constant questions you must field, babies aren't designed to sleep through the night. Tell them to stop asking.)

Find help where you can – in a neighbor, a partner, or a friend. You weren't meant to do this alone.

 

If it's not so hard for you right now then simply savor. Savor the taste of your coffee in the morning, the sun on the October hills, the respite of a hot bath, a long walk, or a good sleep.

But most of all savor these amazing people who picked you (flawed, imperfect, human you) to lead them along this path. 

And know that each day brings with it another chance for you to be amazed.  

20171020-DSC_0693

Parenting wasn't meant to be easy. But it was meant to change you in ways that you never imagined. 

 

When we grow up

When I was 15 a well-intentioned woman in a business suit told me, "Someday you'll grow up and have to get a real job and wear a suit." 

I laughed.

"Mark my words," I told her, "I will never have a job where I need to wear a suit."

She was unconvinced. I was not.

I forgot entirely about this conversation for a decade. And then, as a naturalist working at a field station (my very first job out of college), I stopped mid-stride on the trail, remembering. I was walking through the woods, so happy, so grateful, listening to a pileated woodpecker weaving through the branches overhead. The sun was streaming through the trees. I was at work! In the woods! This was my life.

And standing there in my t-shirt, blue jeans, and hiking boots, I remembered her words. "Someday you'll grow up and have to get a real job and wear a suit." 

Or, maybe not.

What if instead we gave our kids the message that whatever it is they love can be a central part of their world - yes, even in adulthood? What if we encouraged them to find their passions and discover their joy now, instead of arriving in adulthood lost and wondering what makes their soul sing?

I thought of her comment again yesterday, as I sat in knee-high muck boots beside a campfire on a Wednesday morning. (I was here on Monday, too, possibly wearing the same clothes.)

I am a homeschooling parent, a writer, a photographer, a teacher, and a small business owner of 15 years. And still – no suit. 

I think of her comment and how my own kids would feel as they move steadily toward adulthood to get the message that "someday you'll need to suck it up and live that life you don't want to because that's what growing up means." 

But does it? 

What if instead we gave our kids the message that whatever it is they love can be a central part of their world – yes, even in adulthood? What if we encouraged them to find their passions and discover their joy now, instead of arriving in adulthood lost and wondering what makes their soul sing?

I think that message would fall on hungry, welcoming hearts.

All that I wanted at 15 (or 9, or 40) was to be a photographer. And now I take pictures everyday. That was my singular dream from 4th grade onward, and now it is a part of my daily joy. 

Am I the exception or the rule?

And if I am the exception, why?

What if instead we gave our kids the message that whatever it is they love can be a central part of their world - yes, even in adulthood? What if we encouraged them to find their passions and discover their joy now, instead of arriving in adulthood lost and wondering what makes their soul sing?

I hope my kids land on the same side that I have – knowing and living their joy.

And so yesterday, instead of talking about suits or futures or jobs they won't love, my kids and I headed back to the woods.

Like everyday this week.

Because October and childhood only lasts so long.

What if instead we gave our kids the message that whatever it is they love can be a central part of their world - yes, even in adulthood? What if we encouraged them to find their passions and discover their joy now, instead of arriving in adulthood lost and wondering what makes their soul sing?

What if instead we gave our kids the message that whatever it is they love can be a central part of their world - yes, even in adulthood? What if we encouraged them to find their passions and discover their joy now, instead of arriving in adulthood lost and wondering what makes their soul sing?

What if instead we gave our kids the message that whatever it is they love can be a central part of their world - yes, even in adulthood? What if we encouraged them to find their passions and discover their joy now, instead of arriving in adulthood lost and wondering what makes their soul sing?

What if instead we gave our kids the message that whatever it is they love can be a central part of their world - yes, even in adulthood? What if we encouraged them to find their passions and discover their joy now, instead of arriving in adulthood lost and wondering what makes their soul sing?

The first thing my kids do when we get into the woods is take off their shoes. They stalk quietly barefoot through the leaves, they listen, they are still.

They are building forts right now, one dug into the cool forest floor and the other woven of invasive honeysuckle we have cleared. I pull garlic mustard and listen to woodpeckers in the branches above us while they work.

On this day we built a campfire, then began carving spoons from a freshly felled hickory. It was delightful and if we had brought lunch I doubt we would have headed home before dinnertime. Sure, back home there were other lessons and tasks to attend to, but for the morning anyway, nothing was more important than this.

What if instead we gave our kids the message that whatever it is they love can be a central part of their world - yes, even in adulthood? What if we encouraged them to find their passions and discover their joy now, instead of arriving in adulthood lost and wondering what makes their soul sing?

What if instead we gave our kids the message that whatever it is they love can be a central part of their world - yes, even in adulthood? What if we encouraged them to find their passions and discover their joy now, instead of arriving in adulthood lost and wondering what makes their soul sing?

20171018-DSC_0266

What if instead we gave our kids the message that whatever it is they love can be a central part of their world - yes, even in adulthood? What if we encouraged them to find their passions and discover their joy now, instead of arriving in adulthood lost and wondering what makes their soul sing?

What if instead we gave our kids the message that whatever it is they love can be a central part of their world - yes, even in adulthood? What if we encouraged them to find their passions and discover their joy now, instead of arriving in adulthood lost and wondering what makes their soul sing?

What if instead we gave our kids the message that whatever it is they love can be a central part of their world - yes, even in adulthood? What if we encouraged them to find their passions and discover their joy now, instead of arriving in adulthood lost and wondering what makes their soul sing?

What if instead we gave our kids the message that whatever it is they love can be a central part of their world - yes, even in adulthood? What if we encouraged them to find their passions and discover their joy now, instead of arriving in adulthood lost and wondering what makes their soul sing?

Barefoot, dirty, and smelling of woodsmoke, they learn. They discover and explore things that they love. They learn to value silence, stillness, and nature. They ground themselves in the quiet wonder of the woods.

And me right along with them.

Will my kids grow up someday, put on shoes, buy suits, and go to work?

Perhaps.

But only if it is the thing that speaks to their hearts with the clearest song. Because if I have done my work properly, they will both grow up knowing the value of hard work, yes, but also the value of people and feelings and forests and joy, and of following their own path – not the one they are told to take.

 

I may have earned more dollars in a business suit, but at what cost to my heart?

Because life, I believe, is about so much more than just paychecks. 

 

Fifteen

IMG_6273

Yesterday, in the mellowest of ways, my favorite teenager quietly completed his 15th trip around the sun. Fifteen!

Those fifteen years have changed everything.

It's all happening so quickly, these childhoods. And I'm left standing here watching both of these kids grow up before my eyes, with my heart twice the size it was before they came, and my life forever transformed for walking this path by their sides. 

Screen Shot 2017-08-31 at 12.28.37 PM

What changes us more than motherhood; more than parenting?

Nothing I've ever done. This is the path that has shaped me.

And year by year, they grow and they spiral ever so slowly out of my arms and into a life of their own. What an honor it is to witness. What an honor it is to mother these two along their journey toward grown.

To open my arms and whisper, "Fly!" as they take those first steps toward fledging, even as half of me wished to hold on for just a moment more.

6a010535f3a090970c015434ffdbda970c (1)

To stand beside them, seeing all that they are capable of; all that they already are without caving to worry for who they will become.

As parents sometimes we get caught up in our heads; in our worries for what comes next. And we lose sight of the moment unfolding before us. But I propose that childhood is not about a simple transition or training ground for "who they will be when they grow up". It's about who they already are, complete at every step of their journey.

Complete; enough; learning and growing their way through today. Just as they always have been. And, I suppose, just as we are as well. 

And how honored I am to be here to witness the ordinary miracles of their childhoods and their growing up.

IMG_6301

Happy birthday, Sage. You are a wonder, and I am grateful every day for the lessons that you came here to share. You have changed me in ways I never anticipated.

And for that I am so glad.

Happy birthday.

Love,
Mama

 

And with that? Ireland is waiting. See you on the other side of the pond, my friends! 

Love BIG

Love Big

Hey, parents. Here's some unsolicited advice. (I know. Just what you wanted. But stick with me for a minute and I'll make it worth your while.) 

Enjoy you kids. Love them like mad. Accept them completely. Laugh until you can hardly breathe and have pillow fights with them and bake cookies at bedtime together. 

Do everything you can to connect with your kids right now.

Not when they're older or easier or when life is more fill-in-the-blank-here.

Do it today.

Because today is all we've got. 

No, life won't ever be perfect, but when your foundation is that of mutual respect and appreciation it's hard to veer too far off course.

 

* I wrote this last night and seriously within an hour there was drama over here. And yet. AND YET. With this solid base of We Truly Like Each Other to stand upon, the smoke soon cleared and everyone felt heard, honored, and held. 

No, liking your kids doesn't mean they won't drive you batty. They will. (And you – them.) But this baseline of respect and friendship helps you all come back to center in a hurry when things fall apart. Which they will.

Often.

Love big.

Love big

And never apologize for being friends with your kids or for enjoying their company, you guys. Because that's like apologizing for having a beautiful harvest of tomatoes from your garden! ("Look at these beautiful vegetables we grew! I'm sorry.") 

Why waste time apologizing when you could be savoring that bounty?

Just love big, friends. That's all you need to do. Love. Big.

P.S. I'm pretty sure both sets of pictures above were taken approximately eight minutes apart. And in the three minutes that have elapsed since the second ones was taken my kids have each grown a foot.

Seriously. It's like that.

 

Originally posted in 2016; but feeling it now more than ever.

Peacefully parenting your teen

Ten ways to peacefully parent your teenager | Clean. www.lusaorganics.typepad.com

When learning the ropes of parenting babies, toddlers, or young children advice abounds.

I feel fortunate enough to have stumbled into the attachment parenting and peaceful parenting communities when my kids were still small. It was from these wells of information that I was able to draw out ideas and strategies that worked for our family.

But what happens when our kids become teenagers?

Many of us may be left feeling like we need some new parenting tools. And – unfortunately – resources for gently parenting our teens is scarce.

The only words on parenting teenagers that regularially pop up in my social media feed read something like this:

“I’m your parent, not your friend. I will stalk you, flip out on you, lecture you, drive you insane, be your worst nightmare, and hunt you down when needed – because I love you.”

And I do understand where this sentiment is coming from.

It’s our inner mama bear, protecting our cubs the only way we know how. It’s our instinct. We are here to keep our children safe, even when things get ugly. Even if we’re protecting them from themselves.

I think they call that “tough love”.

Ten ways to peacefully parent your teenager | Clean. www.lusaorganics.typepad.com

If so, let’s call another option “gentle love”.

My meme (if I made one) would read more like this:

“I am your parent and I am also your friend. I will listen to you, respect you, encourage you, empower you, accept you, and be your safe place in a confusing world. Because I love you. Unconditionally.”

As we teeter on the brink of teendom over here I have been reflecting on what has changed since we began this journey some thirteen years ago. (And surprisingly, how very much has stayed the same.)

If anything I feel us circling back to the beginning once more.

Emotions are tender and riding close to the surface again, and I am reminded that my job is not to control my child’s expression but control my reaction to it.

And also – importantly – to lead with consistent, unwavering, unconditional love.

Ten ways to peacefully parent your teenager | Clean. www.lusaorganics.typepad.com

Do you remember how you held space for your toddler, gently guiding them as the ventured out into the world for the first time? It turns out 13 and 3 have more in common than you might expect.

  • When your child was small you stayed close enough for them to know you were there, but not so close as to limit their opportunity to explore and learn.
  • When your child was small you gave them a confident, reassuring look when they pushed themselves, tackling new skills or facing their fears. That look said to your little one, “I believe in you and I’m right here. You’ve got this.”
  • When your child was small you let them struggle and work to master a goal. You let them stumble and fall, then get up and try again. You let them succeed by the power of their own efforts.
  • When your child was small held them close when they were afraid and gave them space when they needed to go it alone.
  • When your child was small you let them know you were here for them – any hour of the day or night.

And at the same time you also knew that there would be days when s**t was going to get real.

You knew that your child was learning and growing and that her life was changing so quickly that she wouldn’t always be able to hold it together.

You knew that she was sometimes overwhelmed by the world, by her smallness, and by the dizzying ride of growing up.

The teen years? They’re like this, too. And then some.

Ten ways to peacefully parent your teenager | Clean. www.lusaorganics.typepad.com

And just like when she was small your child still needs you by her side – gently and lovingly guiding her through.

As I look ahead to the coming decade-plus of parenting teens before me, I wrote down this list.

Ten ideas to remind me that peaceful parenting has no expiration date.

Ten reminders to parent as lovingly, gently, and effectively as I can while my child navigates these muddy waters between young child and confident adult.

Does every parenting strategy work for every family? Of course not. But this is my starting place as our teen years unfold.

If I re-write this post ten years from now there will certainly be points to add. But I can’t imagine any of the ideas here being tossed aside.

Ten ways to peacefully parent your teenager | Clean. www.lusaorganics.typepad.com

I think if I asked my children what they needed and they could find the words, this is what they would say.

Ten Ways to Peacefully Parent your Teenager

1. Respect me.

How you speak to me today will become my inner voice tomorrow.

And as much as you need me to respect you (something I struggle with a lot these days), I need you to show me that I also deserve respect. Even when I screw up.

Because your respect of me translates into the self respect I will carry with me into adulthood.

Help me see that I am worthy of it.

See me as a person who deserves as much respect as you easily give adults.

And when I disrespect you, remind me of how I can do better. Remind me by showing me – by giving me – the respect I so deeply crave.

2. Empower me.

I need to make a real, meaningful contribution. Because I’m old enough to notice if my efforts don’t matter and those feeling are reflected in my self-worth.

So give me work to do. Yes, I will grumble, but I’ll stand taller when I see what I am capable of. And I’m capable of so much more than you may think.

Empower me also by handing over decisions to me. Decisions about my life, my future, my choices.

Help me find my power.

3. Just listen.

You have a lot you want to tell me. A lot you want me to understand.

But mostly I just need you to listen.

Listen without judgement to my fears, my feelings, my stories, and to the things I can’t bring myself to say. Your presence tells me that you care and that you’re here for me – always.

And when you listen to the everyday stuff I know you’re also here to listen to the big, scary, hard-to-talk-about stuff.

4. Love me unconditionally.

There are times when I will act in a way that makes me seem unworthy of your love.

Love me anyway.

I need that message more than anything.

And if you seem like you want to spend time with me, all the better! Knowing that you love me and you like me would be a huge win right now. (Even if I don’t tell you.)

Because right now I’m pushing limits in all directions. Stay clear on the truth that even when I screw up I am still worthy of your love. I need to know this now more than ever before.

5. Trust me.

Your trust in me is a strong and powerful message. When you show me trust I learn to trust myself. My inner voice. My heart.

That means I’ll make good choices. Better choices. And I’ll also gain confidence. (Which I very much need right now.)

Acknowledge how I’ve earned your trust whenever you can. I need to hear those words from you.

Ten ways to peacefully parent your teenager | Clean. www.lusaorganics.typepad.com

6. Connect when you could correct.

Yeah, I screwed up. (I bet you did when you were young, too.)

But when you punish me or shame me or put me down – when you focus only on how I messed up and let your down again – I only learn how to hide my mistakes from you. The next time I stumble I’ll make sure you don’t know.

The truth is, I don’t need more correction right now. What I need more connection.

Validate my journey and help me see that I’m going to be okay. Hold this space with me. Make time for me. Laugh and talk and be with me.

I need you.

7. Tell me what I’m doing right.

My life is full of messages of what I’m doing wrong these days. From grades or friends to self-image and dating, I know well where I fall short.

Instead of focusing more on my flaws, I could use a little help with seeing my strengths right now.

I could really use the message that despite all the ways things are falling apart there are still places where I shine.

Help me see to see my own light.

8. Encourage me.

My dreams and yours won’t look the same. They’re not supposed to.

Even if you think my dreams or passions are impractical or foolish or crazy, feed my fire. Please.

Encourage me. The world provides enough discouragement without you adding to the mix.

I’m trying on adulthood and wondering where life can take me. I need you on my side, cheering me on.

Ten ways to peacefully parent your teenager | Clean. www.lusaorganics.typepad.com

9. Accept me.

Despite our differences, I need to know that you accept me. All of me. The way I dress, the people I like, the music I enjoy, my vision for the future – everything.

Being a teenager is hard enough without feeling like I’m being judged at home. Find reasons to love who I am, even when it’s not what you were expecting.

Acceptance matters to me. So, so much.

10. Be my safe-place.

The world has enough bullies without me finding one at home.

I need our home to be a safe place.

So let me express my feelings – as big or uncomfortable as they may be. Let me be vulnerable, angry, afraid, and confused with you. Let me stumble and fall and get up again as you offer me your hand. Just like you did when I was small.

Be my safe place and my anchor in these stormy emotional seas.

Ten ways to peacefully parent your teenager | Clean. www.lusaorganics.typepad.com

With these ten points to guide us we can stay close to our teens and be available for them during this time of their great unfolding.

It may be messy, it may be emotional, but they’ll know they can count us us to keep loving them, liking them, and being the arms they can fall into when everything falls apart.

: : :

You might also enjoy my More Peaceful Parenting series. While I wrote it for young children, I’m finding it still applies as we move into the teen years.

I’d love to hear what you would add to the list! Especially those who have already navigated the teen years and stayed deeply connected through it all.

Ten ways to peacefully parent your teenager | Clean. www.lusaorganics.typepad.com

Originally posted in 2015.

Parent like someone is watching

Five words that could change everything: Parent like someone is watching. | Clean

You know the saying, "dance like nobody's watching"?

I have my own version.

Okay It's totally different.

But it's still worth remembering.

Mine conjurs an image that's a little less Woodstock and a little more Mr. Rogers.

It's one that I can lean on in my hardest days.

"Parent like someone is watching."

When things get real – like they so often do – just pretend you are not alone.

Simple, yes.

But more powerful than you might think.

Imagine that in the room with you is someone you respect.

Not anyone who would ever judge you, but someone who's attitude, opinion, and parenting is an inspiration.

Someone who helps you tap into your own patience and compassion.

Whether fictional or real, imagine them at the edge of the room.

Your sister. A friend. Or heck, Mr. Rogers himself.

Then parent like they're watching.

And watch as you find a hidden well of patience and kindness that you didn't even know was there.

Five words that could change everything: Parent like someone is watching. | Clean

Because here's the thing.

When I'm around like-minded friends or even strangers I can rock this.

I'm on my game.

I don't act like a bully or cave to constant distraction.

And when things go haywire I rise when I could dive.

Just knowing others are there gives me the strength I need to draw on.

I suppose that is community – in one form or another.

It's connection.

Support.

And yes, accountability.

To see ourselves more clearly through the eyes of another.

To feel like we are not alone.

 

The truth is, you are not alone.

We are all walking our own paths, but they are parallel.

We're each there doing our own work, just out of each other's line of sight.

And we have up days and down days.

Magical days and disasters.

We all struggle sometimes.

With patience.

Kindness.

Or presence.

Today I was briefly a jerk to my kids.

They both needed compassion and I was shorter and less tender than I could have been.

And then I realized that I might have acted differently if someone was watching.

Not because anyone else matters more than my child, but because I would have been more self-aware.

It was awakening.

Because my kids are more important than that.

And yours are, too.

Five words that could change everything: Parent like someone is watching. | Clean

 So today – wherever you are and whatever goes down – parent like someone is watching.

Someone you adore, respect, and love.

Someone who matters more than anything.

Parent like someone is watching.

Because someone is.

Yes. Of course.

Someone is.

Parent like your child is watching.

Because indeed. And of course.

They are.

 

Love,

Rachel

 

Originally posted in 2014.

On the cusp of grown

Perhaps if I had kept having babies I wouldn't be so bittersweetly aware of how you have grown. 

Distracted with little ones, I might not notice how your body moves through space differently these days, how you nearly match me in height and strength and size.

But I'm certain that I would.

DSC_1179 

Perhaps if you went to school this transition into bigness would be more subtle.

Apart each day, I might not notice you exploring the edges where childhood and adulthood mingle. 

But I'm sure that with more time apart that awareness would only be stronger.

 

Or perhaps if I were more distracted with work and life it would be easier to miss this unfolding.

And I might not ache so deeply as I bear witness to your growing up. 

But with more time in different worlds I'd surely find even more reasons to grieve.

 

But grief is the wrong word, really. Isn't it? Because it's not grief at all at the heart of this longing. It is love that we find at it's core.

A love that I never knew existed until I became a mother those fourteen years ago. It changed me in ways I never expected. And for that I am always grateful.

It is a love that transformed me from woman into mother. A love so immense it's almost disorienting. A love that tears us down, then rebuilds us again with a new sense purpose, of our power to change the world, and a radically different sense of self. 

So mostly what I feel as I watch you become is love. So much love that my heart could burst, as I stand by watching the years spiral around us as you transform before my eyes.

And suddenly, today, you are fourteen.

DSC_1181

So I will whisper a prayer that you linger a moment longer in this slow childhood of yours; the only childhood you have ever known. There's never been a reason for you to rush, and for that I am so grateful. I watch as you stand with one foot in each world, part boy and part man.

Linger here. 

And as you do I will continue doing the only thing I've ever really know how to do as a mother: love you, enjoy you, marvel at who you've become, savor the moments we still get to share.

And continue to be thankful for walking beside you along this beautiful path toward adulthood.

DSC_1220 

Happy Birthday, Sage. I'm honored and humbled to have you call me your mama. 

You have taught me more than you may ever know. 

 

Love,
Mama

 

Love big

Love Big

Hey, parents. Here's some unsolicited advice. (I know. Just what you wanted. But stick with me for a minute and I'll make it worth your while.) 

Enjoy you kids. Love them like mad. Accept them completely. Laugh until you can hardly breathe and have pillow fights with them and bake cookies at bedtime together. 

Do everything you can to connect with your kids right now.

Not when they're older or easier or when life is more fill-in-the-blank-here.

Do it today. Because today is all we've got. 

No, life won't ever be perfect, but when your foundation is that of mutual respect and appreciation it's hard to veer too far off course.

I wrote this last night and seriously within an hour there was drama over here. And yet. AND YET. With this solid base of We Truly Like Each Other to stand upon, the smoke soon cleared and everyone felt heard, honored, and held. 

No, liking your kids doesn't mean they won't drive you batty. They will. (And you – them.) But this baseline of respect and friendship helps you all come back to center in a hurry when things fall apart. Which they will. Often.

Love big.

Love big

And never apologize for being friends with your kids or for enjoying their company, you guys. Because that's like apologizing for having a beautiful harvest of tomatoes from your garden! ("Look at these beautiful vegetables we grew! I'm sorry.") 

Why waste time apologizing when you could be savoring that bounty?

Just love big, friends. That's all you need to do. Love. Big.

 

P.S. I'm pretty sure both sets of pictures above were taken approximately eight minutes apart. Seriously. It's like that.