Ode to my second born

I am not even sure how it happened that we could be days away from your eleventh birthday. It seems like just the other day that you shot out into the world like a cannonball, as the story goes and completed our family of four. I have so much to say and still wonder if the words will ever capture just how much you are in the world.

You my second born have taught me much about love. The first time I argued with you about how I was certain I loved you more you set me straight, “mom all the love you give me I take it and make it bigger, that’s Kinny love.” You remind me of this when I slip up and think I could possibly love you more then that magnifying heart of love you were gifted with. It’s a reminder, to me, that we all arrive with the ability to make the love we receive bigger if we can just remember to keep our hearts open.

I see your determination to learn in the way that works with a brain designed only for you. That day in the park, when you looked to the seat on my bike and saw the world DEMO explaining to me that it was “the first letter of dad, the last letter of the and the first two letters of mom.” You did not know the names of the letters yet there you were reading, right in front of me. A testament to the fact that each one of us learns in our own way and the best thing I can do is walk alongside you as your partner in wonderment.

And your frustration at being called a girl, for many ages and stages. When I stopped to listen I heard it had nothing to do with any preference for either gender. But was pure outrage at a world that thought they could know something more about your gender than you did. A world that thinks with one single glance they can put a person into a category based solely on appearance.  This has been an important lesson to me. To meet people eye to eye with our shared humanity, free of the screens placed on my eyelids by a media crazy world that judges first and listens later.

Your brain wanting to pull apart each and everything you encounter to understand it from the inside out, challenges me. It challenges me because long ago I forgot it was okay to be curious and not to know things. To be the one holding less information. This is how we buttheads so fiercely now as you demand accuracy in my language and surpass me in knowledge. I hope you continue to pound head to head with any person who doubts what you know to be a truth. This sort of self knowing puts me in total awe of you so confidently in the world.

I could likely write a short novel of things that you have taught me both large and small. I will pause here though and bow the deepest bow of gratitude to you for the chance to be your mother, your partner, your loudest cheerleader, one of your closest allies and a dear friend. May this next year of your life be just as bold and adventurous as the last ten.



It’s about the love

My father was sixty years old when he changed churches. Shortly after this his new church was discussing whether or not they would perform same sex marriage ceremonies. My dad arrived with his argument in hand. “Marriage is a sacrament.”

“Not in this church Rick.”

About a week later, during Sunday service, the entire sermon was on why they would indeed welcome all marriage into the church. My dad came home and called me in tears (a rare thing for my pops) and said “It’s about love Shannon, how could I have ever been against anything that was about love.”

This is one of my favorite stories about my dad. People who know me have heard this story likely more than once. Because it gives me hope. That folks who are stuck in one place of their understanding can shift to seeing that all we are talking about is people loving each other. And honestly, looking around the world right now, it’s clear we need a whole LOT more love.

And that is why I write here. I write to inspire folks to love their children, even more, without conditions, or punishments or anything that doesn’t feel like love. Because I believe in the deepest places of who I am, that love matters most. That loving our children from a place of respect, raises allies for all the other human beings they will bump into in life.

That loving our children just as they are gives them the gift of an open heart that will be kind and accepting as they step out into the world away from us.  That it will build a large foundation of courage and belonging that will allow each and every child to be confident in the person they are, all the pieces of who they are. So they will know, long before they are sixty, that really it’s all about LOVE.

Love as an action




It’s almost 11:00 am here and I just got a peak of my sleeping ten year old. He opened one eye half way and caught me pulling the covers on to his body and gave me a sleepy smile. My heart melted. I am so in love my kids.

I know I spend a large portion of my time here talking about how much I love my children. But I am still swept away by the moments where they truly catch my breath. And waves of gratitude wash me over. I get to be their mom.

I love covering them up when they look cold. I adore seeing them stumble half asleep out into the waking world. I live for the moments when one of their hands slips into mine as we wander about the world together. I’m honored in the moments they open their hearts and tell me what the world is like to be in from their insides out. And I treasure the moments I can show up with something in hand that tumbles gratitude straight out of their hearts and into mine.

It can be easy in day to day life to loose sight of the honor it is to be a parent. I like to not everyone gets the chance to have a child and not every gets to see their precious children live to the adult years.  So go ahead and be fully in LOVE with your child. I mean the action of love not the feeling.

Here’s a few samples. Squeal with delight when they walk in the room, like you might when you see a lover for the first time after months apart. Pack a picnic and head out to lay under the stars for as long as they’ll stay. Grab their hand and skip a little just cause. Pull up a chair (and maybe a controller) and play that game they’ve been immersed in for all those hours. Sing their praises, when they are just in earshot, as you might when telling family members why you’ve fallen head over heals in love with a particular person. Take a few extra moments to linger at their doorway to catch the smile that starts in the corner of their eyes. Shower them with the sorts of gifts you might someone you were hoping to impress, with a heart stamp.

This childhood of their’s is gonna pass at warp speed. And I have it on high authority that when old age is knocking you back in to your seat, what’s going to hold you up are the memories of these right now moments with your children.

I’m a mother not a martyr

I do my best to be aware of my reactions to keep them coming from a place of  connection and love but when life throws down a long string of stressful events I can get off my game and revert to patterns learned I’ve long let go of. Many of my examples fall around food prep and house keeping. Storming around deep in martyrdom proclaiming we would be over run by nasty disease and rodents if it weren’t for my efforts to keep this place slightly above pig stye. Or snapping at the child who gently reminds me that he prefers the meat on top and cheese underneath when preparing his favorite snack.

When I hear these words spilling out of my mouth, I know it’s time to check myself. Likely, I need to take a nap or a walk or a deep deep breath. But on the wider front I need to turn around and reframe the language that is running my internal dialogue. My beautiful friend Renee Cabatic gave a talk at a recent conference all about language and how the words we are using can shape our experience. It was a great refresher for me. Especially in my meltdown moments.

It is TRUE that I do NOT HAVE to do ALL the cleaning. Dishes piling in the kitchen are not killing or harming anyone. And if left there will eventually get clean. By someone how chooses to head in there and make space for a meal they’d like to make. Or by a well meaning child who remembers in the back of their mind how much their mom loves the dishwasher to be unloaded and simply does it to surprise her (true story and yes I did cry). So I change the story in my head, the ranting and raving one to remind me, I am choosing to provide a safe space for my family to grow and explore in. Oh and that a lot of the time that looks like total chaos. Refer to this post for more on that.

Wider though than how the language I am choosing impacts my experience, is how this reflects on my children. If I am storming around the house complaining about having to pick up clothing, make meals, tend to the day to day ness of life, on some level I am sending my children the message that they are in my way. They are troublesome, messy, needy etc. While simultaneously setting the tone for the inner voice that is likely to chatter away at them for years to come. When that reality check smacks me up side the head I instantly want to clean up my attitude.

Seriously, my children are not a burden. I brought them in to this world. They showed up filled with nothing more than unconditional love for me and I want them to grow on that foundation. I want them to feel welcome in this family. I want them to hear from me, in tone, body language and actual words that they matter are valued and that caring for them is something I do from a place of love. I want the voice they carry out of this house in their heads to be one that is encouraging, positive and ready for adventure (perhaps also with a side of sassy cause that’s just fun).

So I write this, here in black and white as a reminder to myself that I am not here to be a martyr, I am here to be mother. A mother, blessed with healthy, alive children who truly want nothing more than to love me back.


Seeing me through their eyes

I saw this questionnaire going around and thought it would be fun to find out just how the boys see me in the world. I loved hearing their answers. It’s clear I am NOT good at video games and that the most common words out of my mouth are “I love you”. I encourage everyone to do this with their children, if for no other reason than to catch a tiny glimpse of yourself through their precious eyes.

Kj age 10

Mitchel age 13

1. What is something mom always says to you?

I love you

I love you

2. What makes mom happy?

Me and buba being happy

Going to the beach

3. What makes mom sad?

Us being sad

When her shoulder hurts

4. How does your mom make you laugh?

Being herself. You’re just funny

I have no clue

5. What was your mom like as a child?


I don’t know cause I didn’t know you then. 

6. How old is your mom?


42 turning 43

7. How tall is your mom?

Five foot four 

Five foot eight

8. What is her favorite thing to do?

Hula hoop

Go to the beach 

9. What does your mom do when you’re not around?



10. If your mom becomes famous, what will it be for?

Being a writer

Taking photos (pause) actually being a writer

11. What is your mom really good at?



12. What is your mom not very good at?

Video games

Video games

13. What does your mom do for a job?

Take care of us

Be a mom

14.What is your mom’s favorite food?

Strawberries wait no no sushi


15.What makes you proud of your mom?

How awesome she is

That she can get on stage and talk to people

16. If your mom were a character, who would she be?

Leela from Futurama

I don’t know.

17. What do you and your mom do together?


Go shopping and go to concerts

18. How are you and your mom the same?

We both really like fresh air

We both play the Ukulele

19. How are you and your mom different?

She can clean I can’t.

I can play the ukulele well

20. How do you know your mom loves you?

Cause she tells me

I just do cause you’re my mom and you have to. 

21. Where is your mom’s favorite place to go?

The beach

The beach

22. How old was your Mom when you were born?



This was so much fun I’m scheming other sorts of questions that help us see each other on this wild journey.


30 ways to stay connected

A while back, I wrote a post for Flo Gascon’s beautiful series on Parenting Calmly, in it I listed my top five fridge worthy how to reminders for gentle parenting.  From there I used that as a springboard for two different presentations on the Why of peaceful parenting. During my latest presentation at Life Is Good Unschooling Conference, I invited audience members to add their ideas to the list. There were so many beautiful ideas I’ve gathered them here for my own constant reminder.

A whole lot of HOW TO when it comes to partnering beside your child and parenting from a place of peace and connection.

1) Listen more talk less.

2) See the child not the behavior

3) Respect

4) Apologize

5) Build a community

6) Remember my relationship with my children is more important than anything I think we “have to do”

7) One on one time with each child.

8) Touch, hugs, cuddles, OFTEN

9) Keep it light

10) Never say the first thing that pops into your head (unless it’s enthusiastic kindness)

11) Notice when you feel like closing your heart.

12) Remember your power to choose.

13) Choose love just because you can

14) Find consistent positive input. (books, podcasts etc)

15) Mindfulness practise

16) Remember I am parenting TODAY for the relationship I want with my someday adult child.

17) It’s never too late to change directions

18) Everyone has a voice and choice

19) Home is a safe place.

20) Encourage

21) Dive deep into kids interests

22) Use silliness and laughter to alleviate stress when the moment invites it

23) Have a fully open heart

24) Be honest

25) Never stop loving

26) Compassion

27) Laugh a lot

28) Always be there for your kids

29) Breathe

30) Shwing (cause OMG Wayne and Garth came to my talk!!)

Lean in with love

When I was out on my walk yesterday I saw a man with his child. It was the second after something happened that lead to the man grab his bag and storm away with the child running behind grabbing at the man’s out of reach hand. From a distance it looked like something happened that caused dad to withdraw his love. Because all I could see were images, a tall man, a tiny child, reaching and withdrawing it really hit home for me the power we have as parents to withdraw our love when our children are not responding in a way we would like them to. The child looked desperate to regain the love and the parent intent on keeping it locked inside the anger of what ever perpetuated the situation. It took my breath away, I felt for this child I’d never met but bigger then that it shed light on the moments where this same thing happens with my own children.

It’s the frustrating moments that challenge me the most. When I feel perhaps undervalued, personally attacked or as if something has been “done to me,” where I can slip into patterns from my own upbringing.  Let’s take for example, the frustrated nearing teenager who is trying to learn a skill for the first time, while I hover in the background offering to support him. Only to be told to get out of the way (or something more colorful). My reaction in that moment can be to come back with a whole lot of hurt feelings that then turn the attention to me. Or I can lean in to love. I can meet my child eye to eye or eye to back of head which is more likely the reality, and connect and respond keeping the attention where it needs to be. On a growing human being who has hit a wall and trusts my love enough to lash out. Now is not the time to talk about how my feelings are hurt when … Now is the time to see my child, with love and hold that space.

I know for myself, the withdrawal of love gets a faster reaction from my child. They want my approval. It’s a powerful tool for shaping behaviors or shall I say more truthfully turning someone in to a people pleaser. I know from my own hard work at choosing a different way to be in relationship with my children that I don’t want them to be people pleasers. I don’t want them to go out in to the world looking for validation outside of themselves. Changing direction in their relationships in order to please others. I want them to make decisions from a solid foundation of love that will place them in mutually satisfying relationships. And that right now as they figure out what that looks like I am the safest place to make mistakes. Which let’s be truthful is a huge honor, to be someone’s safest place.

So what do I do to make sure I’m not slipping in to those places of patterned reaction?  First off, there is self compassion for the mistakes that I do make. Having the level of awareness to notice when I am slipping off base, is a great indicator that I am doing things from a place of intention and not a reaction to circumstance. Secondly, is a phrase, I wish I knew who to attribute to, QTIP, quit taking it personally. It’s not all about me. Most of the time it is rarely ever about me. Holding on to this gem of information let’s things wash off of me and land on the floor where they can be brushed away. Finally, I walk away (after a quick touch or smile so my child knows I am not in need of anything from them) until I can get my reaction to a better place.

It’s the giving of unconditional love that I trust is building a foundation upon which my children will grow a strong sense of self. In order to go out into the world knowing who they are outside of others expectations.






Lost Data

It can be easy in this big world to minimize what feels HUGE to our children. I’m here to say my job is to feel it’s just as important as my children see it to be. To sit quietly with them through their heartbreak and keep any dismissive thoughts to myself.

This past weekend my son had a game that kept crashing on his computer. With the help of his friend on Skype and said friends older brother, I got the game up and running. Which is always a victory to me. Because the truth is I don’t know much about games and how to fix computers. I know how to research and apply a layer of logic but it still fascinates me when I can solve one of their tech issues.

I had returned to the living room when I heard something I thought was playing game noise. Listening closer it was actually heartbreak. I returned to find my son on his bed, face buried in the mattress sobbing. “All my characters are gone.”

I kicked in to I can fix this mode, riding on the high of my recent success. Poking around with little understanding of what I was looking for I finally typed the words “lost all characters” with the name of the game in to google. To discover that yep upwards of four game crashes and loss of data is an issue with this game and due to a recent 20 percent cut back on staff they were not longer supporting players in the retrieval of lost data.

My son was devastated. It would be easy here to insert such words as “it’s just a game, you can make them again etc. etc.” But truly this is heartbreaking to him. This lost data is akin to me loosing an entire novel on my computer. Or loosing a months worth of photographs. The file with important contracts being deleted by accident. Or just as simple as loosing something that really mattered to me that I had put hours of my time into.

I turned to my son, “this is awful.” And then I listened to why he was sad. Gathered his tears in tissues. Held him. May have dropped a tear or two myself. Walked with him to tell the others about his loss. Held him some more. He cried hard for a good 20 minutes.

When we give our children the ability to mourn what ever losses are important in their lives we tell them with our actions that they matter. When we hold space for our children to truly feel that loss we help them to release it. When we show up with love for our children when their hearts are breaking (no matter why) we build the sort of foundation that grows strong, confident human beings.

Power over

The other day I was exiting the Safeway when two green aproned Starbuck’s employees poked their heads around the corner and said “is he with you?” Referring to a child between us.

I said “Nope. Oh dear have you lost your mama?”

No sooner had the words left my mouth then a Safeway employee grabbed the boy by the wrist and said come with me while dragging him behind here. Thankfully the boys mom popped her head around the Self Checkout and said “I’m right here.”

The way the Safeway employee, who I’m certain was trying to help, grabbed the boy really caught my attention. It left me thinking about how all the times, even with good intentions, we assert our power, as adults, over children.

Simply by our stature we have more power then our children. Then there is our access to funds, ability to transport ourselves where we want to go, more reliable respect from others and the list goes on. This allows us access to more power than a child. It’s so very easy for that power to get out if control and damage the relationship we have with our child.

Even as a person who is aware of this I drop the ball all the time. “Hey mom can we go to GameStop?” I’m in pajamas on the couch after running around all day. I don’t want to leave the house again. I am the only way for my child to get where he needs to go. This is the moment where I can have power over or power with my child. It doesn’t always mean I have to get my butt up off the couch and take my child to the store, it means we can have a conversation.

“Hey dude, I’m in my pj’s and kinda of done going out for the day. Can you wait? ”

Which then gives my child a chance to consider their needs and the two of us to engage in a conversation about what we are both trying to get out of the situation. Is there another adult in the house who might be willing to go? Can I show up at the GameStop in the pjs? Is sitting on the couch more important than the relationship I am building with my child? Are all the sorts of questions that allow us to share the power in the situation.

Now I have been know to have another reaction to this situation that I think does just as much damage to the relationship as does refusing to go.  It’s the martyr trip. Where I huff my way up off the couch, lamenting under my breath about how I have to do everything around here, drive in silence to the store, ignore my child’s thank you and hit the couch again irritated. This sort of power says to my child that they are in my way.  I am irritated by them and their needs, even if I am meeting them, they are annoying to me. And let’s not forget the stinking pile of guilt I also heaped up on my child’s sense of who they are in the world along the way. Thankfully, I most often catch this little tantrum mid stream and turn things around or at the very least apologize for my attitude.

Mealtimes are also a great place to slip up when it comes to power overing and power with.  I am the one who cooks in our house. I am the one who grocery shops in our house. So, there are endless opportunities for me to be in charge of what everybody has access to eating. And as a recovering control freak I can get really caught up in this. A few ways I have shifted to invite everyone in to the fun of fueling our bodies (power with) is to ask questions. “Hey guys is there anything you want to make sure we eat this week? Is there anything you want me to pick up at the grocery store today?” Now I do understand there are budget constraints that come in to play when you open the door of asking to pick specific foods up at the grocery store. I have also learned that asking this question,  overtime, leads to pretty modest requests. As well, as creating another beautiful opportunity for conversation, choice and understanding. However, my super duper favorite part of this whole being in charge of the food business is paying attention to what everyone loves and then coming home with it. Picking up those favorite chips that are on sale that no one asked for and presenting them to my child. The smiles, the gratitude, priceless.

What I am aiming to illustrate with these few examples is that we as parents have countless opportunities through out our days to choose power with instead of power over in the relationships we have with our children. Heck, all the children in the world. And it’s these little acts that say big things like “you matter in the world.” Through hearing, in our actions, how much they are valued, our children grow to be empowered human beings. We all know that empowered human beings are for more likely to choose power with in ALL the relationships they seek out in life. Think about that for an extra second. Choosing to team up with your child, through simple everyday acts, is setting them up for a lifetime of healthy balanced relationships. Worth it? Hell yeah!

Dance Break

Dance Break

Take a dance break with your child. You don’t need to have any special training or moves for this one. You just need to move to the music. We dance a great deal around here. Sometimes I do it to catch a laugh in the strangest of situations. Nothing stops a meltdown midway faster then mom dancing down the cereal aisle (worth noting that timing does matter on this one cause not every melt down is conducive to the insertion of humor). Days on end of rain or cold or sickness can be transformed (if only for a few moments) by a stereo turned a couple notches too high and getting your groove on.

One day my youngest son and I were at the hockey rink. He really does not like the hockey rink, so we danced there a lot. He looked at me and said “Mom we are the only ones who can hear the music.” It was true we were the only ones dancing. In front of strangers, to music they may have tuned out. In that moment I was so very connected to my child and what could make his heart smile without concern for those around me. It’s a hard place to go. But when I think about what I am showing my child, it makes it that much easier. I am helping him to see that marching to the beat of his own drummer feels good. And that even when he finds himself in a place  he would rather not be there are ways to lighten the mood.