I need autonomy!

We've been talking a lot in our house about human needs lately.  With a daughter who recently started kindergarten, it's been interesting to see how she transitioned to being away from home, immersed in a new environment with new people, new rules, new routines and new information coming at her all day long. 

Like most kids, there have been some bumps along the way, but she settled into her new rhythm with much enthusiasm.  Where we continued to be challenged was at the end of the long day, back at home together.  Bickering with neighbors, sibling arguments, and general crankiness were becoming a daily occurrence. 

As parents, we have a couple of choices when we're living with Crabby Appleton.  We can go on insisting on "good girl" behavior, continue intervening in these daily disagreements trying to find peaceful solutions OR we can step back and look at the big picture.  What is the underlying unmet need driving this behavior? 

In the 1940's Psychologist Abraham Maslow published his theory on the Hierarchy of Needs to describe what motivates humans as they grow and mature.  When the needs are not met, humans display an array of behaviors to compensate. We can look at any problem through this lens and we can always be curious about how to help our loved ones meet their needs.   

In our own house recently, my husband and I had to first stop resisting the fighting that was happening; then we were able to meet it with compassion and get down to the unmet needs.  For our Kindergartener there's definitely some need for food and rest at the end of the school day, but we also observed that our daughter wanted autonomy.  She wants to be able to decide for herself what to do, how the game will go, and what will come next.  Self-directed play in the truest sense of the term! 

The truth is that there isn't much time for this kind of play in the public schools today.  From morning bell until dismissal, children's choices are directed or limited by others.  Providing freedom after school can be so nourishing for children.  In my family, we created space and freedom when we decided to forgo most after school activities, only play with the neighborhood kids once in a while, and keep toys and art supplies easily accessible for unstructured play. 

We've been happy to see the return of smiles, laughter and light-heartedness after school.  It's an excellent reminder that we DO know our children, and that if their behavior is changing dramatically, we never have to accept that it's the way things have to be.  Our children- like each of us- are just trying to have their needs met.

Read more about Emerging Autonomy and family dynamics.

Welcome, spring!

Moving through this year, I am making a more conscious effort to connect with earth and nature on a daily basis. Even a short walk around the yard or to the mailbox on a cold day has given me enough time to breathe deeply and notice the world around me. This is a grounding practice. It gets me out of my head for a bit and back in tune with something larger than myself. It replenishes my patience and my sense of gratitude. And, as I notice little changes on the landscape each day, I am coming to know this place that I now call home.

So, perhaps this transition from winter to spring has been my favorite so far. I love all the signs of life emerging from beneath winter’s snowy cloak. Everything is so very ripe with possibility at this time of year!

For that reason, it’s a great time to check in with ourselves about the direction we’re headed for the year ahead. The holiday rush and new year’s frenzy is well behind us, and a quiet time to reflect on our wishes and desires for the year now presents itself.

· How are you doing?

· Does family life feel vibrant and fun?

· Were you able to enjoy moments of relaxation and self-care during the quiet of winter, or are you left longing for more?

· Is there a creative project or other adventure you’d like to pursue this season (either solo or as a family)?

· What will you need to make sure it happens?

On this first day of spring, we express gratitude for the many blessings in our lives, while acknowledging what is needed to bring more balance into our days. What seeds can we plant today to replenish pure happiness, health and well-being?

Today, I wish all of these things for you.

xo, Allison

To the dad in the coffee shop

I had been working peacefully for a couple of hours when you and your young daughter came through the door.  She was so bubbly and happy, she immediately reminded me of my own little girl.  And, she was wearing the same pair of pink cowgirl boots with silver sparkly hearts that my littlest bops around in.  Her energy just filled the quiet coffee shop that afternoon and it really was a welcome distraction.  I was so pleased to see that she was getting to have a special afternoon with her dad.

Why do moments like this have to fall apart, sometimes?  Despite our best intentions, we hit a snag and everything begins to unravel and unravel and unravel…

Your needs.  Your priorities.  Her needs.  Her priorities.  Harsh words.  Hurt feelings.  Tears.  Unraveled.

As you left the coffee shop, a wave of sadness washed over me.  At first it felt like my heart was breaking for that little girl- how could you not see that she simply wanted you to herself, without the phone and the distractions?  But, judgment doesn’t settle easily under my skin.  The truth is that I’ve been there.  Standing knee deep in nasty, looking for a way out, plans for a lovely day unraveled around my feet.

But, I also know how good it feels to stop in the middle of the chaos and see everything with clarity.  To recognize that something needs to give and to understand that it’s going to start with you.  I know how good it feels to be the overwhelming force of positive change that turns the whole thing around.  I know how good it feels to pick up the pieces and salvage the day.

I hope that is what you were able to experience with your little girl yesterday afternoon.

I’ll never know what happened after you left.  But I do believe that wherever you are right now, you are going to pick up the pieces and try again.  Because that is what we do.  As imperfect as we are, we love with all our hearts.


In my humble opinion, Simplicity Parenting Groups are an amazing way to gain clarity, see with fresh perspective and brush up on “picking up the pieces” in all areas of your life.  In a small group of 10-12 perfectly imperfect parents, you discuss what’s been unraveling lately and design some small changes that will bring you back to where you’d like to be. 

We weave our stories together, find those silver-lined threads of hope and stitch together a community of support for ourselves.  Over the course of 7 weeks, we explore family values, practice compassion and positive discipline, craft predictable rhythms, tame hectic schedules and ease the pressures of our adult world. 

I am offering a 7-week Simplicity Parenting Course at Meadowbrook Waldorf School in Richmond, RI, beginning on March 20.  Hop over here for all of the details.  Early Bird Special ends tomorrow!!

This is (my) kindergarten readiness

Last night, I attended a discussion about alternative education, and heard some amazing stories about child-directed learning models.  I shared an overview of Waldorf education, something I've had a personal interest in for a couple of years.  I felt such a connection to the mothers in attendance- who are all following different educational paths, and at the core all want the best, most inspiring, most holistic educational experience for their children.  For me, the night's discussion shed new light on a recent experience of one-on-one time with my daughter...

My husband and I embarked on a little experiment-adventure last weekend. We each invited one child to come along with us to spend a night away and visit family and friends. We spend most weekends together as a family. Or, the kids spend a few hours with Mike, while I enjoy some time by myself. But very rarely are our girls apart for any length of time.

I must admit that I had mixed feelings when it actually came time to drive away with only one daughter. But our youngest happily bounded into my husband’s office, ready for her own weekend adventure. It only got better from there…

During our car ride, I immediately noticed how different the conversation was. Just the two of us. I got to hear all of Emma’s thoughts on what we should do this weekend and where we should stop for dinner. I also got to hear about the best- and hardest- parts of being 5. I could really see how deep Emma’s love for her family goes, and how her family is never far from her thoughts. Each time we chatted, I saw Emma and heard Emma, as an individual.

In September, Emma will start Kindergarten. I have already spent countless hours weighing all of the educational options and even imagining what our days would be like if we were to homeschool. So much of my motivation has come from fear. At the heart, my fear is that Emma will be absorbed into a system that doesn’t honor the individual. My fear is that no one will be able to see her and hear her as I do.

Truth. No one will ever be able to see her and hear her as I do.

A few months ago, I let go of the fear around this next phase of our life. Instead, I have embraced complete trust in my family. It is here that we honor (no, celebrate!) each individual. It is here that plenty of room exists to make mistakes and experience deep and unconditional love. It will always be here that we learn together and explore the world around us. It will always be here that every person is seen and heard.

Truth. Systems that do not honor individuals are not sustainable.

I let go of fear and embrace this opportunity to be in community, forming connections around the growth of our children. What gifts can we share? What dialogue can we have? How do we show up for all of the children in our community?

I do not know what this path will look like. I have distant memories of my own road, and I have heard others’ stories. Some of them fill me with fear and others with joy. But this will be Emma’s own journey. At the end of the day, I trust in my family. I know we will walk alongside her, we will listen to her and we will continue to follow our hearts and our intuition as we venture further into the world together. This is what (my) kindergarten readiness looks like. This is my commitment.

As you navigate your own educational path with your children, there may be times that you feel pressure or feel lost and conflicted (even in the preschool years!)  Whenever you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, stressed, worried or disenchanted by our culture’s focus on quantitative measurements of young children’s skills, readiness and knowledge, then please read this article by Alicia of A Magical Childhood, What should a four year old know?  It's one of my favorites.


sac·ri·fice  - From Latin sacrificium, "sacrificial," from sacer, "holy, sacred."

In her amazing book Daring Greatly, BrenĂ© Brown mentions a sermon in which her pastor talked about these roots of the word sacrifice, reflecting on the meaning "to make holy or sacred."  Dr. Brown writes that this understanding of sacrifice forever changed her view of parenthood.

For Christians, today is the first day of Lent.  I don't have a very strong tie to religion, but I have been thinking about these concepts of sacrifice and family.  There is no question to me that my family is sacred.  My children's existence an expression of love.  And yet, so much distracts me from that sacredness on a daily basis.  Wanting more, needing things to change, never feeling completely satisfied.  As BrenĂ© Brown details, our entire culture operates this way and I am swept up to varying degrees.

What would it mean to cleanse ourselves of the things that distract us from what is sacred, to make space for more of what is?   

What would it look and feel like to stop wanting more, needing things to change and never feeling completely satisfied?  It begins with recognizing our thoughts and the critical way we look at ourselves, our families, and the choices we make.  And then, it requires a shift in thinking.  We must choose to believe that we do not need more, and that we are already enough. 

During this Lenten season, I want to make space for more love and compassion.  My observation will not be focused on the repentance of sins, but on bringing awareness to what is sacred in my home and all around me.  I will recognize the thoughts that distract me from my own strengths and the sacredness of my family.  I want to cleanse myself of self-criticism, and the defensiveness (or anger) that masks it.  I want to cleanse myself of doubt about my abilities, and choose to believe that I am already enough. 

For 40 days, I will choose love.  I will choose to love myself when I feel like my children are ignoring me (because it doesn't mean I'm invisible), I will choose to love myself when my husband is questioning me about something (because it doesn't mean he doubts my abilities), I will choose love when I feel inadequate (because it doesn't mean that I am). 

Will you choose to bring more love and compassion into your life, too? 

There is still time to register for Seven Days of Love a full week of writing prompts and fun, easy activities to invite more love into your days.  We will shine a gentle light on the places where love gets stuck, and clear space for love to flow freely again.  We begin tomorrow morning!

Parenting Simply::Love Lessons

I'm very happy to return to KidoinfoAnisa Raoof has created an amazing guide to connect Rhode Island families around the things they care about- family fun, creativity, education and simple pleasures. I'm honored to contribute with the "Parenting Simply" series.

I’ve been noticing how children make holidays come to life. They love to prepare for something special, to create a celebration. When it comes to holidays, my children do bring out the best in me. I enjoy reaching back into my memory for stories and traditions to share, and designing the rituals that will become our own family’s traditions.

Valentine’s Day has never been a big deal to me. Maybe a little cynical, I’m sure I’ve rolled my eyes about this greeting card holiday. But now I’m actually having fun talking to my daughters about love—their love for each other and for their family and friends. We’re busy making pictures and valentines that express the way we feel about the special people in our lives. Perhaps this holiday can serve as a reminder that we do need to express ourselves and share what’s in our hearts more often...read more.

I could get used to this.

I could get used to this.  This being still thing.  This getting grounded in the here and now

Our lives are influenced by so many rhythms- seasonal rhythms, lunar patterns, the rhythms of our days and our weeks.  I know this to be true and yet, I still find myself amazed when I step back and observe it. 

So often when we are tired or blue or our energy is low we feel like we must push on through it.  Taking a break, or expecting less of ourselves feels like a cop out.  Especially when we all know at least 10 women who do it all with absolute style and grace!  Why should I let myself off the hook?

Let me tell you, letting yourself off the hook is not a cop out!  It is actually you tuning into the natural rhythm of life.  Everyone has highs and lows; we have energy and enthusiasm; and then we have darkness and doubt.  It is so very perfectly normal.  So perfect in its predictability, and in the way the changes make us feel every single time. 

When we let ourselves off the hook and stop beating ourselves up for feeling less than, we can create the space we need to get grounded in the real feelings.  The quieter we are, the more compassionate we are toward ourselves, the more open we actually become to that brighter mood. Waiting it out, rather than pushing through it, is a huge shift.  It requires us to trust that we are normal, and that we are going to get our energy and enthusiasm back.  It requires us to withhold judgement and believe that we are worthy of generous doses of self-care.

And then, almost without notice we are smiling again, we are painting with our kids, we are welcoming light and joy back into our days.  Perfect rhythm.