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Natural Awakenings Atlanta

The Ties that Bind

Researching a paper long ago in a university library, I found a book stating that the Aztecs had a child-rearing manual. I remember to this day that one punishment for childhood offenses was that a parent would hold the child’s face close to a fire of burning chili peppers.

I imagine it smarted. Probably for both of them.

A recent Internet search allowed me to find and identify that text, which left an impression on me when I was still in my Before Children (BC) years: It is the Mendoza Codex, commissioned by a Spanish explorer and thought to be written and illustrated by Aztec natives as a record of their daily lives. As an aside, the chilipepper fire parent/child illustration was the same as I remembered it.

I bring this up not to judge or mock an ancient civilization, which to all appearances was concerned about teaching its children right and wrong, hard work and responsibility, though it was, obviously, not aligned with modern penal mores.

My point is to show that people writing 600 years ago were struggling with the same questions we are asking and writing about today: How do we raise productive, well-adjusted kids who grow to be productive, well-adjusted adults?

Given Columbine, Sandy Hook, and now Parkland, it is clear we haven’t found all the answers.

Publisher Paul Chen and I have wanted to produce a special parenting issue for months. Over the last half of 2017, we discussed attachment parenting, freerange playgrounds, Waldorf education, naturopathic pediatricians and many other things readers would expect two creators of an alternative health publication to brainstorm. It all felt true to mission but … flat. Done. Uninspired and unfocused.

Then, this Valentine’s Day, two things happened.

One, a gunman entered a Florida high school and killed 17 students. Two, my husband and I took our two children to our favorite annual circus. On the way into the Big Top, my purse was searched, then we adults and children were wanded for weapons.

My eldest held out her arms and didn’t think twice about what to do—she’d done this before at the airport, not her elementary school, thank God—but the fact that she and my 7-year-old were used to the protocol had me in unshed tears for where we are as a society. Of course, my tears were nothing compared to those of other parents that day. And for that, I was utterly grateful.

But negativity does no good. Negativity keeps us trapped, stuck, either bound to repeat the problems or immobilized in despair.

So for our May issue, Natural Awakenings Atlanta has compiled a special “Conscious Parenting” section that addresses how to identify and nurture the best qualities in growing humans. We found experts in child education, child therapy and child spirituality who can help us uplift and empower our children, experts who can help us on our path of raising our children to be the good people they are going to be.

After reading, researching and speaking to experts about what a healthy child looks like, one major quality that stands out in most nonviolent and mentally healthy children and adults is connectivity.

Those least likely to harm others are connected first to others, through community, family and volunteering. They are connected to self through being mindful, resilient and grounded. They are connected to the environment through nature. They are connected to a greater purpose through spirituality.

All of these connections create the weft and weave of a fabric that should fray or tear if children start to remove themselves, to become isolated, depressed, disconnected. Frays may be unavoidable, but once noticed they can be repaired.

As I leave Natural Awakenings Atlanta to attend to my own family, to untangle, expand and strengthen the threads that will form my future and my children’s futures, I hope readers find some inspiration on the following pages.

There are no guarantees, but there are safeguards. Problems may loom, but we are not helpless. Some may feel lonely, but we are not alone. We are connected and awakened along the lines of communication that strengthen and bind us all.


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