I am uncharacteristically passionate about this work.  For most of my life I’ve been like an unremarkable bush over in the corner of the yard, that holds its place in the garden, to be sure, helping the overall visual balance, but not calling attention to itself.  Then, for reasons found deep in the soil, it starts flowering.  My studying with Dr. Neufeld and then making this work available to people in Toronto has been a surprise, like the bush in the corner calling out “Look at me!  I have flowers!”

As I mentioned, it’s taken me a long time to get here, and sometimes I wish I had started out sooner, but I’ve observed that the principles of growth and development hold true almost everywhere in life where things really matter, like in human relationships.  This includes our relationship with ourselves. 

I was interested in psychology as a teenager, but my preliminary explorations left me cold – too many rats in mazes.  I ended up in the arts, specifically theatre design.  After university I had the good fortune to work for almost two years with a great maverick of Canadian theatre, the late John Juliani.  Although I was still very green, it was clear to me how deeply his work went into the roots of the human psyche.

Next, I began an intense, self-directed period of investigating the human psyche in general and my own in particular, through reading mostly Carl Jung, and recording my dreams.  I became aware, like Larry in The Razor's Edge (a book that greatly influenced me), that I was searching intensely for something, but wasn't sure what.  I made and sold stained glass (mostly at the One of a Kind show), played at homesteading (that’s where the solar house came in), and did the odd bit of meditating.  

I moved back to Toronto and bought a small house in which I immediately tore down a wall, the start of a renovation that didn’t end until the house was sold 25 years later.  I met my future husband, had a final glass show in a gallery, went back to school and became a teacher, did supply teaching in the Regent Park neighbourhood of Toronto, and then had two children.

While growing up I had never pictured myself as a parent.  In fact I had never even held a baby until I had my own.  But becoming a parent transformed me.  

I’d had a fair bit of life experience by this time, but as a person whose maturation processes had become stuck in childhood, I didn’t have the inner resources to be the parent I would have liked to be.  My own attachment roots had gone down into fairly shallow soil.  I had been a peer-attached child, a term from Dr. Neufeld’s work.  I loved my son intensely, but there was a lot of struggle too, with postpartum depression, insomnia, and marital tension.  My love was a sapling trying to widen the crack in the concrete, not a pure blossoming.  And I judged my parenting with an idealistic perfectionism, making life hard for my family while feeling like a failure myself.   

My son began attending the Waldorf school in downtown Toronto, and I discovered simultaneously a rich, soul-satisfying form of education, a beautiful developmental model of the human being based on spirit, and a community where my talents were valued and given opportunities to grow.  Over 20 years later, I am still involved with the school, having had numerous roles both volunteer and employed, and seen both my children graduate from Grade 8.  Dr. Neufeld's approach is a natural fit with the Waldorf philosophy and I hold regular courses there.  

When my second son was born, my involvement with the Waldorf community made the experience completely different from my first.  There was friendship and support, especially when I broke my arm and couldn't shift gears in our car.  The sense of isolation that had been so debilitating the first time didn't exist, and I was much more relaxed and felt more successful as a parent.  Parenting was meant to exist within a community, what Dr. Neufeld calls a "village of attachment."  Our society now requires us to find or make our own village if we want one.  

I found Gordon Neufeld not long after stopping work at the Waldorf school.  I had articulated a goal for myself, and a question, and Dr. Neufeld ended up being the answer.  My children were teenagers, but I was skimming through Stanley Greenspan’s book The Challenging Child to see if they matched his descriptions.  I became engrossed in the book, and my thoughts expanded to include all the children I had encountered at the Waldorf school.  In my roles as faculty chair and facilitator, part of my job was to resolve, as best I could, difficulties between parents and teachers.  The focus of the difficulties and the source of much adult conflict was almost always a child struggling to cope.  Even before finding Gordon Neufeld I recognized that "problem behaviour” was a response to a situation, a symptom that something was not working for the child.  The child isn't the problem, the child has a problem.  

With my ex-facilitator hat on my head, I saw that helping children would help everybody.  Admittedly, I was still mired in my idealistic, perfectionist habits, which thought in terms of "fixing" everything around me, including people, my children in particular.  I believe I'm maturing out of that view and am increasingly comfortable with the idea that people can’t, and shouldn’t, be "fixed" to match some ideal. 

I sometimes compare the process of creating a family life to making dinner out of what you find in your fridge.  My fridge doesn't have the same things in it that yours does; mine rarely has chanterelles and rack of lamb (has it ever?) but I make many delicious and nutritious meals out of what I do have nonetheless.  I'm sure you do as well, but your meals aren't the same as mine.  We bring ourselves to our children, nurturing them as best we can with what we have, with who we are.   

We’re all on a continuum of development, adults and children alike, and life is a process of moving along the continuum at our own pace.  We have help: nature, life energy, God(dess), spirit, call it what you will.  And we can help each other.  Adults, especially, are meant to help children.  I formed a goal: to help children cope with life.

But meanwhile, I didn’t have a means at hand.  I didn’t think I would go back to teaching, and in any case, teachers have to spend so much time on things like academics.  So my question was “How?” 

I started looking into what it took to become a school psychologist, to build on my teaching degree.  The study of psychology had broadened since the late '60s.  It seemed doable, although hardly quick and easy.   

Then, one day a friend wondered out loud about her son's propensity for doing the opposite of what she told him.  I remembered a chapter from Scattered Minds, Dr. Gabor Mate's book on ADD that I'd read many years before.  In it he described a phenomenon called Counterwill, which perfectly described my friend's son's behaviour. I looked it up for her, saw that the source was a certain Gordon Neufeld, googled him, and, wonder of wonders, he was speaking not far from my home the very next day, addressing a conference of school psychologists.  What could be better than having an opportunity to meet a whole bunch of people in one place, who did what I was curious about, and to hear an interesting talk as well.  His topic was bullying.

Of course I was familiar with the literature on bullying, having worked in a school, but none of it had impressed me.  Ten minutes into his full-day presentation, Gordon Neufeld had me hooked.  I'd never heard anything like it for depth of insight combined with compassion and humanity.  That summer I was in Vancouver for his week-long intensive course and haven't looked back. 

Helping children by working with their parents feels to me to be the best of all possible worlds.  I love working with parents, and have both deep respect and profound empathy for their hopes and struggles, which I share.   

I've spent my life trying to uncover and be my most genuine and authentic self, in order to connect with others in the same way.  I can't say I've arrived at the place I've been searching for, but I feel the signs are all pointing the right way.  And this work with Gordon Neufeld has helped me continue the journey better equipped, and to share what I have learned with others.  I would have struggled less as a parent if I'd known this approach when my children were young.  It's my hope that by making it available to other parents, life can be easier for them and they can feel better about themselves as parents.  And it's good for the children too!  

If you've made it this far, here are some random extras:

In 1964, when I was ten years old, I heard about Greenwich Village.  Little as I knew about it, I longed to live there.  A few years later I felt the same about Haight-Ashbury.  It was a source of great chagrin that I was not old enough to be either a beatnik or a hippie. 

Instead, I spent countless hours building a huge house out of a cardboard box for a small bear ("Tedda") belonging to my sister.  It had several floors, complete furnishings, stairs, balconies, a working elevator, and garage with car, all made from cardboard.

I play by designing things.  I make some of them, although I always think I'm going to make them all. Two things that got made recently: a Japanese-inspired bike shed and a curved concrete retaining wall.  I paint occasionally.   

My mother taught me how to sew and knit, and I honed my skills when she refused to allow me to buy clothing for my Barbie.  Sewing has been very useful: as a teenager making unique clothing for myself; costuming (I spent a summer sewing at Stratford, but Waldorf class plays were more gratifying); making items for my children; Waldorf dolls; and some commissioned pieces for libraries. 

My favourite author is Tolstoy.  I've read War and Peace and Anna Karenina more times than I will admit here.  The insomnia helped.


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