Saturday, June 30, 2007

Attachment Parents ~ BEWARE of Aware Parenting

Today's Cuppa: Echinacea Tea

I love editing The Mother magazine. Daily I hear from women (and men) who are actively listening to their inner voice and following their intuition despite living in a culture which values possessions and money as priorities over the love, parental companionship, care and well-being of our children.

The downside of working in the parenting field is reading the utter rubbish that gets perpetuated in mainstream literature. So often a woman's instincts are dismissed by so- called experts. At one level we have the childless Supernanny telling parents how to raise their unruly children. At another, we have midwives or doctors who write books, such as Baby Sense by Megan Faure and Ann Richardson, which talk of feeding a baby rice or maize at three months of age (??!!) or not breastfeeding more than every two hours. And don’t even start me on The Good Sleep Guide by Angela Henderson. OMG! Utterly hideous and downright cruel to babies. In my opinion both of these books should be burnt. They are extremely dangerous in the messages they give to parents and are deeply insulting and ignorant of basic human neuro-biology. I read the other day that Gina Ford believes she takes a 'holistic approach to parenting'. Whatever next? Clearly the word holistic is used to cover all manner of sins these days.
I hear stories of doctors who suggest a baby be fed rusks at two weeks of age and Health Visitors (Public Enemy No. 1) who push mothers to get babies onto formula at seven weeks of age or earlier. These things frustrate me enormously and make me sick to the stomach. And yet in many ways they're to be expected in our culture. The Mother magazine feels like a lone voice in the vast wilderness of parenting.

My job in creating The Mother is centred around one purpose: to be an advocate for the babies and children. As a result the content may seem radical, cutting edge and for some people, just a tad too challenging, as it means they might have to compromise aspects of their lifestyle. It's far easier, or so they think, to just do 'what everyone else does'. Life's much easier if you don't rock the boat, isn't it?

In the past couple of years, there has been a rather insidious element creeping into natural parenting circles, so much so that I'm unaware of any other natural parenting magazine besides The Mother magazine which doesn't now promote Aware Parenting ~ a clever, yet misleading, term coined by Aletha Solter. I say insidious because this 'style' of parenting cushions itself within the admirable principles of attachment parenting and subverts them by acting, cult-like, in drawing in otherwise intelligent, nurturing, yet susceptible parents who might be exhausted or, more accurately, unsupported in their natural parenting choices.

Today's blog is to publicly state that in no way do I, personally or professionally, endorse the practice known as Aware Parenting ~ in particular the aspect of allowing the baby to 'cry it out'.

Proponents of this method argue that babies have unresolved tensions and need to cry them out in order to heal. They suggest that holding the baby while she cries will allow the baby to relieve herself of stress. What they don't seem to acknowledge is that crying is virtually unheard of in indigenous cultures where babies' needs are instantly met, if not anticipated first. Even if advocates of Aware Parenting don't wish to admit it, they are in effect encouraging 'controlled crying'. They do not encourage comforting of the baby through nursing, jiggling or rocking the baby ~ all actions which come instinctively to a NURTURING mother.

In my late teens, I worked for a professional babysitting agency. It's no exaggeration to say that the children of psychologists were, without fail, always difficult to sit for. Even back then I couldn't help but wonder if those famiies were parenting by rote from some textbook, rather than from their heart.

One advocate of Aware Parenting, a psychologist, suggests that if you don't let your baby cry in this way he might end up with a long list of psychological disorders. She suggests that social disorders such as addictions will happen. Now, imagine a new parent reading this sort of information. Well, no caring parent would want their child to grow up with this in front of them. Yet the exact opposite is true. Children deprived of non-nutritive suckling suffer all sorts of consequences, long and short term. I could present a thesis on it!

Aware Parenting gurus promise that if you follow their path it will provide you with a child who is 'calm and co-operative'. Whatever happened to accepting our children for who they are? Or taking responsibility for our failures rather than trying to 'fix' the child. Actually, my take is that these 'calm and cooperative' children will feel they weren't listened to; that their cries didn't get their needs met; that they were abandoned by the very person in this whole world who should have helped them. They've learnt not to 'rock the boat' or ask for anything any more because 'no-one will listen'. It is complete rubbish that all babies need to cry or that they need to cry for emotional release. Babies cry when their needs aren't met. If a baby is feeling agitated or taking on the stress from those around them, this can be relieved by carrying them against your body and breastfeeding on cue ~ which a mother would be doing anyway if she was parenting naturally. Our babies are more than capable of dealing with the ups and downs of day to day life if they're getting their needs met and handled with love and care. Babies don't cry for the fun of it! It causes great distress and discomfort. It's their last ditch attempt to get attention. It is NOT manipulation ~ which, by the way, is an adult trait, not a baby's one.

As a parent, if you choose to use controlled crying, then it is important that you acknowledge that you're not meeting your child's needs optimally. Own it. Whatever your reasons are for choosing to do this, DON'T BLAME THE CHILD. Many people who choose attachment parenting are doing so in social isolation; it is so at odds with our culture. Because of this, it is easy for them to feel overwhelmed at times and then to wonder if they're parenting 'wrongly'.

Aware Parenting is a clever marketing ploy in a sense, designed specifically to draw in vulnerable parents. There's a lot of money to be had in providing 'counselling' to parents who are struggling. To raise our children optimally we must not engage in emotionally crippling and numbing practises such as Aware Parenting promote through their controlled crying -which does two things ~ shows the baby it is not 'good enough' and severs the unique bond between mother and child by encouraging her to disengage from the one thing nature gave her to tell her the baby is 'in danger' ~ the CRY!

As Jean Liedloff wrote in The Contimnuum Concept "a baby's cry is precisely as serious as it sounds." Jean lived with the Yequanna tribe for some time and is far more qualified than most to speak about how babies are when raised in accord with their biological needs.

One of my major concerns with Aware Parenting is that a baby with very real problems will not be having its REAL needs met. Even in gentle births babies can be subluxated and need chiropractic or cranial support. Assuming that the baby has a 'need' to cry through emotional issues, is very misleading. This is an adult need.

So, what happens why a baby cries? There is a dramatic fluctuation in blood flow during extended crying which decreases cerebral oxygenation and causes an increase in cerebral blood volume. This increases intracranial pressure and puts the baby at risk for an intracranial haemorrhage. At the same time, the blood, by now oxygen-depleted, flows into the systemic circulation, rather than into the lungs (see Anderson, GC)

The Aware Parenting approach dismisses comfort nursing (otherwise known as non-nutritive sucking). As I've written in my soon to be published book, 'The Drinks are on me' (available from: non-nutritive sucking is every bit as important as breastfeeding for thirst or hunger. It is rarely talked about in lactation circles. Even amongst attachment parents, many mums remove the child from the breast when his/her tummy is full. In indigenous cultures the mother allows the child to suck from the breast which has already had milk withdrawn, for as long as is needed.

As mothers, if we respond immediately and comfort our crying baby, they learn to trust us and in turn become more responsive.

If you're new to mothering and are unsure of how to read your baby's pre-cry cues for hunger, look for the following signs:

making sucking sounds or little sucking motions
sucking on her hands
snuggling or rooting at the breast

increased alertness or activity
making rooting motions
clenching his fists by her face
brushing a hand across her face
putting her fist in his mouth

We are biologically programmed to give a nurturing response to our baby's cries. It is not natural to refrain or to ignore them. Our body responds immediately to our baby's cry. Blood flows to our breasts and we have the urge to pick the baby up and breastfeed. The hormone oxytocin gives us the feeling which helps us to 'love our baby'. So, if this is what our body instructs us to do without any direction from the logical left side of the brain, and then some well-meaning but misguided expert like Marion Badenoch Rose, Aletha Solter, Gina Ford or Angela Henderson tell us to ignore it, you've got to ask yourself why. Investing in their misguided belief systems is a huge loss for your child and for you. Your child is the loser while these gurus get richer.

If you want a happy, contented and balanced baby/child, then get in touch with your mothering instincts ~ and listen to them.

Unassisted Childbirth documentary

Any mums planning a UC Birth?

A few weeks back, Reuters news service interviewed me for a piece on Unassisted Births.

There's now worldwide media interest in the topic. If you live in Britain and are planning an unassisted birth and would be interested in talking to a production team about a documentary… see below.

"We’d explore their reasons, their motivation and follow them through the journey, including the birth. It’s a subject that is really worthy of exploration, particularly given the increasing amount of medical intervention in hospital births, and a woman’s right to choose. We would love to speak with anyone who is considering this option – you don’t have to take part it would just be good to hear from you!!" Please contact emma on or 0207 272 4000

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Freebirth on Richard & Judy

Today's Cuppa: Raspberry leaf tea, especially for birthing mothers!

*Childbirth ~ if you want the job done properly, do it yourself!
(from Laura Shanley's unassisted childbirth website ~

Funny, I don't watch Richard and Judy, but when Bethany asked me yesterday if I felt like watching it, I thought, 'what the heck, ok.' I'd been out all day and was shattered, so thought a blob on the couch was no great sin, even though I'm always making dinner at that time.

In hindsight, it must have been my intuition which answered 'yes'. I was so thrilled to discover my gorgeous friend Laura Kaplan Shanley (author of Unassisted Childbirth) as a guest during a segment on Freebirth (unassisted birth). A massive bouquet to you Laura, you were FANTASTIC!!!!

There were also two mums, Natalie Dorchester and Julia Wilson, who'd given birth unassisted, and I thought they were wonderful and brave putting their sacred experience under the harsh media spotlight. They were wise, passionate and intuitive. Intuition may have been dismissed by Richard as 'airy fairy', but quite frankly, it's the most powerful tool a person has. Unfortunately our left-brain dominated society has learnt to dismiss this life-enhancing inner voice.

It was wonderful to see Laura speak so eloquently and articulately on such an emotive topic. But why is it emotive? For but a blip in human history, women 'have' given birth unassisted. In some cultures they still do. Being supported by other women, either relatives or midwives, is a very recent 'intervention'. And having birth managed by doctors and obstetricians is but half a blink in human history.

Richard led to the segment with the question, "How long till a baby dies?" Such a fear-based and negative introduction didn't surprise me, but it did sadden me. Richard and Judy are held up as gods by an adoring public. What they so goes…so even if he's only asking the question and acting like a journalist, putting the thought out there before even commencing the interview is deliberately leading the viewer down a particular path, rather than trusting their intelligence and heart to come to their own conclusion.

They also issued a statement from the Department of Health which said "There are risks involved and we do not recommend freebirth." No surprise there, but what ignorance! There are risks in every aspect of life. I risk my life every time I walk down my stairs, or plug in an electrical appliance, or put food in my mouth. The DoH don't issue statements telling us that to 'live' is dangerous!

To use a government body as the 'authoritative' voice of childbirth is ludicrous. The only true expert of birth is the woman who is in labour.

My disappointment with the show was with the line of questioning, no doubt created by very young researchers and producers. I know that it has to appeal to a particular audience, and let's face it, it is channel four!!, but tv is such an incredibly powerful medium that to waste ten precious minutes evoking fear rather than trying to enlighten and educate, always disappoints me.

Our society doesn't acknowledge the high mortality rate, or damage, which occur during medically induced and attended births. Very rarely do such deaths appear in the mainstream media, even though the consequences are tragic and life-long for the families involved.

People always fear what they don't understand ~ flat earth syndrome…. They're so horrified at the thought of people taking responsibility for their health, well-being and child's birth that they simply can't adjust their limited frame of reference, and so they denounce Freebirth as 'irresponsible'. Were all our ancestress irresponsible for birthing their babies unassisted in the time before scans, forceps, and obstetricians? Hardly! They were awesome wombyn! And as Laura said on the show, anthropologists who've studied cultures where women were nurtured, well-fed and watered had no incidence of death in childbirth.

Why doesn't anyone tell a mother who opts for scans, drugs, forceps, ventouse or a medically unnecessary caesarean, that she is potentially putting herself and her baby in 'grave' danger? Why isn't she warned that the risks greatly outweigh the benefits? Why are these women not seen as irresponsible? For two very simple reasons:

1.) They are in the majority. But just because most people do something it doesn't mean it's right!

2.) There's no money for birth professionals when a woman gives birth unassisted. The more intervention in a birth, the more the doctor or obstetrician makes.

We've become so far removed from our biological design that we can't even recognise nature's perfection. We need to stop looking for what's wrong and look for what's right.

It's absolutely fascinating (if not soul destroying) to see the studies into the common, significant factors shared by autistic children. Although there are more than 20 factors, these children often have at least four or five in common, including:

. Deep forceps delivery
. Separation of mother and child at birth (always happens after birth problems)
. Being hospitalised in early life
. Being exposed to too many strange faces in the early years

Every invention that a mother accepts as normal, such as ~

* A pregnancy test (rather than listening to her body tell her that she's pregnant)
* Scan to tell her that baby is growing and is ok (rather than intuition)
* Antenatal tests (usual barrage ~ urine, blood, heart)
* Drugs to 'mask' her fear
* Fake milk for babe (this topic is so huge and fundamentally explosive to humans, personally and collectively, and humanity's future, that it takes a book to discuss it)
* Cots, cribs, prams, day care, early institutional learning

~ all separate mother from child. They put a physical, emotional and spiritual distance between them. The trouble is that this numbing-out becomes the 'norm' and our detachment is not questioned. Rather, those with a strong mothering instinct are made to look abnormal.

I would say that almost all women who choose an unassisted birth have done so knowing that they had to take 100% responsibility for their actions. In doing so they've taken great care with their health and well-being, possibly doing so from before conception. These women nurture mind, body and soul. For them it's a priority to surround themselves with positive influences and uplifting birth stories. And if women are honest, there's nothing encouraging or supportive about hearing women's horrific birth stories! Why do we keep perpetuating them? And why does the media keep showing women flat on their backs in birth? It's the worst possible position.

If you choose the medical system and eat rubbish, drink alcohol, smoke, don't rest adequately, work throughout your pregnancy, stay in a negative relationship, etc., you're ok aren’t you? The system will take care of you and pick up the pieces. Nobody ever questions it.

I am firmly in the pro-freebirth camp. (Freebirth was a term coined by the late, great Jeannine Parvati Baker). And for the record it IS legal in the UK. Just because the vast majority of professionals in the birthing field and social workers are unaware of it, doesn't mean it's not true! What the law states is that someone not trained in birth 'care' can not 'deliver' the baby. The mother has every right to birth her own baby without assistance or supervision.

At The Mother magazine our ethos regarding birth is that we don't wish to perpetuate the belief that birth is 'dangerous or painful', but rather, that birth can be beautiful, ecstatic and indeed, orgasmic, just as nature intended.

I don't buy the often touted biblical stuff about childbirth pain being the legacy of sin.

That we suffer pain is a direct reflection of our fear of birth and our body, as well as 'taking on' ancestral stuff from recent times. We carry cellular memories from when matriarchal societies were over-ruled and nine million 'witches' (aka wise women!) were burned for knowing about women's power (birth, menstruation, herbs, dreams, etc.) That's a rather heavy burden for us girls to carry. It doesn't mean we need to create invasive, violent or disrespectful births. We can change the pattern. And it is women such as Freebirthers who are taking this in their hands. All praise to them, because for each woman who brings a baby into this world gently, peacefully and magically, they are helping to change the collective energy around birth. I have nothing but pure admiration for them.

My mother had her last three children at home, unassisted. And I suppose for me, it was this normal and natural event that allows me to see Freebirth for what it is, rather than what the media and many birth professionals suggest. I've known of far more babies die or be brain-injured in medically-managed births than I have ever heard of in home or unassisted births.

On Richard and Judy, Laura used the making love analogy. I often cite this in media interviews, 'hoping' that it might just make sense to people…but then making love/sex has become yet another desensitised experience in our modern world.

When we make love, because we're mammals, we do so best in the dark or semi-dark, in an atmosphere conducive to our hormones working well. We need comforting smells and touch, whispered voices. In essence, we need to be 'wooed'.

If you were about to make love to your partner and he suddenly stopped to turn on the tv for cricket results, or raced out of the room to stop the toast burning, or just when you were ready to orgasm, your mum phoned…well, it won't be a great experience! The flow will be interrupted.

The SAME hormones are used in birth and breastfeeding. We're simply not designed to have strangers watching us when we give birth…any more than we're designed to have our blood pressure or heart checked, fingers checking cervix, etc. It's wrong, wrong, wrong!

Most hospital births, by their very nature, involve fluorescent lightning, metal dishes being banged around, staff talking to each other, the bloody clock on the wall ticking!!, machines beeping. What sort of an environment is that in which to welcome a sacred being Earthside? Reeks to me of something rather barbaric, actually. Start life with a violent birth, and odds are greatly in your favour that violence will be part of your life later on.

Muck with birth and you ask for trouble. Period. Every intervention is an intervention on the pathway to more intervention. Accept it at your own risk. Don't worry though, because no one will call you irresponsible…even if you've never given it any thought or your informed consent. No-one will call you irresponsible when your baby is handled like a lump of meat, rather than the exquisitely sensitive being she is.

People often evangelise doctors and say they 'saved' their baby. I will always disagree with that. If a baby survives birth (or any other life/death event) the doctor or midwife is a catalyst, not a life saver. It is incredibly egoic and arrogant to think that a human has the ability to keep a body and soul connected. It's simply not possible. This world we see is but a mere shadow of an unseen REAL world. None of us has control over when the Light goes out, or indeed begins.

Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting
The soul that rises with us
Our life's Star
Hath had elsewhere its setting
And cometh from afar
Not in entire forgetfulness
And not in utter nakedness
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home.

~ William Wordsworth

When we can understand at the deepest level that birth and death are one and the same, then we'll have unlocked one of life's deepest mysteries…and then we'll let go of birth management. Society will inevitably change (for the better) as a result. I think, at the deepest level, that most Freebirth women have made the birth/death connection.

Natural birth is a place which invites nurturing and love…words and a practice not part of the obstetrical thesaurus! Birth 'care' as conducted by obstetricians is aggressive by the very nature of it being controlling. To reclaim birth as the sacred experience gifted to us by the Goddess, we need to let go of this obsession with judging a birthing woman by her age, size of her pelvis, previous birth history, urine samples and so on. These are irrelevant to how she'll give birth. What we really need to look at is how she was born. How did her mother bring her into the world? Our own birth has a huge impact on how we approach bringing children into the world ~ conscious or otherwise.

The reason our culture advocates medically supervised birth is because it wants women controlled…for surely there is nothing more primal (or beautiful) than an empowered birthing woman.

It's inevitable, this blog being available to anyone, that some, perhaps many, will read this and disagree wholeheartedly. That's fine. I ask you this, though. If your faith in medical birth is so strong, how would you face birth if you had to take 100% responsibility for it without help, supervision or intervention? What would you do to ensure you and your baby's safety?

Not having a conscious conception is like missing the beginning of a good movie!
~ Thomas Darling

How is it that most modern women manage to conceive without interference but can't give birth without 'help'? Both conception and birth are sacred and otherworldly miracles made manifest in the physical. Perhaps if more people started witnessing their conception as a conscious, creative, selfless act of intimacy in which they first discovered themselves, we'd see it mirrored in an easy, pain-free, spontaneous birth also.

Risk! Risk anything! Care no more for the opinions of others, for those voices. Do the hardest thing on earth for you. Act for yourself. Face the truth. ~ Katherine Mansfield

Saturday, June 16, 2007

British school lunches

Today's cuppa: Linden and galangal tea

It's no wonder Jamie Oliver had kittens when he went into English school kitchens and saw what was being served up!

Last week's menu at my girls' school:

* Meatballs
* Pizza
* Shepherd's pie
* Breaded fish
* Tuna lasagne with garlic bread

It's an outstanding menu, apparently, compared to what Jamie saw in some schools: burgers, fries, turkey twizzlers...

At my girls' school there's no vegetarian/vegan option on the menu ~ whether that's because this is a farming community, or because only skinny celebrities are vegetarians, I'm not sure. Those children who don't eat meat will be left with overcooked cabbage, mashed potato or chips with tomato sauce. Eliza's teacher didn't even know what a vegan was. You'd think it was the 1960s.

Even if there had been a meat-free option, I'd never let my children eat school food. A number of reasons exist for this:

. The poor quality of ingredients compared to their usual diet.
. Consciousness of the cooks (one of them stands outside the school smoking, and drinking coke).
. At home I know what's in the food. Meals are prepared from scratch ~ so no hidden ingredients.
. Authenticity of the kitchen workers ~ do they care about hygiene, food quality, etc. My husband is always shocked by how many men using public loos don't wash their hands. He's even seen food preparation workers avoid doing this most basic act of hygiene.
. My children's meals don't contain additives, preservatives, e-numbers, sugar or unhealthy fats.

Tuesday at school was healthy living day so the cook was making a special, healthy meal. A note was sent home to let parents know. Can you guess which one of the above meals was the healthy one? Tuna lasagne, of course! It's so obvious isn't it?

. Tuna ~ full of mercury.
. Cheese ~ to clog up the mucosal membranes and add unhealthy fats to a growing child's body ~ they'll be the adults who are dependant on the NHS because of sky-rocketing cholesterol. Unhealthy fats are one of the leading factors in skin cancer ~ the sun literally cooking them on the skin. This doesn't happen with natural oils like flaxseed, hemp, nuts, olive and avocado if consumed in their raw state.
. Wheat ~ a common allergen. It isn't designed to be consumed by the human body. People who are conscious of what they eat and how it affects them will notice how quickly wheat drains their energy. Why would we feed this to children in the middle of a school day?
. Garlic bread ~ in case they didn't get enough wheat in the lasagne they can also have some garlic bread because we all know white bread is so nutritious. That's silly, of course, because white, processed products have a deleterious effect on the body stripping us of nutrients.
. Spread for garlic bread ~ add a bit of butter or margarine for another dose of unhealthy fat. The garlic is probably processed powdered stuff, rather than freshly crushed, because most children probably wouldn't touch fresh garlic.

The children whose parents think the above menu is great will be eating similar, or worse, at home. No conscious parent would find such food acceptable on a daily basis.

How on earth is a human supposed to thrive on such a diet? Where are the enzymes, the 'light' electrons, the living nutrients? Why are we ~ as a culture ~ feeding our children dead food? Is it because we've become deadened ourselves and can't be bothered to honour the needs of a growing body?

Fortunately my girls know enough about nutrition to see that the school's attitude to food is inadequate at best. It's rather telling that for those children who don't eat the cooked school lunches, their lunch is called sandwich time. Why not say "time for home lunches"? Why presume every child lives off bread? Because it's the norm… Just about every child at the school with a packed lunch does eat bread. Sure, it's quick and easy to make, and doesn't take much thought or preparation, but is that a good enough reason to give that to a child day after day?

Why not try the following?

Vegetable crudités and hommous
Stuffed vine leaves
Tofu, olives, cherry tomatoes, cucumber chunks
Quinoa with apple and walnut salad
Mango and chickpea curry with amaranth
Basmati with lime and coriander
Home-made carrot and ginger soup in a mini-flask
Lentil, tofu and sweet corn rissoles (made with rice crumbs, not wheat ~ and baked, not fried)
Carrot and cucumber sticks with apricot and chickpea dip
Rice crackers and tofu cream cheese with assorted raw vegetables
Fresh fruit smoothie

We went to the school's summer fare the other day and I noticed a food poster in Eliza's classroom. It had the usual four food groups and one of them was labelled 'meat and alternatives'. Why should other proteins be considered alternative when for most of the world's population they are staples? Haven't we moved on at all, as a species, to know that protein isn't obtainable from meat alone? What ever happened to quinoa [contains all 8 amino acids], tofu, leafy greens, nuts, beans, tahini (sesame spread), pulses, beansprouts?

Food is a vibrational medicine. It literally nourishes every cell of our being ~ mind, body and soul. We simply can't expect to raise our consciousness if we're regularly consuming 'consciousness-numbing' food. Most people are on a standard processed diet and are committing slow suicide simply by ingesting dead foods on a regular basis.

We all have a choice. No-one forces us to eat dead, processed food. We put it in there all by ourselves. This next generation is dependant on us to set a good example. That means we have to step out laziness, cultural norms and habit ~ and reach for optimal nutrition. It includes taking the time to eat as a family, away from the tv; and sitting down together and being grateful for the food we're about to eat.

Humanity has been breaking bread together for millions of years. Our cultural consumption of food taken in isolation, and without mindfulness, is a new phenomenon. The consequences are dire.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Child's Play

Bethany, Veronika and Eliza on a windy day at Lake Ulswater.
Today's cuppa: Lemon grass and ginger

Back in the saddle again! Yeeeeeeeeeehaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa. It's been ages since I've blogged. It looks like Google has finally sorted out its technical stuff.

Play doesn't come naturally to me ~ I blame it on Saturn in Aries in my 5th house (the house of children, play and creativity)… Saturn in Aries is a bit like going through life with the brakes permanently on! Saturn prefers structure and routine and scratches his head at spontaneity and laughter. Silly old thing.

The other day Eliza and I were playing ball on the netball court. I used to be quite good at it as a kid ~ before I grew breasts and got all out of balance! My fondest childhood memories involve play, and although I'm one of eight children, many of my games involved only moi! But play I did. The resources around me were endless ~ mountains, creek, waterfall, trees, horses, corrugated iron to slide down a hillside on, swimming in muddy dams, building tree houses, acres and acres to run and hide in. Childhood was fun!

I was blessed to live on such a large amount of land, and to be free to explore without the modern day fear many parents have of their child being abducted. There were dangers all around me though. Always the possibility of falling down the waterfall, being bitten by a red-belly black snake (god, I get goosebumps even writing the word snake!!), tripping over in a field away from adults, being thrown off my horses, etc.

Childhood is a great training ground for adulthood. If all the dangers which existed had been used as an excuse to stop me playing, the rest of my life would have turned out very differently. Through risk, and pushing boundaries, I learnt to believe in myself. We can be aware of dangers, but the key isn't to focus on them…lest we attract them in. I read recently that worry is another way of praying for what you don't want! When my children go out to play I imagine them protected by a 'white light' ~ call it a guardian angel if you will. I don't help them by chewing my finger nails in anxiety. I have to trust.

In the news this week we hear shocking statistics of how few children in Britain are allowed to play outside unsupervised by adults before the age of 14. Fourteen? Cripes, I left home at 16! How would I have been prepared for adult life with just two years of risk taking?

It's heartbreaking really. Children need self-created adventure, to take risks, to have fun ~ without adults around.

Just the other day the village boys were collecting bits of wood and cutting the wheels from the wheelie bins (!) to make a go-cart. How different their childhood would be if they lived in a large city. In winter, if it snows, the children get to toboggan down the main road in our village.

My girls can ride their bikes all around here. Are they safe? Yes and no.

I 'trust' that they'll be safe when they go out. The farmers around here have no concept of slowing down on their tractors through the village (they travel faster than cars) and all the while talk on their mobile phones.

I know life can change in a nano-second and that a moment of not concentrating by the farmer could end a life or cause permanent injury to a child on foot or on their bike. Should I keep my children in the back garden? Both answers could be right. As a mother I feel it is wrong to restrict my children to the back yard. If I lived in the middle of London things might be a bit different, but I'd certainly make sure they had access to outdoor spaces without feeling I was watching them.

The odds of abduction are so statistically low that to use it as an excuse to isolate children is very sad.

As for children being sexually abused, it is usually done by someone you know. I never left my children with baby sitters (not for that reason) and the few times they've been in someone else's care, it has been someone I trusted with my gut. I think my radar now for abusers is pretty accurate. God knows I drew enough of them into my childhood!

My children are of an age where the communication between us is such that they could tell me if any man (or woman) ever attempted to invade them or take advantage in any way. They know their body belongs to them and not another.

Our village, Glassonby, only has about 100 residents…it's a tiny place at the base of the Pennines. It does have a holiday cottage and so I'm used to seeing a stranger from time to time, as well as cyclists on the coast to coast route. A year or so back, the girls and I were coming into the village after a long walk. A man came walking past us ~ we said hello ~ and I suddenly felt so sick in my stomach. It was one of those situations where the 'logical' brain was trying to shoosh up the intuitive part of me and wondering what on earth was going on. I don't know why but I said to the girls, 'don't go back out in the village today ~ just play in the garden.'

About half an hour later the phone rang. Another lady in the village called to say that a man was hanging about at the local stone circle ~ ½ mile away. Children had seen porno magazines in the back of his car as well as a Postman Pat blanket. She suggested I might want to keep the kids at home. Turns out it was the same man.

OMG. At least my intuition was spot on. This bloke hung around the village for a week. The police said they couldn't do anything until he'd 'done something'.

It did highlight that even little villages can be targets for those who prey on children. This is one of the last places in the populated world that I'd have expected it… My children roam freely throughout the village and up to about a mile past the outskirts. The condition is they only go beyond the outskirts if they're with each other and that they tell me which direction they're going in.

It can be tough raising kids in this culture. Our biggest fear though, should be fear itself. None of us can know what someone else's soul journey is while on this Earth. To think we actually have control over another soul's life choices is a myth. We can't know that maybe they're meant to fall over and break a leg or fall out of a tree. We can lock our kids up in the bedrooms, cotton wool them from life, but why on earth would we even have children if something as basic and ESSENTIAL as play is being denied?

Collectively we've taken away gentle birth, the in-arms phase, full-term breastfeeding and unstructured learning…now we're taking play away too? Can't anyone see the long-term consequences of this? It will come back to haunt society.

If you're frightened of your children being attacked, let them take martial arts courses or go with a friend to their destination. Life is full of risks but, as someone once wisely said: "Life's either a daring adventure or NOTHING AT ALL." And frankly, without a little risk life isn't worth living.

See you next week! Have fun. ~ Veronika