Sharing gratitude on a nightly basis

Before my children go to sleep at night, I have 3 questions that I ask them:

  1. What did you learn today?
  2. What was your favorite part of the day?
  3. What are you grateful for?

These questions have become a ritual for us as we have been doing it for years. We continue to do so even as we navigate the middle school days for my youngest and now are moving into the high school years for my oldest. I know we all look forward to this time of connection as it opens up a conversation that goes beyond the simple responses to those questions.

I have been surprised to find that the topic about gratitude is often the one that is discussed the most. There is an appreciation for all of us when we take the time to offer our thanks for something that happened during the day. My girls’ answers may be about a material item they received or a favorite food that they were able to eat — especially if it is a dessert — and I have found that is a practice for me to listen to their responses without judgement.

hands-heart-grainsIt is a gift for each of us to pay attention to one another in a way that offers a willingness to receive whatever the other person has to offer. I am thankful for this opportunity to connect with my kids and for us to grow in our understanding that often it is the simple things in life that we are most grateful for.

Sometimes my girls give me the same answer for all 3 questions, and I am fine with this as I recognize that maybe being tired overcomes the desire to engage in conversation. I trust that they are offering what they can in the moment and that on a different day I may hear much more when they are ready to share. It is also possible that one event was the highlight of their day and the one thing that does answer all 3 of the questions. When I realize this, I am excited that they were able to engage in an activity that was filled with joy.

The time just before we fall asleep is one of my favorite moments of the day. I know that this can be a magical time when both girls are willing to open up with me and express what they are thinking or how they are feeling, which they might not do during any other time of the day. Every once and awhile, I have tried to get them to answer the questions over dinner only to be confronted with the comment that the day is not yet complete so I will just have to wait until later in the evening.

Over the years, I have grown to realize that this simple time with my kids is one of the best ways to engage in peaceful parenting as it reminds us what we are thankful for and encourages a dialogue that may not have taken place. I am amazed at all the events that they encounter in a day without me. I trust that they are navigating each experience with grace even when it is not so easy. I know that they will talk to me when needed.

As we move into a season where many families are expressing gratitude, I am reminded of how lovely it is for me and my kids to share our thanksgivings on a nightly basis. 

Unconditional love

Editor’s note: Welcome to APtly Said’s celebration of mothers! This year’s theme for Mother’s Day is “Life Lessons” as Attachment Parenting International celebrates with an inspiring series from May 7-11. We hope you enjoyed your Mother’s Day and were able to reflect on what you’ve learned through your motherhood journey.

lisa fiertag 2My daughters are two of the most amazing teachers I have ever been around. Every day, I feel grateful to have them in my life and for the many ways they shower me with unconditional love.

My children have gifted me with the opportunity to open my heart, as I have learned that love can be felt and expressed without anything attached to it.

Before having children, I disliked change and I craved structure, schedules, and predictability. I never thought that motherhood would challenge all of these needs. Through the gift of unconditional love, I found myself willing to surrender to the present moment and to embrace change. I realized that the more I tried to control my children, the more we struggled, but when I was flexible, all the structure came down and each one of us could rest in the beauty of what we were doing.

Lisa Feiertag_Mothers DayAlong the way, I saw that there is a path that each of my daughters will take, and while I am a part of their journey, it is not mine to own nor is it static in any way, shape, or form. It is a fluid, ever-changing, and evolving road that is based on their individual needs, emotions, and wants. When I am in recognition of this, then there is a flow that allows each moment to unfold exactly as it is meant to, and I don’t have to hold the energy to make it happen, because no matter what I do it is going to happen.

I can relax. I can enjoy. I can breathe, and I can trust that what my children are experiencing is perfect and that they both know that I am available to guide, support, and witness all of it.

Both of my daughters have invited me into one of the most emotionally intimate relationships that exist between two people. What I have learned is that in order to be completely available to both of them, I have to be willing and open to look deeply inside myself — to welcome all of the good and not-so-great qualities that have made me who I am today. When I do this, then I am owning what has arisen for me on my path so that I am not projecting it onto theirs. I am examining all the hard emotions and sticky thoughts that I have held onto for one reason or another.

When I look into the eyes of my children I can see a reflection staring back at me that trusts that I will be available…that I will take care of them…that I will do the work that is needed to surrender into me, into the moment, into who they are so that I am present for each of them to blossom into the great teachers that they are and will continue to become.

Trusting that everything is happening exactly as it is going to and that I will know what to do in each moment is a lesson that I will take with me throughout the rest of my life. From the unconditional love my daughters offer me, I am at peace with who I am, and I offer this love back to both of them so that they may be held and supported in all that they do while they grow into the beautiful humans that they are.

A mother’s love story

1386612_mom_and_kidEditor’s note: Attachment Parenting International (API) hopes every mom enjoyed her Mother’s Day on May 10 and every dad is looking forward to Father’s Day on June 21. This week, in honor of all mothers, API gives you a special “Inspired Mothers” celebration. We hope these posts inspire you in your parenting journey.

As this year’s Mother’s Day was approaching, I found that I was thrilled to spend time with my kids. I actively left the day free of scheduled activities so that we could be fully engaged together doing whatever came up that we enjoy. But with this excitement, there was also a touch of grief and sadness as I recognized that last year my mother passed away just a few days after Mother’s Day.

I didn’t always have the best relationship with my mother, as there were many challenges. My mother had a mental illness that kept her emotionally unavailable at times. Her symptoms often caused strain and hardships, and her ability to parent me was impacted.

When I found out I was pregnant with my first, I was terrified as I didn’t want to parent in the same way I had experienced from my childhood. A few months after giving birth to my oldest daughter, I found my way to API. I was tremendously relieved to find an organization that offered language around what I was doing instinctively. I knew I needed to know more about each of API’s Eight Principles of Parenting. I wanted to learn as much as possible, because I understood that I was stepping into unknown territory.

My parents did the best they could with the information they had at the time. My mother shared her love with me the only way she knew how and the only way her mind and body would allow her to.

Finding my way to API was a gift in that I was now given the opportunity to gather information that was not available to my parents. I could raise my children within an attached framework, while also sharing with my parents the knowledge I was absorbing. As I became more confident in my parenting skills, I was able to express to my mother the many reasons why I was doing what I was doing with my daughters. She began to understand and would often share how she wished she had this information when I was a baby.

She would comment to me on how lovely my daughters were and how they were growing up into beautiful, young ladies. She knew that I held a connection with my daughters that we did not share, and I could feel her sadness around this grief — her wishing things could have been different when she was a young mother.

lisa feiertag her motherMy mother’s death has allowed me insight into who she was as a person and why she did things the way she did. I have found that even the things I thought were unfair or done differently than I would have liked were also being held with as much love as she could offer in that moment. Her love was shown in many different ways.

As I sat with my mother in May of 2014, I asked her what she wanted her family to know after she passed. She began by telling me a brief story about each of her siblings, my father, my brothers, my sister and me, but she stopped herself before she could finish and she looked at me. She told me to forget all those stories and to forget everything she mentioned. She told me to tell everyone that the only thing that mattered was love and that, no matter what had happened in the past, she loved each and every one of us.

It was in that moment that I knew my mother loved me.

Compassion, balance and truth in parenting

lisa feiertag 3Compassion.

What does this word mean to you?

I see compassion as being open to seeking the truth in any given moment. As a parent, I am constantly invited inward in order to seek my truth. Our children and partners have their own truths. It can be challenging when I am forced to find the truth that lies within each person in my family.


What does this word mean to you? It may mean being honest, open and vulnerable. It might mean only speaking what you know to be right or it could mean a variety of other different options.

Truth, as I am speaking of now, is the inner voice that each person brings into the world. It is that innate wisdom that we each hold. It is the intuition that guides us forward as we are making decisions within our lives.

Our children are born with their own truths, and as parents, we are invited to take part in assisting our kids as they open to that guidance. Compassion arises when we are open to seeking out those truths.

“Compassion is the basis of all truthful relationship. It means being present with love for ourselves and all of life.” ~ Ram Doss

This quote is one that resonated with me the minute I heard it. The words brought on a new level as I began to understand how they may play out in my role as a parent. It reminded me of one of Attachment Parenting International‘s Eight Principles of ParentingStrive for Personal and Family Balance — for it is when we are in love with ourselves that we can find what is needed to nurture another.

Finding balance and taking time for my needs has been one of the most challenging aspects to the role of being a parent.

When my daughters were both under the age of 5, I thought that taking time to myself was a joke. How could any parent do that? Don’t we need to be fully engaged with our children all the time no matter what?

I could not have been further from my truth. What I was missing in my thinking was that when I took time to engage in activities that nourished me, I was able to offer myself compassion…which leads to hearing my wisdom…which allows me to be fully present to my children and their truths.

What I needed in those early years was permission to allow for self-compassion. I needed to know that not only was it OK for me to take a few moments to myself, but it was absolutely vital.

Compassion requires balance and a willingness to be available to yourself. This is the key to my parenting that has served me well as my daughters are growing older.

The beauty is that I have taken the steps to implement this message into my daily routines and my daughters have both been witnesses to this. They have seen what it looks like when I am in balance and what it looks like when I am a mess — yes, those days happen! From those observations, my children are empowered to find what is needed for them to be centered, mindful and aware of their own truth.

Making connections through gift-giving and receiving

christmas-gifts-1322621-mI don’t know about you, but every year as the winter holidays begin to creep closer, I start to have a moment of panic.

Well, maybe it is not so much panic but more dissociative in nature.

What I am preparing for is the list that is coming, the list of items that I know my children are going to be wishing for as they begin to write down all the material goods that they desire.

The panic is what creeps in first as I prepare myself to show willingness to accept these lists that they have worked so hard to create. The dissociation comes in when I want to go into denial about this time of year, how many gifts to purchase or what it all really means.

I am lucky to be in a position where I am usually able to purchase whatever my children need or to obtain exactly what is desired throughout the entire year. As a result, these lists that my children are creating seem like extra stuff that they do not really need but are developed out of the idea of the gift-receiving concept that comes with the winter holiday season.

What if things were different this year? What if gift-giving and receiving really came from the heart? Could this provide us with an opportunity to see and distinguish between what we need, want and desire?

Could we expand upon this concept to move away from the material side of the holidays and look more closely at the altruism and willingness to open to others in love?

Instead of leaving my children alone to make a gift wish list, I could spend time with them. We could look at what passions they have and then volunteer or make financial donations to organizations or charities that are aligned with their interests. We could make a decision to support only local businesses when we want to purchase items. We could spend time together making gifts or finding other ways to engage within our community.

All of this we could do without any expectation of return, which is one way of defining what it means to offer gifts.

Maybe this year will be about embracing a different side of the economy that does not involve me going to multiple stores to purchase every item on my children’s wish lists.

lisa feiertag 3Instead, we are opening doors of connection, providing opportunities for me to understand what my children enjoy doing and how we can share that love with others.

This could become very contagious.

As we step outside the norm to offer gifts from the heart that involve our time, energy and money, others may see how much joy we have. They may wonder where this comes from and may experience exactly what it means when we offer service or gifts to others without any expectation of return. This could be the encouragement needed for my girls to continue doing it and has the potential to get others involved.

What a great way to form connections with our loved ones and to embrace community instead of continuing within a pattern of panic and dissociation.

Attachment Parenting in shared custody

apm logoWe are in the midst of October, which happens to be Attachment Parenting Month,  and I am wondering what this year’s theme — “Cherishing Parents, Flourishing Children” — means to me?

As I sit with this question, I am reminded of the many times lately that I have found myself in conversations about how people sometimes assume that to practice Attachment Parenting means to give yourself up fully to your child: to exist only for the benefit, safety, love, health and security of your child, for all legal matters in regards custody check out now.

Upon learning about Attachment Parenting, I can see exactly why this is what people believe, since many of Attachment Parenting International’s Eight Principles of Parenting seem different than what our mainstream culture has associated with parenting.

Now I could go into a long discussion about mainstream parenting, Attachment Parenting and how it all came to be, but what I want to focus on is how it might look like in my household and why cherishing the parent is vital so that children can flourish.

Let me begin by telling you that I am a mom who shares custody of my children with their father on a schedule that is as balanced as we could make it. We have been doing this for the past three years, and the time away from my kids is often extremely difficult but also provides an opportunity for me to heal and explore my interests.

I have friends who envy that I have alone time built into the week and other friends who cannot even imagine having days where they would not see their kids.

I also want to mention that my children are hitting the pre-teen years. Next summer, I will have one daughter who is officially a teen and another daughter who has hit double digits. They are growing fast, and I have to cherish all the time I have with them.

lisa fiertagWith everything that is going on in our lives, I know that I am doing the best I can with my girls.

I have beautiful children who are loving, kind and supportive. They engage in activities that interest them, even if I have to push a bit to get them to try something new. My girls have an awareness of who they are and a willingness to navigate more choices, along with the freedom to explore what they like and don’t like.

All of this is possible because their dad and I have encouraged this, no matter how difficult our lives became.

My children are flourishing.

There was a time when I didn’t believe this would be possible, as my family went through years of one crisis after another. We experienced separation and divorce, major life illnesses and the death of a grandparent. Even with all this stress, the one thing that kept us together was our commitment to parenting.

For me, it was a knowing that my girls might need a little extra time with each parent, so canceling activities that took us away from family was vital. Living in a way that allowed for flexibility was also important, as it is not always known what might emotionally set off any one of us. Having stability in these little ways was important.

My girls know that they can be with me, when needed, at any time day or night even if they are with their dad and vice versa. As my girls have grown older, there are times when I know they need to be closer to me and times when a little freedom is desired, which is all part of the flow.

I have found that parenting does not necessarily get easier as our children grow older, but it is different each and every day.

Cherishing myself, as a parent, does help to make things smoother.

When I am not with my girls, I am engaging in activities that help me grow. I tend to spend my time exploring interests that feed my spirit or allow me to relax. Sometimes I just want to sit on my couch in silence and do absolutely nothing.

This all helps me as a parent. When we cherish ourselves and allow for balance in our daily routines, we are creating security and may thrive from these experiences.

As we cherish our time, our individualism and our interests, we grow. As we grow, we become secure parents who are able to be with our children throughout the worst and the best of times. As we cherish our minds, bodies and souls in whatever way calls to us, we are creating and opening space that allows our children to flourish.

What did you do today to cherishing yourself so that your children may flourish?