My mother, Jane is the embodiment of the ethereal motherly love that travels through the universe nurturing and fiercely protecting the young and helpless. While her unflinching love has always been a constant in my life, she was not afforded the same luxury.
Jane was born and raised in a traditional 1950s Illinois home where fatherly love was rare and unexpected in the 50s cultural climate. Her father's void was filled by her loving Texan mother Eve, who was a homemaker. Tragically, Jane lost Eve to cancer at the tender age of ten, which rocked her belief system at its core. She was never warned of her mother's disease and was notified of the death abruptly. Even more abruptly, her father remarried only two months after Eve's passing, and brought into their home not only a replacement but a step mother who saw Jane as a hindrance rather than an asset. The home created by her father and step mother was caustic and toxic pushing her away at every turn. She eventually ran away at fifteen and was eventually taken in by her loving but tough aunt Dorothy.
This tumultuous upbringing led Jane on a spiritual journey looking for love and meaning. She ended up in Los Angeles in the 1970s getting to know new intriguing belief systems rarely heard about in the mid west. Her life changed forever on August 1st, 1978 when my sister Ariella Angelique was born 6 weeks early. In those days that was very premature and came with risk factors. My mother was forced to learn quickly about healthcare and the inefficient systems that went along with it. Jane adapted and learned and used that experience to spark a passion for holistic healthcare.
Although it seemed like my mother was always around while I was growing up, as an adult I can see how impossibly busy she must have been. Firstly, she was and is my father's business partner and confidant, always adding a much needed grounded perspective to his visions. She was a guardian ad litem for young women in the Miami Dade court system. She obtained her Bachelors, Masters, and became an adjunct professor. She was and is a political activist, I vividly remember attending an protest at UC Berkeleywith her when I was six. And she was the one everyone called when they were in need. When my childhood friends were arrested north of Orlando they instinctively called Jane who immediately jumped in her car and bailed them out all the while giving a piece of her mind to the police for profiling my friends.
Jane is a cancer survivor, mother, grandmother, scholar, advocate, activist, wife, friend, environmentalist, feminist, and cat lover. She is my hero, I love you mom!
Below are my questions to my mother, to try and help me give my children the kind of love she gave me
What were your main goals as a parent, what kind of children did you hope to raise?
My main goal as a parent was to raise kind and loving human beings who could help to make the world a better place. I think I succeeded in this, and am very proud to say that you and your sister have dedicated your lives to spreading love and achieving high ethical standards. And you've given us some pretty fabulous grandchildren who are all amazing human beings, too.
What were your biggest fears about parenting?
My own childhood was kind of terrible so I wasn't sure I knew how to love and care for anyone, let alone those entirely dependent on me.
What was your approach to discipline?
My approach to discipline was to talk, talk, talk. We didn't believe in punishment except that you knew you were going to have to listen to a whole lot of annoying talk if things went poorly. I still don't see punishment as a very effective means of achieving parenting goals
Where did you feel the most frustrated as a parent?
Being the parent of teenagers is . . . challenging.
What were your thoughts on education and how did they change over time?
I believed that kids could learn everything that they needed and wanted by becoming good readers and experiencing life. Hence, we did not send you to school. I'm a little less out-there now and see the value in a bit more structured learning. I still really don't like schools much, though, as I feel that the national addiction to testing has led to a great diminishment in actual education.
What tools did you find most effective in creating a home filled with love?
First of all, love has to be top priority. School, careers, and stuff all take a big back seat. Spend time together creating a family culture -- togetherness is everything. Definitely eat together as much as possible. Make sure that the family is a cohesive unit and not isolated islands glued to screens in their individual rooms. As your kids age, make sure your house is the place where their friends can gather.
What did you find most effective to spark passion and inspiration in me and Ariella?
I think that your passions were sparked by time spent in nature amongst the trees and the animals. We lived without TV, which might be the single greatest thing I ever did. I loved going with you to museums. We read lots of amazing children's literature when you were little, hours a day of reading aloud (no TV!). Later we traveled to some pretty fantastic places. And we always tried to look for the magic and miracles in every day life.
What made us most insecure and unhappy
I regret that I didn't understand that you needed more structure and routine. I thought each day should be a grand adventure filled with surprises but you wanted to know exactly what was going to happen every minute, and I could have been a better mother if I understood how different you were than me in that regard.
How did you see healthcare and in what ways did your perspective evolve?
I saw healthcare as a never ending detective mission to figure out the problems and find solutions based on trying to avoid doctors and drugs at all costs. However, when you fall down and need stitches or break a bone, thank goodness for the hospital and doctors who are there to put you back together... I'm still exactly the same.
What do you attribute to having healthy relationships with your adult children?
I have great respect for my children as adults. About 95% of the time I remember not to tell you and your sister what to do, as in, don't treat your adult kids like children. I learned a lot about parenting adults from your grandfather, Joe Nevel, who showed me through example that family relationships are always evolving, and you'd better go with it if you want those relationships to grow and thrive.