I am looking forward to hitting the road again. When we’re travelling, my life is much simpler — fewer possessions, fewer chores, more time and more friends. When we’re stuck at our home base — our belongings threaten to overwhelm me, the chores are never-ending, time is segmented by the society around us and friends are consumed with their own families and lives.

Delaney does the washing up, August 2012
Delaney happily helps with the washing up.

At the moment, I’m waiting on other people to get The Gifted Gypsy on the road; I’m waiting for my turn in their busy workshops. In strong moments, I can see that this period is allowing us to properly explore more of southeast Queensland. In dark times, I despair of ever returning to a gypsy life of learning, relationships and adventures.

Each day somehow passes, the night, too, merges into dawn, and a new day lies in front of us. I try to keep us busy, but cannot bring myself to drag the girls to any activities to which they are not wholeheartedly committed.

It’s a new thing for me to have four children on all my outings. Since I have had David’s presence full-time for many years, I have grown accustomed to the luxury of leaving children with him whenever they didn’t want their play to be interrupted. Now I am learning how to bring five different personalities into alignment so that we all willingly end up in the same vehicle, travelling to the same destination.

In the past, I have tried to be efficient with my outings. I have set myself a specific number of tasks to do, and I have persisted in dragging the children around with me until I felt a sense of accomplishment. The efficiency that I strive for is probably to save $10 of $15 worth of fuel on a return trip to the same area. For this, I have been willing to endure tears and screams and general unhappiness within the family. No longer.

I am time rich, and my time is for my family. My whole purpose is to model gentleness and love to my girls, and this is accomplished when I place their lives before my own. I can afford the time and fuel it takes to return to the same set of shops in three different journeys. I can abort my mission at any time if the girls are unhappy.

For our little family is a democracy where I am merely the most experienced person. I offer suggestions to the girls and sound out their commitment to the outing. Even a short trip to the shops has to be embraced by all of us, else it is doomed from the outset.

A conscious parenting style can seem ludicrous when written down. How is possible that a grown woman can defer to the wishes of four small children and still accomplish things in the adult world of responsibilities, mechanics, administrations and logistics?

Yet it works. We have grown into this new parenting style over the last two years. In calmly communicating my desires to the children, they mirror my attitude. I am respectfully seeking what I believe is best for us as a family, I share my desires in a way they can understand, and the girls are happy to comply with the things that need to get done.

In the past, I have used a different parenting style — it’s evident in early blog posts. I was adamant that I knew best, I bullied, I bossed, I ordered the children around, I punished them when they did not comply, and I lost sight of the premise that whoever wants to be great must be a servant. Somehow I believed that my age, my height, my experience and my greater world-view gave me the right to impose anything and everything I wanted upon my children.

Now I see that this path was foolishness. My children have their own journeys to make. I can make suggestions — based on my knowledge and past experiences — but in giving my children at this early age the space to form their own knowledge and experiences, I am equipping them for a life of creativity, wondrous adventures and deep relationships.

This is my present mission — to know my girls, to give them the space to grow into individuals and to love them wholly. I do this best when I serve them wholeheartedly — when I don’t take their emotional outbursts as a personal attack, when I embrace chores as an example to demonstrate what I’d like to accomplish and when I respond to them always with love instead of reacting with my own negative emotions.

My task is simply to prepare the possibilities, to present them before the girls and then to embrace the outcome. So, will we have any adventures tomorrow? I’ll have to ask the girls and see!