I hesitate to respond to this, but now I figure that others have already posted wise words concerning an exceptionally beautiful philosophy of childrearing, so you'll be able to take my thoughts with a grain of salt. Everyone's situation is different, but there are things that I wish I'd known about eight years ago...
I was raised by a couple of not-quite-ex-hippies, the oldest in a family of five kids. We were all unschooled a la John Holt: we had exceptional freedom to follow our interests and passions, and we had a lot more chores and responsibilities than any of the other kids we knew. We were out in the world, meeting people of all ages and walks of life, creating adventure and our own "education"--and when I grew up, I vowed that I would give my own child(ren) the same gift of freedom that my parents gave to us.
Fast forward several years, to when my husband and I had our first child. We were planning on homebirthing and co-sleeping and homeschooling and Accepting Children For Who They Are. And for the next six years, we did our absolute darndest to love and appreciate and nurture our eldest son, who was always just a "little" bit MORE than all the other kids. He was more whiny, more wakeful, more "colicky," more delayed in reaching his "milestones," more needy of constant adult attention, more picky, more focused, more prone to stomach aches, more clingy...and later, more anxious, more depressed, more obsessive, and increasingly prone to more and more explosive tantrums.
He was our first child. People kept saying, "It's a stage!" "All kids have tantrums every so often!" "Kids don't like it when their parents leave." "Is ANYONE truly 'normal'?"
I was so loathe to box my child into someone else's idea of normal. And even pediatricians and child psychologists didn't have a definite idea or diagnosis. Our son was just...hard.
It wasn't until the spring of 2010 that we realized just how much we had been compensating for our little boy's challenges, and how much energy it took to pretend that he was normal. Gradually, over his first six years, he had gone from an almost-but-not-quite Bouncing, Happy Baby...to a withdrawn, "rude," antisocial, tantrumming six-year-old, whose language was slipping away and who was at the very bottom of the percentile charts for height and weight. He ate three foods, I couldn't leave the house without him having an anxiety attack (forget about taking him anywhere), he had no friends or apparent desire for social contact, and his belly was distended and swollen while rashes were torturing him constantly.
It is now two years later. I still have trouble using the word autism. He didn't have all the symptoms anyway. And for the first year and a half of the GAPS protocol, we had to deal with the most acute case of anorexia that I have ever known, to the point where no doctors or therapists had any further ideas. It became more crisis management than coming-to-terms with a diagnosis. We watched our child battle raging infections, and we're not out of the woods yet. But now, after nearly 36 months of monumental effort, my eight-year-old is turning into the little boy who was hiding inside all along.
This little boy actually loves people, and is finally starting to learn all of the social "niceties" that he failed to pick up over his first eight years. This child still has tics and anxieties and obsessions, but gradually the tantrums are decreasing, and his coping skills are increasing, and we're all having a bit more of a chance to breathe. And all of this, pretty much every bit, is due to the healing power of Foods alone. In fact, the most amazing thing is that my used-to-be-anorexic LOVES food now! He still hates raw liver, but now he eats every ferment, vegetable, meat, and soup that is placed in front of him (including the liver), and occasionally wonders why he used to not want to eat.
Weston Price was so, so right about the degenerative powers of the Foods of Commerce...and so, so right about the power of ancestral diets to build and maintain health, not only in a person's teeth but also in brains and communities and entire cultures.
With any luck, we found GAPS in time to save my kids from becoming members of the Omega Generation.
Anyway. Many people will note correctly that their child is not nearly as bad as my child became. And I, still a die-hard unschooler who is inspired by "non-coercive parenting" and Accepting People for Who They Are...am STILL loathe to put any "spirited" "high-needs" child into someone else's diagnostic box. But it's also true that many years ago, MY child wasn't as sick as my child became. And because I was so determined to "accept him for who he was," I turned a blind eye toward the troubling symptoms that nobody could explain, and I tried the squelch the "complaining" voices in my head that would pipe up and say, "Gosh, I'm exhausted! Parenting is....a LOT harder than I thought it would be! I have...absolutely no time for myself. He is just such a...needy kid..."
When my second child arrived, I began to get an inkling of how "normal" parents might feel--tired, but not incredibly and completely drained of energy and coping mechanisms. These parents of normal kids might be tired of putting most of their energy toward childrearing and homemaking...but they would also be energized and inspired by their child's hugs and enthusiasm and joy for life. In our case, there really wasn't much reciprocity in the parent/child relationship (with our eldest), and instead of recognizing what was going on, I blamed myself for my poor parenting, poor household management, poor organization...ANYTHING, rather than noting the Not Rightness.
So anyway...I have a feeling that much of what I'm describing is NOT your situation at all, and probably is not applicable. But my main point is that I think it's okay to take stock of how things are going, and notice whether things are Not Right enough to be really a problem. And this _doesn't_ necessarily mean that there's a lack of Good Parenting or Household Management Strategies, or that a child is Bad. It might not be anyone's fault...but STILL things might be Not Right, and there may be ways to address these things. What I'm learning is that healthy children and healthy parents are resilient, and don't require perfection in order to enjoy their days. It is the growing resilience in my little boy that is one of the things I treasure most about his healing.
These days, things can be imperfect and he doesn't have to scream about it, or "act out," or whine for three hours non-stop. (Sometimes he does, but often he doesn't.) My husband and I are starting to be able to appreciate the perfection in our imperfect lives, and share it with our children. And this is, I now realize, one of the things that families are all about.
I will never be able to thank Weston Price and Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride enough...