From childhood aspirations to everyday charity – the Taranaki mum passionate about parenthood


Even as a pre-teen, this parenting expert knew what she’d do when she had children. And now she shares her knowledge with many others

Words: Virginia Winder  Photos: Jane Dove Juneau

Carla Moore knows precisely what a 12-year-old version of herself would say about being a good parent.

She has it in writing — her own.

Nearly 40 years on, the Taranaki woman hasn’t strayed far from the dos and don’ts of that 15-point list written as a child and has a chuckle over No.8: “Dress trendy as to not embarrass my children.”

“Obviously written at a time when I was feeling miffed,” says Carla, who has a Bachelor of Social Science in Education and Psychology and an MA in Educational Psychology.

The pre-teen Carla unwittingly predicted the future focus of the mother-of-four and co-founder of Flourish, a charitable community collaboration focused on making parenting a little easier through education and support for caregivers.

The headquarters of Flourish at Pukekura Raceway in New Plymouth is near Carla’s favourite jogging route around Pukekura Park. This is the venue for a Monday morning running and walking group called Rants in the Park that ends with coffee at Flourish and allows people to connect, exercise for their health and mind and be in nature.

At home, Carla’s large open living room and kitchen are a gallery for children’s art and family photos.

“Put those three things together, and you have gold,” she says.

Flourish’s volleyball team, clothes swaps and breadmaking sessions bring people together for “intentional conversations” and to make friends. “They invite each other to birthday parties, help each other shift, and look after each other’s kids when they have things on.”

Carla hasn’t been working alone — she has a list of philanthropic groups and people to thank as long as an Oscar winner’s, including Flourish co-founder and trustee Jana Dunnet from the Taranaki Toy Library and “my sidekick Katy Quest, who’s been on the ground with me every step of the way”.

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Flourish is a labour of love, with most of its work done by volunteers. However, funding for salaries will be sought this year. Under its umbrella are programmes for parents, including infant massage, te reo Māori in the home, Choices in Childbirth and a six-week Toolbox Baby and Toddler and Primary Years Parenting programme offered through Parenting Place.

Parenting advocate Carla Moore says her parenting charity Flourish offers a five-week International Association of Infant Massage programme led by nurse/teacher/mother Cathy Roberts, which promotes nurturing touch and communication between carer and baby.

“We try and make that a couple’s date night,” she says of the latter.

The toolbox contains valuable lessons, such as “grandma’s rule”: “Instead of saying, ‘No, you can’t go to grandma’s,’ you say, ‘Of course, we can go to Grandma’s, but we’re going tomorrow.’”

Parents are also urged to make a family mission statement, which Carla and her husband, Deano Larsen, have long embraced in their role of nurturing their children, Abe, 23, Toby, 21, Annie, 17, and Monty, 15.

“For years, we had a massive one we lived by and used as a regular family meeting check-in,” Carla says. “It was things like looking up and saying hi to people when they come into our home, we make them feel welcome etc, through to we off turn lights (or anything that made anyone in the family grumpy if it wasn’t done).

Carla and Katy Quest are the driving forces behind Flourish, which received start-up support from the New Plymouth District Council, Toi Foundation and TSB Good Stuff; the mural is by Anneke Moore (no relation to Carla).

“But when I started my ‘letting go’ parenting journey, I rubbed it all out… with a big deep breath and a weird feeling of ‘next stage’ and replaced it with a simple one.”

These days, the whiteboard in the kitchen says: “If you mostly be who you need to be and do what you need to do, the day will be FAB.”

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There’s also a karakia, important to Carla, who is of Rangitāne o Wairau descent.

She and Deano grew up together. He was her brother’s friend and was there for snatched New Year’s Eve kisses. He even looked after Carla when she had her first drunken episode. Deano began to show his feelings by writing to her when she spent a post-school year living in Germany.

Carla says when people finish The Incredible Years® programme at Flourish, they will leave with a kete filled with parenting taonga. She hopes for a flow-on effect from the infant massage sessions: “May you still be doing that (holding your child) when they are 15 — that baby remembers.”

In 1995, Deano asked her to be with him forever by placing a ring-shaped shell on her toe while they were relaxing on the German island of Sylt on the way home from a three-and-a-bit-year OE. She worked as a nanny, mostly in London.

The following year, they were married by Carla’s mum Jennie Moore in a family friend’s garden at Ōkato. Her father, Russell, welcomed everyone in his role as the father of the bride. Carla still has that shell, but not her dad, who lost his battle with leukaemia in 2013.

Back in Aotearoa, she landed what she thought would be her dream job, working at the children’s health camp. “Yes, I was naïve, full of energy, and probably a pain… I would see these beautiful kids have these incredible six weeks and just go home to shit. It was heart-breaking.”

Despite not yet having children, Carla began attending workshops of New Zealand parenting coach, family therapist and author Diane Levy. “I was her groupie, basically.”

Diane told Carla to live her life, do her master’s, have a family and then come see her. “I always had a picture I would have four kids,” says Carla, the youngest of four herself.

At-home barista Annie is having a gap year in 2023 before heading to Otago University to study neuroscience and psychology.

When she was pregnant with Abe, she volunteered with Safety Net to support victims of domestic violence in Auckland. Sometimes, she would get called out in the night, which upset Deano, who was worried about her safety.

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She went on to complete her master’s with a thesis on children who witness domestic violence. “Which I’ve never used.” Back in Taranaki, their family continued to grow, and Carla launched H2 Oh Baby!, an online business offering complete pool kits for homebirths. “I think I was before my time.”

Flourish came into being because Carla saw a community need for a parenting hub, so she created the charitable trust’s deed in July 2020.

“None of this is about being perfect,” she says. “It’s about parenting with intention and consciously wanting to be the best you can be.”

Deano’s parents, Bev and Neil, are moving in with them this year but will have their own self-contained space. “They were so there for us,” she says.

Carla Moore (middle) with her family — all with the surname Larsen — from left, son Abe, 23, husband Deano, father-in-law Neil, son Toby, 21, mother-in-law Bev, son Monty, 15, daughter Annie, 17, and black lab Kamo, 8.

Carla is always looking forward to finding ways to support others and dreams of Flourish being the ultimate hub for parents.

“Who am I not to do this?” she says, referring to American author Marianne Williamson’s words in her 1992 book Return to Love: ‘We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous? Actually, who are we not to be?’

“It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And when we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear; our presence automatically liberates others.”


WHAKATAUKĪ 

Ma te rongo, ka mōhio māte mōhio, ka marama mā te mārama, ka matau mā te matau, ka ora.

Through listening comes awareness.

Through awareness comes understanding.

Through understanding comes knowledge.

Through knowledge comes life and well-being.


Carla’s parenting commandments (written when she was 12)

When I’m a parent I’ll…

* Listen to my kids.
* Praise them.
* Be patient.
* Talk to them about the opposite sex and not make them feel as if they couldn’t tell me about “so and so” and ask my advice on those matters.
* Not treat them like a child when they’re old enough.
* Give them opportunities and encourage joining in.
* Make their friends feel welcome.
* Dress trendy as to not embarrass my children.
* Not take my problems out on them.
* Love my children all the time!!!
* Not argue in front of them.
* Not have favourites.
* Tell my children I love them and cuddle them.
* Teach my children manners and respect.
* Make them appreciate luxuries.

NZ Life and Leisure This article first appeared in NZ Life & Leisure Magazine.
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