PARENTING
12/15/2016 03:21 pm ET Updated Dec 15, 2016

Unfiltered Photo Series Shows What 'Progressive Parenting' Looks Like

"My children are brave, fierce and loving and they remind me to live without fear every day.”

A unique photo essay is giving viewers a glimpse into one family’s “progressive parenting style.”

From Sept. 6 to Nov. 27, photographer Ted Zolyniak aka Ted Zee documented the Murphy Peetz family of South Park, Seattle. Shawna Murphy and Christian Peetz are parents to 12-year-old Beezus and 6-year-old Minnow.

Shawna, 6-year old Minnow, and 12-year old Beezus volunteer to clean schoolrooms at Louisa Boren STEM K-8 on Sep. 6, the
Ted Zee Photography
Shawna, 6-year old Minnow, and 12-year old Beezus volunteer to clean schoolrooms at Louisa Boren STEM K-8 on Sep. 6, the day before the start of the school year. Both girls face learning challenges which require extra one-on-one time with teachers.

Ted told The Huffington Post that the Murphy Peetzes are very “open and giving” people. “Christian is a painter, a funny guy and a loving father,” he said. “Shawna runs a small childcare center from her 1,000 square foot home. The kids are hilarious, caring, free thinkers, and you see their parents’ strength and love coming through.”

Living in Seattle’s diverse South Park neighborhood, Shawna and Christian are activists, organizers and advocates for their community, which they care for deeply.

Beezus huddles with Christian at the Stomp the Patriarchy Ball, an event for the pro-choice organization, Shout Your Abortion
Ted Zee Photography
Beezus huddles with Christian at the Stomp the Patriarchy Ball, an event for the pro-choice organization, Shout Your Abortion, on Sep. 10.

Ted first encountered the family while photographing a Martin Luther King Day rally in Seattle in January. He snapped a powerful photo of Shawna, Beezus and Minnow marching in solidarity for justice and peace over hatred and intolerance. A mutual friend spotted Ted’s photo on Instagram and connected him with Murphy.

“I kept coming back to the MLK Day image, and knew there was a great story there, and the words and pictures that Shawna shared on social media compelled me to ask her if I could follow her family,” the photographer said. “With the election coming up, and so much at stake, it seemed like the right time.”

Seattle MLK Day Rally

A photo posted by Ted Zee (@ted.zee) on

Ted started photographing the family right before the kids went back to school. Although he was nervous at first, the photographer and family quickly became more comfortable around each other. “We went from something that felt very awkward to almost normal in a short amount of time,” he said.

Though he planned to photograph them until Election Day, Ted felt compelled to extend the project to see how they dealt with the aftermath. 

"I hereby solemnly swear to raise the most subversive children as humanly possible," Shawna declared on Nov. 27. "The ol
Ted Zee Photography
"I hereby solemnly swear to raise the most subversive children as humanly possible," Shawna declared on Nov. 27. "The oldest already has a magnificent understanding of every possible way to use the F-word and is GenderFierce. The youngest could eat you for breakfast. Don't worry. We've ALL got this."

Shawna told HuffPost she believes people will draw many different meanings and messages from her family’s photos. Ultimately, she feels the images reflect who they are.

“When we were pregnant, we talked about raising our kids without shame and guilt, first and foremost,” the mom said. “My girls know that being their mother has been my life’s dream come true.”

Having been a childcare provider for over 25 years, Shawna said she’s had many opportunities to observe different families and parenting styles. 

Dressed as Mother Earth, Shawna hosts a Halloween party for the children and parents of Southern Street Kids. Running the bus
Ted Zee Photography
Dressed as Mother Earth, Shawna hosts a Halloween party for the children and parents of Southern Street Kids. Running the business from her home, she prefers the term "childcare" over "day care." "We have a joke in the biz," she said. "I take care of children, not days."

“Long before I became a parent, I already knew what I liked and what I thought would work for me,” she explained. “I try to be really intentional in my work with children and now with my own, but I also embrace being authentic because that’s what I’m asking of the kids, too.”

Parents face a lot of obstacles and worries today, but the Murphy Peetzes refuse to let that hinder their strength and courage.

“We are a working American family doing our best to get by in challenging times,” said Shawna. “We will not sit idly by in complacency in the face of homophobia, racism, sexism and bigotry. My children are brave, fierce and loving and they remind me to live without fear every day.”

Shawna and Beezus guide the group down the 14th Ave South parade route on Sep. 17. The Clinton cardboard cutout was wrapped i
Ted Zee Photography
Shawna and Beezus guide the group down the 14th Ave South parade route on Sep. 17. The Clinton cardboard cutout was wrapped in plastic for rain protection

The photographer hopes his photo essay moves viewers to action.

“I hope that the Murphy Peetz family inspires people, as they have for me, to get more involved in their community ― to put work in and contribute, in any way they can, to bring out the changes that they want to see for their own families and neighborhoods,” Ted said.

“I hope they see how much their children are looking to them as they are shaping their own personalities and their own path,” he added. “I hope they see that love wins.”

Keep scrolling and visit Ted’s website to learn more about Shawna, Christian, Beezus and Minnow.

  • "I want to ask you something, but I don't want to offend you," said Beezus. "Are you gay?" She asked the question as a lead-i
    Ted Zee Photography
    "I want to ask you something, but I don't want to offend you," said Beezus. "Are you gay?" She asked the question as a lead-in to tell me that she was a lesbian. She came out to her family at age 9, and to her schoolmates last year, at age 11.
  • Shawna window washes in the shop classroom. Her "Fund McCleary Now" T-shirt (which she produced with fellow advocate Carolyn
    Ted Zee Photography
    Shawna window washes in the shop classroom. Her "Fund McCleary Now" T-shirt (which she produced with fellow advocate Carolyn Leith and artist Derek Erdman) is in support of a near decade long fight on education in Washington State. The state supreme court mandated in 2012 that lawmakers fulfill their "paramount duty" to adequately fund public education. The state has yet to release a plan to comply with the ruling.
  • Early in the evening, Minnow has the dance floor to herself at the Shout Your Abortion event.
    Ted Zee Photography
    Early in the evening, Minnow has the dance floor to herself at the Shout Your Abortion event.
  • Christian, Shawna, and Beezus enjoy Seattle punk band Tacocat at the end of the night.
    Ted Zee Photography
    Christian, Shawna, and Beezus enjoy Seattle punk band Tacocat at the end of the night.
  • Shawna asks Beezus to stay close to her before a march of Hillary Clinton supporters in South Park's Fiestas Patrias parade o
    Ted Zee Photography
    Shawna asks Beezus to stay close to her before a march of Hillary Clinton supporters in South Park's Fiestas Patrias parade on September 17. Shawna was one of the Clinton march organizers.
  • Shouting "Madame President! Madame President!" Beezus takes lead of the march. "Twelve is that age where you are part grown u
    Ted Zee Photography
    Shouting "Madame President! Madame President!" Beezus takes lead of the march. "Twelve is that age where you are part grown up and part child," said Shawna.
  • Following the parade march, Christian pulls the family past a Fiestas Patrias lowrider show.
    Ted Zee Photography
    Following the parade march, Christian pulls the family past a Fiestas Patrias lowrider show.
  • Christian and Beezus stop to admire a 1981 Buick Regal lowrider.
    Ted Zee Photography
    Christian and Beezus stop to admire a 1981 Buick Regal lowrider.
  • Christian, Shawna, and Beezus watch the September 26 presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump on Beezus'
    Ted Zee Photography
    Christian, Shawna, and Beezus watch the September 26 presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump on Beezus' iPad.
  • Shawna enjoys time with friends at the MWDL (Mothers Who Drink Lunch) at Loretta's Northwesterner on September 9th. Following
    Ted Zee Photography
    Shawna enjoys time with friends at the MWDL (Mothers Who Drink Lunch) at Loretta's Northwesterner on September 9th. Following the first debate, "We were sort of bragging about Pussy Power and breaking the glass ceiling," she said.
  • Shawna preps Minnow for the morning bus ride. Her school took part in a district-wide day of recognition of the Black Lives M
    Ted Zee Photography
    Shawna preps Minnow for the morning bus ride. Her school took part in a district-wide day of recognition of the Black Lives Matter movement on October 19, with some teachers and students wearing T-shirts in a show of unity.
  • Beezus in a display of school-day dread.
    Ted Zee Photography
    Beezus in a display of school-day dread.
  • Three days before the election, Shawna and Christian enjoy a date night at the Mad Hatter Dinner Gala, a fundraiser for Seatt
    Ted Zee Photography
    Three days before the election, Shawna and Christian enjoy a date night at the Mad Hatter Dinner Gala, a fundraiser for Seattle PrideFest.
  • PrideFest Deputy Festival Director Kendall LaBree recognizes Beezus and "World's Youngest Drag Superstar" RainBowGore Cake as
    Ted Zee Photography
    PrideFest Deputy Festival Director Kendall LaBree recognizes Beezus and "World's Youngest Drag Superstar" RainBowGore Cake as part of the up and coming LBGTQ generation.
  • Christian and Shawna make the most of a rare adults night out. Asked if Christian is the strong, silent type, Shawna said, "I
    Ted Zee Photography
    Christian and Shawna make the most of a rare adults night out. Asked if Christian is the strong, silent type, Shawna said, "It's funny because he is the opposite. He is so chatty and social and much more gregarious than myself but for some reason this is how it looks [in photos]. I'm OK with it though."
  • Election Night. Minnow watches children's shows on an iPad while Christian tracks the results at a viewing party in West Seat
    Ted Zee Photography
    Election Night. Minnow watches children's shows on an iPad while Christian tracks the results at a viewing party in West Seattle. "She's going to lose," Christian said to the adults in the room, before heading out to the patio for a cigarette.
  • Sometimes things turn out differently than we had planned. Unexpected. We carry on. We live without FEAR. Love, Mommy." Shawn
    Ted Zee Photography
    Sometimes things turn out differently than we had planned. Unexpected. We carry on. We live without FEAR. Love, Mommy." Shawna shares an Instagram post of lunch notes she wrote for the girls on November 9th. The note to Beezus reads, "It is in the darkest of times that we get to see what people are made of. YOU ARE MADE OF SHINING STARS. Let your LIGHT shine for all to see."
  • Shawna waits as Ryan Wiebusch of ArtCore Tattoo Studios in Georgetown nears completion of a safety pin tattoo on her wrist. "
    Ted Zee Photography
    Shawna waits as Ryan Wiebusch of ArtCore Tattoo Studios in Georgetown nears completion of a safety pin tattoo on her wrist. "I like symbols because they remind me to stay on my path," she said. Shawna organized a group of sixteen women and men to get the tattoos on November 20th, as symbols of solidarity with vulnerable communities. A percentage of the proceeds went to Seattle Counseling Service.
  • Recalling questions from Minnow, Shawna said, "One of my favorites is, 'Do you remember the time it was just the two of us?'
    Ted Zee Photography
    Recalling questions from Minnow, Shawna said, "One of my favorites is, 'Do you remember the time it was just the two of us?' referring to when she was a little egg living inside of me for the first 40 years."
  • "I'm worried for everybody," said Beezus. "Ever since Trump became our president [elect], I haven't felt safe. Now I feel sca
    Ted Zee Photography
    "I'm worried for everybody," said Beezus. "Ever since Trump became our president [elect], I haven't felt safe. Now I feel scared all the time. I'm hoping that he's not as bad as he makes himself out to be, and maybe he just doesn't like Rosie O'Donnell...She's not his idea of pretty."
  • "Mike Pence thinks that I should have my gay electrocuted out of me."
    Ted Zee Photography
    "Mike Pence thinks that I should have my gay electrocuted out of me."
  • Minnow on November 27, our last day. "Do you like my dress? Do you like the hands on my dress? Are you confused? You should b
    Ted Zee Photography
    Minnow on November 27, our last day. "Do you like my dress? Do you like the hands on my dress? Are you confused? You should be."
  • "I'm not big on smoking but I wouldn't be alive if it weren't for smoking," Beezus relays a story that Shawna told her. "So m
    Ted Zee Photography
    "I'm not big on smoking but I wouldn't be alive if it weren't for smoking," Beezus relays a story that Shawna told her. "So my parents had met a couple of times before at the gay club where my mom did coat check on Saturday nights. They liked each other but my dad never asked my mom out, which kind of pissed her off. So one night after my mom's shift at ARO she didn't have a lighter, she saw my dad and asked for a light, and the rest is history. Or herstory, as my mom always says."
  • "This is signature Judd Nelson," said Beezus. "You guys are old, so I thought you would know that."
    Ted Zee Photography
    "This is signature Judd Nelson," said Beezus. "You guys are old, so I thought you would know that."

Photo captions have been edited and condensed.

HuffPost

BEFORE YOU GO

PHOTO GALLERY
'Motherhood Unfiltered' Photo Series Gives Honest Glimpse Into Parenting
CONVERSATIONS