“I’d love to know what you are thinking….”

StreamersThis has been said to me so many times through the years – it is a common statement to someone who prefers to keep most of their thoughts to themselves, or certainly until it is safe to bring them out into the world.

The most recent occurrence was just the other day – at a party when a friend and I were both absorbed watching his 3 yr old son delighting in tying paper party streamers round and round his own hands until he couldn’t move them any more, and then breaking free. “I’d love to know what you are thinking….and how we (both parents) would respond to what you did think, if we knew!”

Of course I was thinking things: I was noticing how this little one was engrossed in the game he had created himself without anyone needing to tell him what to do; how he seemed to be loving the physical sensations he could generate – they seemed new to him and I knew that each new physical sensation at his age would be forming new neural pathways in his brain, and literally expanding his mind; how much effort this little one was putting into the ‘breaking out’ stage – at times he looked angry as he wrestled with his ‘captors’ for freedom, each time round testing his own physical strength and mental determination; how satisfied he seemed to be as the grin broke out across his face when, yet again, the streamers fell to the floor and he had beaten them; how each time he looked up at us and made eye contact at the point of triumph; how easy it was to let him play and explore and achieve and just be there to share the affirmation and acknowledgement each time he ‘won’; how much fun you can get out of paper party streamers (he had been playing with them in different ways on and off for about 2 hours) and how many times do we let children really play with the ‘rubbish’ without chiding them for making a mess?

And I thought about the children who couldn’t do what he did – those that don’t have the confidence or creativity to initiate for fear of getting told off, or doing something wrong – those that don’t have the perseverance to stick with something for more than 30 secs unless it is on a screen in front of them, those that would have felt the first sensations of restraint and immediately sought out ‘rescuing’ as they don’t have the sense of resourcefulness that comes through trying one bit more than they think they can, or confidence from having done something new before.

It was a special few moments we shared – and I thought of those children who couldn’t share their journey or triumphs because there are no attentive adults who can give them their undivided attention for a few minutes in a day. And they stayed with me… those moments… and that statement. And they leave me with a challenge. I know that I think many things – I have spent over 25 years working with children in different capacities. It is the issues around children that make me most animated, and I guess that were I to continue just working with children day by day and observing them in non-working moments without sharing my thoughts, then I continue to keep the experiences, lessons and knowledge I have gained over the years to myself.

If I kept my thoughts to myself, I would never give my friend, and any others who might be interested, the chance to find out for themselves how they would respond to my thoughts… and so I withold more learning from others who are as concerned about children’s health and well being as I am.

So this is my response… A small step into greater openness (within the ethical bounds of my work as a therapist). To start to share some of the thoughts I have about children; their physical health, emotional health and mental well being. My aim is to explore, play and experience the sensations… it has been a long time that my thoughts have been as plentiful as piles of party streamers and yet have bound me up in silence…it’s time to start to take a lesson from a 3yr old and see what it feels like to breakout!

“Your children need your presence more than your presents.”
~ Jesse Jackson ~

“Too often we give children answers to remember rather than problems to solve.”
~ Roger Lewin ~

“Don’t handicap your children by making their lives easy.”
~ Robert A. Heinlein ~