It was almost a decade ago.
She sat in her chair in a small room at BC Children’s Hospital ADHD clinic and calmly and quietly spoke to my child as if he knew and understood himself.
As if he, this frantic, frenetic child who couldn’t seem to slow down enough to eat or sleep or play appropriately or articulate well, could communicate the mysteries of his mind.
I don’t remember exactly what she asked or what he said. What I do remember is thinking to myself,
“She sees HIM. She really SEES him and in truly SEEING HIM; she’s giving him the opportunity to speak and to share from a space of being KNOWN. And in being seen and known, he has the permission and confidence to speak and be heard.”
This one moment is one of the many “pivotal” moments of my journey through parenting.
I remember the awareness hitting me so hard and fast that it was almost a physical impact.
My child, who I thought was an impressionable, immature being – a chaotic, unsleeping, hyper, frustrated, frustrating, exhausted and exhausting person……
I was shocked to find out that even at 10 years old, my child had insight, wisdom and knowledge of what he was feeling, dealing with and going through AND he could communicate that with us , even though it seemed he was only reactionary and impulsive.
I remember him sharing something profound about the way his brain worked, how his body and mind felt; and what he wished he could change.
I remember looking at the Dr incredulously while she carefully wrote down a few notes and thanked him for his input. She had a few suggestions for him and us. She spoke to him like his thoughts really mattered. Like he was “the patient”. Like he had some say over his life.
She wasn’t ever patronizing. I truly believe she saw and heard her patients and really believed them and cared about their input.
This moment changed my life forever. Jeremy was 10 years old when we met Dr. Jokhani and I am forever grateful for her care and support of him; but the impact of this encounter radically changed my understanding of how we interact with our kids.
Too often, we think or assume for them. We assign them thoughts or words based on what we see. But what we see, what they feel, what they perceive, what they know and if they have suggestions, desires or wants gets laid aside.
I’ve been asked how it is that my kids seem so self aware and insightful. How I’ve taught them to be able to share so eloquently? Is there something special about them?
The reality is that I’ve not taught them anything except maybe to trust themselves. Too often what we need to do is JUST ASK and then WAIT! We need to really listen to what they say. Listen to truly understand.
As an example, when Jeremy was asked to share what it felt like inside of his brain when he was at school; he explained that it felt like his brain was moving so fast that he couldn’t catch any of his thoughts. It felt like everything was buzzing so loud.
But when he took meds……everything got quiet and slower; and he could hold one thought until he wanted to put it down.
It might sound childish and simple, but it’s a brilliant explanation of the ADHD mind both on and off of a stimulant.
Mind you, he did all of this explaining, with his back to us while playing with LEGO.
Our children are going to share like children.
- Will we stop long enough to ask them questions?
- Will we listen long enough and with open enough hearts and minds to be able to really hear them?
- Can we trust them to know themselves?
- Will be give them opportunity to make a mistake and to teach them that mistakes are just a part of learning?
- Can we give them the safe spaces to practice communication and advocacy?
- Will we allow and champion opportunities to practise this skill?
I believe that we, as a society, win when we teach our kids self awareness. That we win when we teach our kids to self advocate. That we win when our kids believe that they have a voice worth listening to – when they believe that they have value and worth. That we win when our kids believe that they are valuable not in spite of who they are but because of who they are.
I’ve seen this play out hundreds of times with my younger sons…..starting at early as 3-4 years old.
Our kids are never too early to be heard, seen and known and loved.
I’d love to hear about a “pivotal” parenting moment for you?