I continue to be inspired by the team of the Children’s Home, as they work to support the families of the children in the community. Complying with the directives of the local agencies, they have done evaluations of the children and of the families to which they are to be reunited, and they have given recommendations on the basis of these recommendations to the agencies. Even in the case of a mother who seemed incapable of taking basic responsibility for her child, the only case in which they could not recommend that child and mother be reunited, the Home did not devalue the mother nor judge her harshly. In questionable circumstances, the Home tries to find creative solutions with the families so that the people at the Home can maintain a relationship with the children even after the children move in with their relatives.
I am planning another trip in April, this time perhaps without my team, since no one is free to accompany me. I am eager to go because I am hoping that in addition to giving a workshop, I will be able to visit an orphanage for children with HIV-AIDS, and perhaps begin to support the caregivers there.
My commitment to supporting the caregivers has only grown through this experience with the Children’s Home. In my work with parents here in Cambridge, I focus even more on helping parents understand their own children, “imagine their minds”, so that they can “find” them, comfort them in their distress, and help them grow and learn. And I am developing the idea of “magic moments” so that I can use it more effectively to help parents help their families grow stronger.
Here are some examples of “magic moments” in my practice:
1. The parents of an 8-year old boy were told by his teacher that he was involved in some trouble at school with two of his friends. When his father came to pick him up at school, the boy told his father that he had not been actively involved in the problem behavior, and he described the situation to him. He then asked his father if he believed him. His father thought about it and answered, “Tom, I believe you. You are a truthful and good reporter. I might not have believed you last year, but things have changed. Now I see you as a truthful and good reporter.” I told the father that I thought this was a magic moment. It would have been easy to doubt the boy, or even to hesitate, but the certainty in the father’s tone as he described what he said to his son was compelling. He recognized the new Tom. He gave Tom the chance to see himself in his father’s eyes as “a truthful and good reporter”. I think his son will always see himself a little differently from now on.
2. In another family, there are two sisters who are frequently at odds. Recently, their parents told me about a magic moment in their family that happened between the sisters. The younger sister, who characteristically is demanding of attention and can be intrusive, was having trouble with a game and asked her older sister if she would help her. The older sister, who by contrast, needs her space and abhors being intruded on, did not complain and immediately moved to work on the problem with her little sister. It is hard to know what allowed this to happen. What is less hard to imagine is that it will happen again, and the more often something like this happens, the more likely it is to repeat itself. That is because magic moments accumulate and make the path to the new alternative easier and easier to take. It is like building infrastructure to a new city.
3. A woman of my acquaintance has a new grandson, but there is trouble, because the child may have congenital disabilities of some kind. The grandmother is distraught, not only because of her fears about her beloved grandchild, but also because she is enraged at her daughter in law, whom she suspects to have abused substances during her pregnancy. As she tells me the story, I give her some important advice. She should feel justified to have her feelings, but not to show them to her daughter in law. Instead, I cautioned her to put aside her feelings when she is with the mother and baby and support the relationship no matter what. The baby will likely have to undergo frightening and painful medical procedures, and he will need his mother’s comfort. Supporting the mother-child relationship will make it more possible that the baby will be able to feel comforted by his mother, and that will allow him to build a sense of security and trust that others can help him when he is in need.