When Sawyer’s preschool teacher first mentioned that we might want to have someone from the state observe him I was quite confused. He was a perfect little boy. He was talking and playing and walking. There was nothing wrong with him. Everything was okay.
She agreed with this point of view in general but she had noticed a couple things that might be a problem once he started kindergarten. So the woman from the state came with her clipboard and her pen and observed him. Next came the meeting with a Group of Experts. Everything was not okay. Sawyer didn’t play other children, didn’t respond when spoken to, didn’t pay attention. Didn’t, didn’t, didn’t.
My wife and I now found ourselves trying to solve a problem we had not until recently believed existed. To do so, we had to first convince ourselves there was indeed a problem. The best way to achieve this was to pay exclusive attention to all that seemed not to be working. We had to be diligent about it. It is easy as a parent to notice only what is working. We’d done that already and look where it got us.
So we noticed and noticed and noticed his troubles. We talked about his troubles, we sought experts who knew about his troubles, we read articles and books about troubles. It was a troubling time. In fact, his troubles only seemed to increase. We didn’t want trouble. We loved him and we wanted him to thrive and troubled things do not thrive. We only wanted everything to be okay as it once had been.
Our search to end Sawyer’s troubles eventually led us to Barry Kaufman’s book Son Rise, which described his journey with his son Raun, who had been diagnosed with severe autism in the late 60’s. It was from Kaufman that we learned about joining, the practice of doing whatever the child does. Instead of demanding he leave his imaginary world and join us, we would choose to join him by any means we could.
Yet you cannot join someone if you believe what they are doing is a problem because to join something is to continue it and no one wants problems to continue. The only way to join Sawyer was to not see any problems at all. Everything had to be okay.
Nine years later I am still remembering that everything is okay. Do I see problems? I see them everywhere. I see them on the news and across the dinner table and in the mirror. Every problem I perceive asks the same question: Are you going to try to correct me, or your perception of me? Both options have the same objective—a trouble-free world. One requires me to create that world; the other merely asks me to live in it.
I am the author of Fearless Writing: How to Create Boldly and Write with Confidence, and Write Within Yourself: An Author's Companion. Learn more here.