Earlier this year, I married my best friend; a man that continues to inspire me each new day. I’m glad the wedding chaos is over, but in keeping with the newlywed spirit, I’d like to introduce myself by sharing something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue.
Something old: For as long as I can remember I’ve always been connected to the animal world around me. As an avid camper I remember many days I’d spend sitting in silence watching chipmunks scurrying about from tree to tree, birds flying around, and even hares that would come up for a
Something New: As I shared above, earlier this year I married my best friend. We decided to get married on the first day of spring, as it has brought beautiful new bloom to our lives.
Something Borrowed: My husband and I share a love for a very special borrowed spirit that has come into our home and lit up our hearts. Although it may be a bit extensive at times, we both adore our little fur baby, and couldn’t imagine life without her. We don’t know how long we will have with her, but whatever borrowed time we do have, she’s our little spoiled puppy!
Something Blue: I’ve decided to set a new goal for myself this year. Together with a few co-workers, we are planning to run our first ever “half-marathon” this spring. Training has already begun!
Now that you know me a little better, let me introduce you to my world. I have 2 professional portfolios. In my primary portfolio, I’m a registered provisional psychologist. I specialize in school psychology and provide support to elementary & high school students that are either new to Canada or are 1st/2nd generation immigrants. In my secondary portfolio, I work as the program director for a new Montessori Preschool opening in July 2019, in Calgary, AB.
I’d like to invite you now, into my world, through the magic of narrative.
Meet Mason…he’s new to this city, and just met his dad. He’ll be staying with dad, his stepbrothers, and dad’s partner. Mason doesn’t know when he’s going to go home again or see his mom. She’s moved far away. The school has called me in because there have been some concerns in class, and we don’t know if Mason can perform at grade level academically. I wonder how I’m going to connect with this sweet 10-year-old boy. Dad seems cooperative, and is open to working with me to explore support for Mason. I decide to try a few different activities, and then I find something that clicks! Process art…Mason likes to talk about the possibility that maybe, he just might be good at art.
I wonder if anyone’s ever shown him see he could be good at many things. He explores different medias, and inadvertently destroys my brand new paint set by mixing the glitter colors together. That’s ok though, because I’ve found my outlet, and the colors he creates are vibrant shades of turquoise greens and deep blues. Process art helps me connect with Mason, and helps him to explore himself too. Now that I’m in, I wonder what the layers of this case will soon unfold to be.
Every session I have with Mason, I learn a little more. Today we created painted print turkeys. Mason couldn’t believe a grown-up suggested he step into the paint, to create turkey prints. He loved it, and soon after Mason allowed himself to get carried away with the project, another layer surfaced. Mason felt that he wasn’t part of the turkey family. He drew himself outside the turkey family’s playpen.
A few more sessions pass by, and I’ve come to learn Mason struggles with making friends; he’s being bullied at school by his stepbrothers, and crying in class because he needs help with emotional regulation. Then one day Mason tells me his dad’s partner is mean to him. She says scary things when dad’s away working in another town. Sometimes Mason is told he isn’t allowed to have friends, and that’s he’s not made for school. Mason feels alone and is scared of being abandoned again. I try to chat with the family, and I can’t connect. I try to work with dad, but the meetings are suddenly refused. The family decided they no longer want any support for Mason. The school escalates the case further to the appropriate party, but they confirm the home is safe for Mason. I know what’s really going on for this lost, scared little boy. I need to work with dad again, but he isn’t able to advocate for his son, since he’s away from home so frequently. Even the principal and teachers are being shut out now by dad’s partner. Should I close the case? Technically, yes.
A month goes by, and I’ve been working on finding loopholes, but nothing is working. I end up going to a conference on legal documents and paperwork. That’s where it comes to me! I’ve caught a hint of an idea, and if I present it correctly – I’ve got my loophole! I take it back to the principal who’s thrilled. We spend almost a month trying to get only dad to come attend a meeting with us. Dad continues to allow his partner to speak for him, who feels Mason is fine.
As I’m packing to leave for my wedding, I get a call that night. Dad’s ready to meet tomorrow evening at the school. This is our chance to get Mason connected back to a support system. But – wait – I’ve got a flight to catch shortly after. I’ve got my wedding to go to! Next thing I know I’m in the meeting with the principal. We have dad there ready to work with us, with no interruptions. Dad is hesitant at first. He believes his partner, in that boys will be boys. We present our loophole strategy, and an hour ticks by. We are discussing the support process with dad, and another hour has ticked by. Then, finally – somehow, some way dad just gets it. He lights up and it suddenly makes sense. He signs the forms, and we’ve got Mason connected again.
Now that we’ve got Mason connected to support again, it means I’ve got to close the file and transfer it over to the department that served as my “loophole”. Dad permits me to have a closing meeting with Mason. It’s time now to say goodbye.
Most of my goodbyes are sweet and well planned, but then there are those others that are ill timed and premature. Usually, the difficult goodbyes are when the client is leaving the district, and our work together isn’t done yet. In tougher cases such as this, it’s a transfer to another department or file closure altogether. I decide to leave Mason by empowering him, and by helping him explore his own strengths, his supports at school and in the community. We have a great time working on the activity together and Mason has identified some really great people and ideas to work with, moving on. He’s learned that its’ okay for him to make friends, and do well in school. He’s also learned that he’s good at basketball, really funny, and lots of kids like playing with him.
Then I have to tell him, that this will be our last session. I usually take several meetings to discuss this news with my clients, but in cases like this all I get is one shot. I have to say the words, and the look on his face makes my stomach sink. Stay calm, make it seem like this is a good thing, I say to myself. I refer Mason back to our activity to remind him of all the strong connections he’s still got, and many more he will continue to make. He asks if he can take the activity paper from me, which I kindly pass over to him. Mason pulls out an adult men’s wallet from his back pocket, empty of course. The novelty of it makes my heart grin. He takes the paper, folds it up neatly, and tucks it into the wallet for safekeeping. Then he pops the wallet back into his pocket, and decides he’s ready to go back to class now, happy and resilient as could be.
And just like that’s, he’s off, he’s okay, but there I am a mess, pretending to hold myself together. I’ve gotten quite good at this now, pretending to hold myself together through the storm on the inside. What I’ve come to learn is that the journey isn’t mine. Children have the most incredible capabilities for internal resiliency. They instinctively know how to heal, and they do heal, all by themselves. We as helpers, just go along for the ride, and can navigate past a bump or two on the road, but the journey is all theirs. And just like that, the turn comes, sometimes before we even know it, where they can carry on ahead, but our time has come to let go. Sometimes, I like to think back on all the beautiful, scary, adventurous, wonderful journeys my wanderlust spirit has floated off to, and it always brings me back to the same quote:
“LIFE IS A BALANCE BETWEEN HOLDING ON, AND LETTING GO” – RUMI