Sunday, August 30, 2009


I fell asleep in the car on the way home.

Just nodded right off.

We only met for an hour, but it was a pretty intense hour. After doing the workshop for teens and young adults on boundaries and abuse prevention on Friday, an hour was made available on Saturday for parents to come in and discuss those issues. Joe and I arrived about 20 minutes before start time and were greeted by agency staff. No one was there. Only minutes before we were set to begin, we were still sitting alone in the large board room where the meeting was to happen. Then, suddenly, we heard the bing, bing, bing sounds as the front door openned and closed several times.

In all four parents and one care provider came. Less than we'd hope for but more than enough to work with. I openned with a short ten minute talk on the framework for what we had taught on Friday and then openned it up for questions. And questions came.

We had frank discussions regarding sexuality, abuse, bullying and teasing, hopes for the future, fears of the future. It was the right mix because there seemed to be a desire to ask questions bluntly and to get answers without bullshit. I felt that I was being asked to be entirely honest in my answers, that no feelings were to be spared. It was a meeting without hidden agendas, without politics, without need for bafflegab.

It struck me afterwards just how much those parents must love their kids, how much they must worry. They came on a Saturday. They came prepared to ask hard questions. They came ready to listen. They came with their 'bullshit detector' turned on the highest sensitivity.

I wonder how often parents get the chance to talk freely and honestly simply seek advice. I wonder how often we fail them by being less than honest, less than frank.

I think that the thing I've really learned from teaching people with disabilities is that if someone is brave enough to ask a question, the are ready to hear the answer.

But honesty takes energy. Lots and lots of energy.

So, I slept in the car on the way home.


Jen said...

As a parent, I find that the number of times that I get no-bullshit answers are so few are far between that after a while it gets wearing to keep asking no-bullshit questions (especially surrounding sexuality or institutional practices in residential placements or school). We did the rounds of doctors and other professionals last year trying to figure out how to deal with tampons, and I've never heard so much stammering and beating around the bush from people that I'd formerly had a great deal of respect for.

I can guarantee that it was a huge treat (and extremely useful) for those parents to talk to someone that they could get direct, honest, useful answers from.

Kristin said...

I really admire the way you handle yourself and your willingness to put 100% into your job. No, job is the wrong word. Job implies the wrong thing...your vocation is what I should have said. I think that conveys more of the passion you seem to feel for what you do.

Wishing 4 One said...

People are lucky to have the opportunity to ask teh hard questions and get no bullshit answers from you. You are one good man Dave. The world is better indeed because of you.

gpollock said...

I really believe that honesty is the best way to go. I wish that more people in my area were able to honestly admit what they think without having to look at their staff first to make sure that it is OK for them to speak.

WK said...

As a mom whose child often triggers the questions that cannot be answered (such as, Will my child have a normal life expectancy? Will she be able to have children? Will she be able to speak or read or walk unassisted? What do these crazy chromosomes MEAN for her?), I promise you, it's tough. The worry seems to always be there, even when you're not thinking about it and just relishing the joyous moment you're in with your child... And it's terrifying to ask those questions, but it's SO MUCH WORSE to get an empty, canned answer in response. Or, worst of all, a sugar-coated lie of an answer. Not many people are willing to be frank with me about what we can and cannot know/expect/diagnose/treat/predict, and while it breaks my heart to hear, 'We just can't know,' I'd rather KNOW that the future is uncertain and unknown rather than fear that the "It will all be fine" answer was just to spare my feelings. Please, always be honest. Always be frank. We parents may not always love it in that moment, but we NEED it.