Friday, January 01, 2010


The New Year begins quietly. I'm getting better, slowly. I'm blowing my nose less often. Coughing less harshly. I feel a little more ambitious and a little more like being part of the world. It wasn't such a bad thing to be pulled away from the world a little bit, at the end of the year, to rest and to think. After both experiences with the Ballet, I needed time to think about who I am, how I fit in the world, and the tasks set before me. The responsibility of having a voice has never seemed clearer to me.

This was made more so yesterday. Mike and Ruby dropped by for an hour in the afternoon. It was a surprise visit, but a delightful surprise at that. I keep a few toys and puzzles here for her just in case. I asked Ruby if she'd like to do a puzzle together and she nodded happily. So I set it up and we began work. Joe and Mike were talking in the kitchen, Ruby and I were working at my desk.

Ruby and I have always talked. But our chats have mostly been me asking a question and she answering 'um, yes' or 'um, no'. This was somehow different, this was our first conversation. A back and forth. She initiating some topics, me initiating others. I'd like to tell you about two conversations - one germane to this post, one just for fun.

For fun:

"Why do you put those cards up there," she asked pointing to our display of Christmas cards.

"We put them up so we can enjoy looking at them," I said.

"Oh," she said, satisfied.

"Do you like them," I asked.

"Who gave you that one," she asked pointing to a stark and beautiful card, a winter scene with a man walking alone on a snowy field with his dog.

"My Mom and Dad," I said.

She looked at me wide eye'd and said, "Who?"

"My Mom and Dad," I said again.

"You have a Mom and Dad," she said with, almost, disbelief.

"I do," I said.

"Wow," she said. I don't know exactly what she was thinking but she looked like she was trying to calculate the age of the universe.

More on point:

"Did you have a good time with your cousins?"

"Um, Yes," she said.

"That's good," I said.

She paused, lowered her voice and said, "Ashton hits me sometimes."

I saw every shade of red that it's possible to see, but stayed calm, "When you're playing?"

"When he gets mad."

"What do you do when he hits you?"

"I run away from him."

"Anything else?"

"I tell him to stop."

"Good girl, what do you do if he doesn't stop," I said.

She shrugged her shoulders and said, "I don't know."

I said, "Well, think about it. What could you do?"

She said, "What would you do?"

I said, "I'll tell you after you think of something else to do."

She thought and said, "I could tell his mom, she doesn't like him hitting."

I gave her a hug and said, "Wow, that's exactly what I would do too."

Ruby will always be her first, her best, advocate. She will need her parents, she will need teachers, she will need other adults along the way. But she needed to learn early that it is her voice that needs to be heard, her thoughts that needed to be honoured, that she has the capacity to figure it out for herself. It would have been so easy, and I so wanted, to start telling her about how wrong hitting was (as if anyone who has been hit didn't know) how she needed to tell him and then tell someone else. But she knew these things too, she didn't really know she knew them, but I did. I know that inside her, inside this three year old girl, is the capacity to think, reason and solve the problems life sets out in front of her.


For me, this is the year of Voice.

Practice using it.

Practice hearing it.

Join me.


Manuela said...

Happy New Year Dave and Joe. The year of the Voice. I like that. Its a great resolution and goal.

Anonymous said...

discovering your blog was one of the 'good bits' of 2009. Your post today is a reminder to me of how I lost my voice as a child (incest) and how I am continually (re)discovering it and claiming it. Now, to give consideration to how this process continues and expands in 2010. today, I give thanks for YOUR voice, in your writing, for the wisdom and humanity that you share with us.

Belinda said...

One of my goals is to answer questions with fewer answers and more questions. You gave such a wonderful example of how to do that and how much better it is to help someone find the answers they already know. Thank you for being a great teacher as well as voice.

Kris S. said...

What Belinda said. "Fewer answers and more questions" nails it for me. Thanks for another insightful blog, Dave.

Kristin said...

Happy New Year you guys! Dave, you did a great job handling that with Ruby. That lesson will stick with her and help more in the long run than you simply telling her the same lesson would have.

Unknown said...

I'm so grateful that I discovered your blog in 2009. Connecting with your life has become part of my morning ritual. What you write is so intimate that sometimes I feel a little guilty for reading it--and then I remember that you put it out there for the world to read. :-)

Thanks for the way you helped Ruby remember that she has choices. She's a most fortunate little girl to have you as a friend. And your readers are fortunate to have you as well.

Happy New Year to you and Joe. You are rare human beings. I wish you much happiness in 2010.

FridaWrites said...

All right.

Okay. I'm getting the PT who wrote the wheelchair eval. to send a copy of it to the doctor who said I didn't need one. Bedbound 21 to 22 hours a day? Not normal. But not my fault.

Anonymous said...

Good luck to little Ruby. I hope that with this minor instance of abuse (even though the abuser is another child, it is still abuse in my book), and the great lesson she learned, she will be better prepared to deal with other abusers who may come into her life, however briefly.

And good luck to you, in your year.

Susan said...

The Year of Voice. Count me in.

Anonymous said...

Tonight I made the Vegetarian Shepherds Pie recipe from your book, "do be do?"

And it was delicious, marvelous! The perfect comfort food, for a cold and windy January night.

Thank you!

Happy New Year.
North Vancouver, Canada

Anonymous said...

Vegetarian Shepherd's pie might be a good idea as well for someone who isn't feeling 100%


Gary Miller said...

How I wish, at the age of 7 or 8, I had the courage to say 'No' or the belief that, if I talked to my parents, I wouldn't be seen as a 'Naughty boy'.

I'm glad that Ruby, at the tender age of 3, can think like that and realise that she has a voice and, more importantly, that it can be used.

Thanks for the post Dave. Happy New Year to you all.

Cynthia F. said...

Wow, you have a mom and dad? Seriously, would you ever consider blogging about that relationship? I get the sense that your childhood was pretty miserable, but have things evolved over the years?

Princeton Posse said...

OK, A bit late but still, All the very best in the New Year Dave.