Sunday, 15 February 2009

See what I see: you are wrong

Trust... it's a big word, and a big idea. It's something I found along the way, kind of by accident...

When my kids were really little and still thriving on breastmilk alone, it struck me that there were a few things they knew that I had no way of knowing. 

They knew if they were hungry or full. They knew how much they'd had to eat and how much room they had left. 

Whatever I might be the worldwide expert about, when it came to knowing my children better than anyone else, anywhere, it was perfectly obvious that there were some things they knew more about than me.
They knew how they thought and felt. I had access to what they expressed.

They know how they feel -- I can only take their word for it. Even if I think they're confused, if they're convinced they're angry, not sad, they are experiencing it -- I'm only seeing the effects on their faces, any amount of which may be nothing more than muscular habits, or unrelated relaxation.

They know if they're hungry, uncomfortable, weirded out by someone, traumatized by an image or idea or experience, or not. I don't. Contrary to our whole culture's determination about who knows best about children, I can't know. As the mother I can't know.
I can't determine for them what they're thinking or feeling or experiencing. I can't even tell if they see the colour red the same way I do. As close to them as I have been, as well as I have known them -- arguably better than anyone else in the world ever has or ever will -- I can't experience their experience, and I certainly can't tell them what it is. 

They know themselves better than I can ever know them... always.

From this awareness, I grew trust. 

I could either take their word for it or I could determine that they were wrong. Something about that idea just would not go down. I couldn't look at their faces and tell them that what they were experiencing was not happening. Not with credibility. Because it wasn't happening to me.

To this day, the pervasiveness of 'someone else knows better' astonishes me. This week, one of my bright, young adult daughters told me something like 'that's not what you see.'

From somewhere other than my intentional influence, they have both absorbed the culturally 'normal' reaction: you see what I see or you are wrong.