Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Would You Rather?

The last few days I have been on a scrapbooking retreat - a nice way to relax and catch up on capturing memories for the kiddos. My friend Wendy brought a "Would You Rather" book along to the retreat and periodically posed questions to the group. This sparked some interesting conversation to say the least.

At the time of the retreat and Wendy's questions, I never really made this connection, but just right now a memory of something comes flooding back.

It was right after I came back to work following maternity leave. Quinn was just a itty bitty baby. I had a client who out of the blue posed this question to me, "Would you rather have a child who was (insert the r-word) or incarcerated for life?" You see, this client was incarcerated and had disappointed his mother. He was concerned about which direction he would go in the future. Furthermore, another one of his family members had a child who passed away who had some difficulties that got him thinking about the other half of that scenario. So this was something on his mind. It made sense to him to pose this question to the woman he started opening up to.

Here was a person who was asking a question just as a hypothetical situation with no idea that I, the person sitting on the other side of the desk, was actually encountering half of this scenario. It was one of the most powerful moments of my career. I took a deep breath and informed him that I prefer the term cognitive disability and explained that for me personally, it would be more difficult to have a child who was incarcerated for life. We went back to talking about his personal situation. This is why I love what I do - it really challenges me and makes me learn, think, and grow.

But to elaborate more on this situation now (in homage to the wonderful analyses of Wendy's Would You Rather questions), my personal opinion is that it would be more hurtful that the cause of your child's difficulties would be because of their own self and choices. I know there are generally other factors that may coexist with delinquency/criminal behavior- like socioeconomic ones - but in my Would You Rather scenario I think it would be because my child decided to do some illegal behavior without any conceivable justification. This would hurt more than the situation being because of outside forces - like a random event where there is an extra 21st chromosome.

But I think in both situations the parent may feel responsible. Even when it is random like that 21st chromosome, why do we feel guilt when there was absolutely nothing we could have done? I know from personal experience that we do, and there are times that those who have a child who engages in illegal behavior also have no ability to do anything about that either.

What philosophical discoveries we can have from "Would You Rather" questions!

This Would You Rather question is more realistic than some from Wendy's book - let's face it, I will not be given the option of sleeping with Superman or Batman any time soon... But this has all got me thinking about my values, what I see as being important, why I make the decisions I do or why I don't make the decisions that I need to make.

I think if you have the ability to make certain choices, to obtain certain accomplishments, to live your life in a meaningful, giving, loving way, you should. Maybe this is why the incarceration part of the question would be worse to me - the child had the assumed ability and didn't live up to that ability. However, I don't sit on my high "princess" (inside joke) horse and claim to know the answers and live up to these standards. I need to look in the mirror and consider if I am making the choices I need to and living the way that I want to. I know there are changes I need to make for myself personally now - they aren't easy but I have to do them. Wow this occurs at the best time of the year - the new year - time to reflect and work on oneself. What are the chances of this?


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