Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Return to Pooh Corner

But I've wandered much further today than I should
And I can't seem to find my way back to the Wood
Kenny Loggins- Return to Pooh Corner

But time makes you bolder
Children get older
I'm getting older too 
Stevie Nicks- Landslide

Every May I get this sad kind of feeling that something is about to change. As a psychologist who works with children, this is when school is over the year, and often times I lose a number of kids to the summer breeze. The crises that have arisen during the school year have passed, and now it’s their time to have a little fun. I can hardly blame them actually. I used to look forward to summer all year long. Almost from the opening bell.

Still, I always feel a little like Christopher Robin when I say goodbye to the kids. Some of the kids have outgrown me, and won’t return again. Maybe this makes me more like Winnie the Pooh. I am certainly built a little more like him. Some kids do come back however, and it’s always interesting to see how their perspectives have changed as they continue to grow older and (hopefully) wiser.

The romantic poets thought childhood was the most magical time of life. Discovering the world for the first time with a sense of innocence and wonder was an irreplaceable event in their eyes, and many of their works reflect on the inevitable loss of excitement as children begin to lose their sense of discovery. It’s a sad outlook, but not altogether untrue.

When I’m saying my goodbyes, I always ask kids what they’ve learned during our time together, (and yes, I have received ‘nothin’ as an answer.) Sometimes however I get a truly enlightening answer. And it’s rarely one I was expecting. In the second part of this exercise I try and tell kids the things I have learned from them. They are always surprised to hear this, but never once have I failed to learn something from a child in therapy. They are all in their own ways little scientists, figuring out the world for the first time, testing hypotheses, and drawing conclusions. Sometimes these choices lead to disaster, other times they work out, but in every case there is some kind of lesson to be gleaned from the experience. That’s my job really. To listen, treat them with respect and talk about the results of their discoveries. Sometimes I may interject something they may not have thought of, but in every case I learn something about the way children operate in the world.

In the end, it really is a great privilege, and working with kids does wonders for my own perspective. Much like the narrator in “Return to Pooh Corner” I sometimes wander too far from my own sense of play. I get cynical and grumpy, and forget to maintain a sense of gratitude for all of the good things in my life. That’s when the kids often bring me back.

Which also speaks to the fact that being a parent is such a tremendous opportunity. It offers a second chance to regain perspective and truly see the world through new eyes again. What was old becomes new again. It’s supposed to be one of the great joys of being a parent, but sometimes parents get lost in the woods as well. Their kids seem ungrateful, they feel unappreciated, and tempers begin to flare. Families lose their way. Although counseling is certainly no cure-all for everything, it is one of the ways families can begin to find their sense of gratitude and appreciation again. It’s a wonderful thing when it works.

So here I sit, contemplating the approach of June and summer and my own sense of perspective. I’m retracing some of my own steps this summer. Going back to the great American west where I had so many wonderful memories as a young kid in my early twenties just starting out. Maybe I’ll find a little stardust. Who knows? 

What I do know is another school year has passed, and I have to get ready to say my goodbyes.

It’s never easy..