Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Be Specific, Use Examples, Develop Fully

My high school English teacher would have been a great Option Process (TM)  mentor. Every morning, I walked into my 10th grade Composition class to find the day's essay topic written on the chalkboard. Underneath, in the same curled script, was a standing imperative to, "Be Specific, Use Examples and Develop Fully." Each day's assignment was followed by the same instructions, which were soon abbreviated to the letters BS UE DF. Once in a while, a less-successful effort at a topic would come back with those six letters emblazoned across the margin.

As it turns out, that class was excellent preparation for being a Son-Rise (TM) parent. Whenever I feel like I'm floundering in a Dialogue (either as the mentor or as the explorer, and with a live mentor or typing questions and answers to myself), I chuckle to myself about the essay instructions, remember my Dialogue training and take stock. I stop and check whether I'm speaking in generalities, or glossing over my discomfort.  "I'm really anxious today about Eric" is not the kind of statement that has really been helpful to me in the past.  I can't tackle "anxious" all at once, it seems too big (much less tackling "really anxious"). But, "I'm really anxious right now that Eric will never talk again because today I asked him to say 'faster' if he wanted his fan speed faster and he pointed instead." That's specific enough that I can ask myself follow up questions, such as why did I go with a feeling of anxiety instead of celebrating the very clear communication he made by pointing? Or, I could ask myself why I'm zeroing in on word count instead of the luxurious amount of eye contact Eric made, in duration and quality, and why I might be valuing one over the other? Oh, and if I'm feeling really bold, am I focused on word count because I believe others will only think I'm a good mother if he speaks? Now we're cooking.  The first question was so useful that I asked myself all of them. 

And so, tonight at Eric's bedtime when he pointed at the water when asked whether he wanted a drink, I celebrated the pointing. I looked back into Eric's eyes and concentrated on feeling how proud I was of him for communicating and how much I love him while I handed him the glass of water. That's when he said, "thank you." No, Eric, thank you. Again.

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