I have been a child and adolescent psychologist for more than 20 years. When I was in training, I saw a very sad little 8 year old boy whose mother shared with me a journal she had been keeping of witty, poignant, profound, and quirky comments he had made throughout his life. I thought this was a great idea, and although I was many years away from motherhood myself, I decided to do the same thing for my child clients. Since 1987, I have been recording client comments that strike me as powerful – powerfully funny, powerfully insightful, powerfully moving, and/or powerfully wise. In addition to the comments, I record the age and first name of the client and the reason he or she is in therapy. Reasons range from serious mental illness – Bipolar Disorder, Anorexia Nervosa, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, for example – to much milder challenges such as problems paying attention in school, an anxious temperament, grief, or divorcing parents. A good number of my clients are in therapy because of what is often referred to as a problem of “fit” or “match” between parent(s) and child. This simply means that there is nothing really wrong with the child or the parent(s), but due to temperamental factors on both sides, there is frequent disharmony in the parent-child relationship(s). Sometimes there are painfully obvious reasons for the disharmony – a corporate attorney and an accountant have a free-spirited child with an artistic temperament or a conservative Catholic couple have a gay child with a liberal bent. Usually, the match problem is much more subtle. For example, I recently worked with a family in which the parents held fairly “old school” values about parent-child relationships. You know the type; they say things like “Because I said so.” Their 11 year old son, who was basically a very good kid and well-liked by teachers, always needed a reason for everything. He was usually compliant but he had a strong need to know why his bedtime was 9:30 even though he was never tired until 10:30 or why he had to eat a burger when everyone knows that a handful of almonds is a more nutritious source of protein.
I now have around 80 comments in my journal. Recently, I gave a talk at a parenting conference at the school my children attend. It was titled “What Kids Want Us to Know.” I discussed five themes that emerged from the quotes I have collected over the years and I used the quotes to illustrate the themes. Since then, several people have told me that I have to “write a book” or “publish the journal.” Mostly, I chuckle and respond “Sure, in my spare time.” I have a family, three jobs, and too many hobbies to list. But, as it turns out, one of those hobbies is writing. So this blog is born.
Every so often, I will share one of the comments from my journal along with my thoughts on what we can learn from it.