My family recently visited the new alebrijes exhibit at Cantigny Park, a collection of large scale, fantastical creatures made by Mexican artists. My older son whispered to me in awe, “I think I would like to live in a world where these are the creatures.” The gift of art is that we all can do just that. We are not confined to one reality, but an infinite possibility of different worlds created by our own imaginations and everyone else’s.
The gift of counseling children is that I am invited into the totality of the world as they experience it, which is often rich with this wonder and imagination AND a strong attunement to the real world and real people. Even young kids are aware of the feelings of others, conflict, loss, and other intense aspects of reality that we adults/parents think we can protect them from by pretending kids don’t notice. As a counselor, holding this space has become natural; as a parent, I still have to remind myself to ask the hard questions and to sit with their pain because my instinct is to avoid and protect.
This is another area where we try to force a false binary, though. In our division, kids are allowed wonder and imagination and adults are allowed the harsh, “real” world. But, ultimately, we don’t have to choose, and we are all healthier when we can all experience and acknowledge all of it. We can allow for the totality of our kids’ experiences AND we can pay attention to our own sense of wonder, not as an escape but as an acknowledgment that for all of the difficult things in the world, there are wondrous things as well.
Stacey Patterson, LCPC, MT-BC
For more on this idea, this is a great interview of the children’s book author, Kate DiCamillo, in which Kate muses on how she is able to hold this space in her books: https://onbeing.org/programs/kate-dicamillo-for-the-eight-year-old-in-you/