Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Redefining Acceptance!

written by Julie Sando

I had my most incredible joining experience EVER last week on an outreach. I feel like I got joining and acceptance at a whole new level I didn't know existed. I thought I was accepting this whole time. And I was, but I had defined acceptance differently. I was accepting, and still wanting more. I now realize, that is not really acceptance!

I was thinking about how our kids ism because they are looking for predictability and they stay away from people because people are sooooo unpredictable. I was joining a little boy and realized that even when I was joining as exactly as possible, I was still unpredictable....he would break from his ism to move my hands, or I'd accidentally swing my arm and tap his leg, I would go to a different window each time he went to a different window, and occasionally he would move away when I joined, etc. So I decided to make myself the most predictable I could. He likes rhythm and repetition and singing tunes. So I picked one rhythmic tune of 2 notes and for two hours I sat completely still, humming these notes! He did his ism, and I did my own predictable ism. After a few minutes he came over and started exploring my face, looking deeply into my eyes, smiling, laughing, giggling...I continued with my tune, every once in a while giggling with him. I also stayed completely still. I noticed when I broke from the tune or moved, he moved away. He went in and out of being exclusive and coming toward me. I realized, sometimes when he was looking at me I was doing things to try to keep the interaction going. I was wanting him to stay connected. Building. I'd laugh, or I'd peek around his arm to catch his eyes. He went away each time I tried to keep it going. Then I realized my point...my point is to be 100% accepting (without wanting him to be different) when he is with me and when he is not with me. So each time he moved away, I cheered internally that he was giving me the opportunity to be 100% accepting without wanting anything to be different. All while doing my same rhythm and sitting still. He spent lots of time exclusive and I kept telling myself to keep being predictable, not to try to get him to connect, but to really enjoy who he is in this moment and to really enjoy my ism.

This is a boy who does not poop in the toilet. He will hold his poop until he is alone, then he will hide and poop while standing up, in his underwear or pull-up. He will hold it for days if he can not hide. You can see when he is holding it. He tenses his body, stands in his pooping position, and holds it in. He assumed his position. My first thought was "This is the time to encourage the toilet!".... Then I realized "This is MY preference. Not his." I dropped my preference and totally accepted that he was holding his poop in. I continued with my rhythm, sitting still, loving him. He plugged his ears (which he does from time to time). So I stopped my rhythm and sat in silence, totally accepting him, not even wanting him to be different. He pooped in his pull up! In front of me! Inside I thought "That's amazing! Excellent!... Now it's time to change him." Ah-ha, this again was MY preference, not his. I continued to sit in silence, expanding my definition of acceptance. Then he came to sit next to me on the bed. Again, my first thought was, "Uh-oh, that poop is going to smoosh all over and make a big mess to clean up." I was aware, yet again, that was MY preference, not his. He didn't seem to mind it. I dropped my preference. He started laughing, giggling, looking in my eyes, cuddling with me!!! He doesn't cuddle like this typically. I wanted to eat it up and hug him back. I realized, that would make me unpredictable... that would be MY desire. So I smiled, quietly cheered him, showed him my love through my face, and stayed quiet and still. Then, he took my hands and put them around his back! He initiated me hugging him! WOW! I told myself, this would be totally okay if he decided to ism right now and that I wouldn't want it to be any different. I felt so fulfilled that I had gotten what true acceptance is. Then, he initiated a tickle game by saying "Tickle!" I tickled him. We laughed. I paused after several tickles and celebrations. I was aware, usually when I pause, I am pausing to request. I decided to pause, without wanting anything other than what he wanted to do. Again, he said "Tickle!" We continued this game for several minutes, laughing hysterically, connecting in the deepest way.

What do you guys think... does wanting something to be different (even without judgment) mean un-accepting? I never saw it that way until this experience!


  1. I love your post Julie! It brings up lots of thoughts...first I like that you are redefining for yourself what it means to be accepting rather than simply taking what you've always thought or been taught. This is why I would love to discuss this further because I love getting into the nitty-grity of it all.

    I think your redefinition is amazing! It seems to shake up a fundamental principle of the Option / Son-Rise Philosophy: that we can be totally accepting and want more. Maybe it does, maybe not...perhaps we can be totally accepting and want more but not in the very same instance. Like for example as you described while joining if we are being totally present which an expression of acceptance ("surrendering to the moment") than there is no room to be wanting anything! In each moment in the playroom if we apply this (being totally present to the moment, silently or verbally saying a big YES, Thank you for whatever is happening)...then yeah, where does the wanting more come in???
    Furthermore, I like how you mentioned a few times about YOUR preference (this boy using the toilet, getting his pull-up changed) versus the child's preference....this brings me to question: how is my wanting something for someone else useful? Perhaps is it simply most useful for ME!
    Also, if you in an interaction with a child...and being present then there is no future, no past, no wanting it to continue...because this would imply not being present!

    I wonder how this applies to a situation of requesting a child to say a particular word? Say if a child is saying "Eee" for eat. Is it simply the child's preference to say "Eee" or is there some sort of physical / brain issue that we are working on when we help these kids talk?

    Also, I wonder how much is it the case that the child is saying "Eee" in fact because we, as facilitators are wanting to be teachers! If we were in complete gratitude would we say: thank you...now say it with a "t" at the end?...hmmm this is all a very interesting exploration.

    I remind myself that wanting simply brings about more wanting. I don't think we need to want more to get more. Acceptance and gratitude for what is, is the highest evolution.

    Julie, have you tried this style of joining with other children? Do you recommend that we all switch to this unique way...or simply be open and flexible to how the child is responding and what we think the child is seeking (in this case predictability)? And how do you know if it is working? Is is because this child pooped in his pull-up and interacted with you? What if he hadn't?

  2. Hi guys!

    What a great discussion. Let me also join in this discussion and share my perspective as Option Mentor and Son-Rise volunteer.

    As a mentor I let go of all wants for certain outcome of a dialogue. I believe that the explorer is his or her own best expert and it's my job to provide them the most loving, accepting, non-judgmental and non-directive environment. I provide questions that stimulate further exploration. The explorer will find his or her answers by exploring the beliefs hold.

    When I teach someone about the philosophy (or when I write my blog!), it is a little different. I do no longer have a non-directive environment. I put my words in a certain way to help the person understand a point I try to make. I might exaggerate, I might push, I might confront, or do other things I think appropriate in that situation.

    I have noticed that in the playroom, I jump from the one attitude towards the other. When joining, I'm being the mentor, and I let go of all direction. When I am in interaction with the child I become the teacher and start to direct certain aspects of the interaction.

    I believe that the best time to teach is when there is an meaningful connection between the child and the mentor (the green lights). And I do believe that the child will let us know when that is (their definition of a green light, not yours!). Until then there is nothing to direct (except to direct yourself to not direct!)

    Jeannene, the way that Julie describes joining is unique. For me it shows more that when we join we are mentors and as a mentor there is nothing more to do than to be. You can show that to the child by joining in and do the same activity, but also by just sitting there enjoying the moment without wanting anything different!

  3. It's all an experiment. I love what Julie is saying. It frees me to really just be and to get the attitude part right, independent of actions. So many of my volunteers have seen joining as something to 'do'. I'm finding that I have to trust my intuition about when the various transitions are useful. Iris, I love the idea that joining is my mentor role! When I switch from that to a more directive role just depends. The great thing about the playroom is that it's ok to experiment to find out what works for the child!


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