The Power of a Question
Updated: Aug 13, 2020
A few years ago I was catching up with a colleague at a work conference and bringing her up to speed on my daughter's genetic condition. At that time, my husband and I had connected with a mother in Cornwall, UK who had a 30-year-old daughter with the exact same rare genetic deletion that my daughter has. As my new British friend told me about her daughter, I realized that she was unable to live independently and still lived at home. She sounded like a wonderful young woman who had a lively social life; full of music, community groups, family and hobbies, but her intellectual disability kept her close to home for reasons such as personal safety, hygiene, financial management, and overall vulnerability.
It was the first time that it ever crossed my mind that Paige may never be able to live independently and it shook me. I was so new to parenting, so new to the world of genetic disorders, and simply new to the notion that not every child is able to take off at eighteen as I did.
As a result, I sort of gave up on Paige for a short period of time. I read fewer books to her and left her alone at times when I normally would have been bothering her to do her physio exercises. I stopped thinking about her going off to school one day and started thinking about how we could save money for her to live comfortably when her dad and I pass away. I started looking into community support groups for adults with intellectual disabilities and researched how to transfer her registered education savings plan into a registered disability savings plan. But most importantly, I stopped dreaming for her. I was just sad and mad and grieving, and it didn't last long, but I can't believe that I actually thought, "what's the point?" I am not ashamed of my sentiments and accept them as part of my journey. However; it was the power of one question that sunk straight to my core and flipped my mindset immediately.
My colleague, who is also an organizational psychologist and sports psych master, asked me "what would be different if you never learned that information?"
Well...I said I would keep pushing her to do her exercises every day. I would keep doing her speech homework. I would keep saving for her education and we would keep talking about these things in our home without doubt, sadness, and hesitation. I wouldn't put a mental cap on her potential.
It was only when I said these words aloud did I notice that I was treating my daughter differently and how much the concept of her living at home forever affected me. I realized that I had some work to do to reconcile my A-type, North-American vision of what success is. I had to check my reference points. Not everyone goes to post-secondary schooling, not everyone excels at sports, not everyone wants to get married and have kids one day, and that is totally okay and frankly not my business. And, most importantly, the idea of a "full life" is relative, fluid, and individual. I could go on and on about my revelations as a special needs momma, but that is not the point of my story.
The point is that the simple act of being asked this perfectly curated question at the perfect moment in time and having the space to respond and reflect aloud, allowed me to work through a tough revelation in a short period of time. This story is a solid example of the power of coaching. A coach listens with presence and understanding, they analyze your words and sentiments, and they provoke you to consider another viewpoint. And, as you do it, they support you as you work through your revelation. Without coaching, I know that I would not be as centred as I am now and I hope to share that with you.
With warmth and fortitude,