What You Can’t Choose

I must choose for myself. I can’t choose for Catherine. There is tremendous irony in the word I chose for the year and it literally just struck me. One of the reasons I want so desperately for Catherine to be able to communicate is so she can make choices. It’s interesting when you think about how a kid learns to do that. I’m certainly not a formal expert in this subject. I’ve had no training or education on the matter. I’m simply commenting based on what I’ve observed and thought about for nearly twelve years.

For one thing, the kid has to be capable of indicating a choice. And I mean this in a physical way of some sort. They have to be able to move or make noise or have some volitional control over something in their body that others can recognize. Science and technology are working on ways for that to be expressed directly from the mind into something else. I’m not convinced we’re there yet.

If the kid is able to exercise some volitional control over something, they have to figure out that whenever they make that “signal”, something happens as a result. We call this “cause and effect” and babies learn it at a very, very young age. It doesn’t take long for them to figure out if they cry something usually happens. Then, they figure out if they smile, something really big happens. And then they figure out how to manipulate you to get to stay up late even on the night before a big test. Oh – that’s a different story!

selection-443127_1280If the kid can indicate an understanding of cause and effect, then they have to be able to distinguish between two options (let’s keep it simple) and make that volitional signal when they recognize the difference and have an opinion. That’s a lot to incorporate into the simple idea of CHOOSE.

One additional facet of this I’ve recently realized is that we have to choose to choose. That means that Catherine has to make a decision that she wants to choose and that she will choose. Geez! I can drive myself crazy thinking about all this. Or I can simply accept my new recognition that I have chosen to choose this year and I can only choose for myself – not Catherine. Not really.

We go through a goal-setting process as a family each year. I’ve written about that before. We talk about what Catherine might like as her goal. I ache wishing I knew. It’s interesting how often we can disguise a goal for ourselves that’s really someone else’s right to choose. For example, one might say, I have a goal to be a grandmother. Well, that’s not possible. Only your kid can decide if you’ll be a grandparent. I might think I have a goal for Sarah to play piano at the concert level. Wrong! Only she can decide if that’s her goal. I might THINK it’s my goal for her and make her practice so she can attain it. How often does that really work? And where is the joy in that process if I’m making her do something she doesn’t want to do? Really, best I can do is persuade and set up the environment to encourage it happen.

So, best I can do for Catherine to learn to communicate and maybe make her own choices is to set up the environment consistently to encourage that to happen. OK – that’s something I can choose to do.

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