Being the parent of a child with severe emotional and behavioral issues keeps you honest. Rigor and transparency are essential. I have never stopped learning that in this particular version of the world, there are few curtains or doors you can close behind you, not much in the way of privacy. Today the local child protective services agency is beginning an investigation of an incident that occurred with our daughter at the end of last week. It is painful to think that others felt a need to report us. It is more than a little mortifying to be placed under such scrutiny. When I found out, I wanted to weep, I wanted to lash out, and I wanted to quit. The work of loving this woman child is hard. And it is also true that all along, I have been strengthened as I found my way through life.
One of the lasting gifts I received from my seminary education was the concept of “disponibilité”. This is a concept first articulated by Gabriel Marcel somewhere in the late 50’s. There is no good translation for it in English–the closest is “availability”. In Spanish, it is “disponibilidad” and has layers and layers of connotation about hospitality and openness, but openess in a very active sense. In Spanish we say, “me pongo a su disposición”–again, translations are very imprecise here, but the closest is, “I place myself at your service.” A more literal translation might be “I am at your disposal”, though somehow, this connotes more of a sense of allowing ourselves to be used and then discarded. In the online “Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy”(http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/marcel/#9) the entry on Marcel says the following about this whole notion: “the term disponibilité refers to the measure in which I am available to someone, the state of having my resources at hand to offer; and this availability or unavailability of resources (material, emotional, intellectual and spiritual) is a general state or disposition”.
As taken as I was by “disponibilité” when I first read about it at when I was a 24-year-old seminarian, it is only now, when I’m twice that age that I think I begin to “get it”. And I get it as I keep learning about parenting my daughter. Today, disponibilité means making all my worst fears, my greatest vulnerabilities and deepest wounds available for prodding and poking by someone who has been given a job to do. It means putting myself and my efforts to work with what sometimes feel like impossible situations out for someone to inspect and decide if I and they are good enough. Everything in me begs to withdraw, get off the grid, go someplace far, far away. If I have understood disponibilité correctly, it means making the resources, the grace I have received available to my daughter and to myself in order to get through this, understand, forgive, heal and grow.
P.S. The investigator has come and gone, there will be no charges filed nor further action recommended. No amount of preparation and steeling oneself for that process takes the sting away. Even this must be offered up as well. My friend Robin once posted a beautiful link of a youtube video of the Suscipe, one of the prayers of St. Ignatius of Loyola. Disponibilité…