In the final minutes I remarked on the unusual way Zoom sessions allowed for a kind off photo op by screen shot framing their family of three. Of course I wouldn't take a photo of them as that would have been inappropriate for the setting, but I wanted to share with them what I saw. In our hour visit, with opportunity to slow things down and make meaning of everyone's experience, we created a moment of meeting. As together we navigated from mismatch to repair, both Alice and Carter appeared to feel a renewed sense of confidence. With hope, moments like this strung together over time will serve to buffer this growing family from the storm of challenges the world presents in this time of unprecedented anxiety and uncertainty.
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Why is trust vulnerable in America today? Pete Buttigieg asks this question midway through his brilliant new book Trust: America's Best Chance. In it he lays out a clear, concise, and compelling argument for the urgent need to rebuild trust in order for our country to heal and grow. Not only his extraordinary wisdom but also his unrelenting sense of hope make his voice one we must listen to at this time of unprecedented uncertainty. As a pediatrician and infant mental health specialist I read his book from the perspective of developmental science, with the knowledge that trust has its roots in our earliest relationships starting from birth. What relevance does this knowledge have, I wondered, to Buttigieg's core thesis? Does it help us to understand why trust is vulnerable? And if so does that knowledge guide us into any specific form of action?
I will never know the experience of a Black person living in a world where people in power condone your murder simply because of the color of your skin. My family wearing a yellow star is the closest I can come to some kind of understanding. But unlike the Holocaust, which was a defined moment in history and is generally well-recognized, today many White people remain largely oblivious to the centuries of brutal violent systemic and structural racism perpetrated on Black Americans.
We learn to listen by being listened to. Our ability to find our way into another person’s experience begins to develop in our earliest months of life when caregivers naturally respond to our wordless communication. Our ability to listen is enhanced in a setting of connection and communication. Alternatively, our ability to listen can atrophy in an environment that does not model or value listening. When we protect this time to listen to the baby's unique voice and support parents at this transformative and often disorganizing time, we set babies and families on a healthy path right from the start.
A wise colleague who works as a family recovery support specialist in a program for parents of young children identified a core contradiction. If we say that addiction is a biological disease that is treated with medication, how to we make sense of the narrative of the role of trauma? Could it be that the well-intentioned efforts to reduce stigma, in large part a response to the criminalization of drug abuse, has the unintended consequence of silencing stories that then reappear to exert their influence in other forms?