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|Beyond the Consulting Room - Page 9|
These men are no strangers to the enduring legacy of racism in America, but they see no margin in being angry victims. They hold themselves morally responsible for lapses with their children and for getting right by them and the children's mothers. Our meetings are intense, sometimes rambling, often warm and funny, and always proud. Coached by citizen-professionals, these men are doing community outreach to make a difference in a problem that they see as holding their community back. Andrew and Guy, the process leaders, are learning the craft of citizen-professional work: how to guide the men as they go deeply into a personal and public issue and then develop strategic actions.
Go with the Flow
Once you get involved with community concerns that overlap with your clinical concerns, you'll find yourself drawn to new issues that you couldn't have envisioned at the outset. Kids' birthday parties weren't on my radar screen as a national problem, but the Birthdays Without Pressure Project came my way via two converging paths. As a new grandfather, I was paying attention to the pressure that my daughter Elizabeth was experiencing to become a hyperparent and specifically to hold a big bash for her 1-year-old son William's birthday party. Having inherited her mother's practical streak, Elizabeth would respond to her friends, "Why would I throw a big party for him at age one? He doesn't even know he exists!" Then I visited a party store, where I found an aisle devoted to 1-year-old birthday paraphernalia. While there, I overheard a young boy telling his mother that he liked a party product in nearby aisle and receiving this rebuke: "That's not your color scheme." Clueless boy!
I was on the hunt then for whether other parents were feeling pressure about birthday parties. I asked every parent I knew, including my clients, and brought up the question when I gave talks to parents about other topics. If when I mention an issue, individual parents say "Oh, yes!" I begin to think it's a pressure point that parents might organize around. When I bring it up during community talks about other issues, and the audience responds with a collective "whoo!" that's another sign of a community pressure point. In this case, parents and audiences were oh-yessing and whooing all over town. They were telling me stories of parties with limos and hired entertainers, of 30 guests at 2-year-olds' parties, of entitled little ones complaining that the take-home party bags weren't up to expectations, and of "starlet" parties at the Libby Lu party store, where 6-year-old girls get tarted up and dance in public like Britney Spears.