No Glory without Risk–Into the Minefield of Relationships

Family Therapy at Discovery Ranch for Girls – Parent Days Oct. 2013

“We are all angels with but one wing; we can only fly by embracing each other.”
-Luciano de Crescenzo

The sky was a grey and silver ceiling on a Thursday morning in October as parents arrived for DRG’s second semi-annual Parent Days program–two days of relationship-oriented, therapist-led groups on communication, support, body image issues, and DBT (dialectical behavior therapy), as well as experiential activities led by our equine and recreation directors.  Over warm drinks and other breakfast fare, parents and daughters met.  They hugged and talked and began timidly releasing some of the ocean of stories and smiles that had been accumulating over the weeks and months.

Keeping an eye on the rising tide of our excitements and anxieties, therapists and program directors, members of the residential staff and myself looked on, compulsively nibbling at Amani’s muffins.  We felt like in-laws at a family reunion.

Soon enough, however, girls were catching our eyes and enthusiastically calling us over to meet their parents, or parent were introducing themselves to us, or–roused out of worry by our enthusiasm for what we do–we were introducing ourselves.  And of course, as this began to happen, we realized these parents were not strangers or critics.  They were friends and fellows–people we had met and worked with by phone or email, who shared our goals and put faith in our passion and experience, who had chosen us out of all the world to participate in the intricate, improvised music of their families’ lives.

As the designated photographer for the event, I decided to station myself with Jared, our recreation director, and catch each group as they worked their way through his challenges and games.  One of these challenges involved crossing a minefield of toxic green tennis balls.  Daughters blindfolded their parents and then began to lead them, with their voices, from one end of the danger zone to the other.  Once the now visually impaired parents stepped within it, however, the layout of the field began to change.  Jared–impishly bent on unpredictability and mishap–wove his way among the players, kicking balls this way and that.  The girls, guiding from the sidelines, had to give up previously determined, simple-seeming escape routes.  No relaxing here!  Moment by anxious moment, they simultaneously perfected their careful directions (a tall step or two shuffles to the right) and kept a wary eye on the ever-changing field.  When the last parent made it out of the minefield, the roles were reversed and the girls had now to trust in their parents’ instructions.
As I watched this process, a quotation that I had recently come across rose to my mind.  Luciano de Crescenzo, an Italian author, wrote, “We are all angels with but one wing; we can only fly by embracing each other.”  Only in this case, I thought, we are all blind.  We are blind except for a tiny field of personal knowledge and experience–our one wing.  And if we want to fly we can do one of two things:  We can allow someone to enter our world and guide them through it, til they reach us, letting them start over when mistakes are made, or we can be the one to enter the dark, to wear the blindfold, as we step into the world of another.  Throughout the two days of Parent Days, parents and their daughters learned skills and gained experience doing both.