Ironically to me I am responsible for the Lost and Found department at school. I never understood how that factored into the job description for school counselor but more recently I have come to some realizations about that. Every week I put out all the Found jackets, sweatshirts, sweaters, hats, shoes (really? shoes? yes, really shoes) and other things that turn up. I get on the intercom and remind the kids that the Lost and Found is on display and I make up some number like 389 as in, "Seriously, kids, there are 389 items hanging on the rail. Go see if any of them is yours." Invariably, some child will inform me later in the day that there are NOT 389 items and I simply say, "Not anymore."
The thing about Lost and Found is that much of my work is about loss and discovery. Kids come to me when they are hurting. Many times they are hurting because they have lost something: a friendship, their confidence, their interest in school, a beloved grandparent, pet or something special, their connection with a parent, their innocence (only they don't know that last one - it's my take on their sadness). I can sit with them and listen and I actually do that well. There is something so very compelling to me when I am one on one with a child who is hurting. I am NOT a therapist. I do have some access to therapeutic skills and strategies but I get lost myself in that process with a child. I don't want to harm them by pretending I know more than I do and I do know when I need to set them up with a professional therapist. But I certainly can listen to them, accept them where they are in that moment, offer a safe place for them to put their fears and their loss out on the table, and go from there. Sometimes that in itself is enough. A child leaves the office walking just a little lighter, having been heard. He or she is now comfortable in the discovery that there is a place where they can put those sad thoughts down.
Being lost is a tough place to be. I know from my own world. Where I am in life now (another way of saying "at my age") I think I should have it [life] all figured out. I don't. The path is still
very unclear. There were years when the road was direct. In fact, I would say it was a freeway. Prior to becoming a parent , the road was somewhat windy but it was the scenic route. I knew where I was headed and I was okay with the well paved road that meandered up and down relatively gentle hills. Yes, there was an occasional steep hill or pothole around which to maneuver but all in all, the signs pointed the way and the road was smooth. Parenthood brought the freeway. It was fast, it was straight, it had lots of onramps and offramps and some major interchanges. At times the traffic was heavy and irritating. At other times, it was actually quite peaceful and an enjoyable ride. There were tons of directional signs and even some cool billboards.
But kids grow up and now the road signs have disappeared. In fact, the road itself has disappeared. How odd is that? When I first really realized this (just a few weeks ago) I was flummoxed. How could this be? How did the road disappear? I was also lonely out there in that field - high grass everywhere, a visible blue horizon, and me, paralyzed in fear. WTF? Who took my road? How do I know where I am or, more importantly, how do I know how to get where I am going? And, by the way, where AM I going? The question is: Do I start moving around in search of a road or, at least, some signs? Or do I do as we've always told small kids to do: just stay in one place and wait to be found?