Photo: Martin Yaffe
Many of the children I see at the children’s mental health centre have difficult lives. Many of their mothers, and fathers, if and when the fathers are active members of the family, face issues of poverty every day of their lives. They work long hours at two, sometimes, three jobs. They come home with little energy for parenting. The children face either their own loneliness, or if they have siblings, are taking care of their brothers and sisters, or being cared for by older siblings. Children who are getting only their minimal needs met can be very cruel to one another. “Perhaps the other is getting more than me. If he/she gets less, maybe I’ll get more” are examples of the typical immature logical of a child’s mind.
When I see a child for a psychological assessment, I ask a standard set of questions, administer psychological tests and by doing so try to give him/her a voice, so that their feelings and perceptions can be better understood by the adults around them. One standard question, which is asked by myself and other professionals working with children is, “If you had three wishes and you know they would all come true, what would you wish for?” I have asked this question at least two thousand times. I am going to share with you a sample of the responses:
“Be a better basketball player, be good at baseball, and that nothing bad would happen to us, no one in world, everyone would be safe. No one would kill people, or threaten people, and no one would die in plane crashes.”
— 10 year old boy of subnormal intelligence
“A billion dollars, to have a girlfriend, and to have the power to help people, no taxes, help the poor, give them money.
— 13 year old boy of subnormal intelligence
“Be rich, for everything to be free, all the poor and the sick to be with a nice family.”
— 10 year old depressed boy who has been the target of severe bullying at school
“Be rich, have a big house, brother and sister to live good, I don’t care about me. I’ll come after.”
— 14 year old boy with severe leaning problems and significant depression
“To have world peace, for all the people who live on the streets to have a home and to have all the money in the world, to buy clothes for myself and for my family and and to have play station 64.”
— 11 year old boy, youngest in a family of five with a single mother who works long hours as a cleaning woman
“For world peace, a cure for cancer and a cure for Crohn’s disease.”
— 11 year old girl with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder whose mother has Crohn’s Disease.
“Peace on earth, no pollution and some money.”
— 11 year old boy with learning disabilities and strong depressive feelings.
“To have my mother and father together, to have my sister and brothers together with me and her Mom and for them to have the same Dad, and to be one big happy family.”
— 11 year old girl who is being raised in another city from the rest of her family
“My father to go to jail. He is so bad, threw a table at my Mom, that I be good, I be kind, and I be funny.”
— 9 year old boy of subnormal intelligence whose family was the victim of physical and emotional abuse by the father
“To live with my mother, have peace everywhere on earth and live a good life.”
— 12 year old boy living with his father with severe problems getting along with others.
“For every kid in the school to be nice to me, for my parents to have lots of money and buy a new alarm for the building and to grow up and have a son and the son would be very nice to me and I’d be nice to his son.”
— 10 year old boy who had 20 surgeries before he was 8 years old, continues to have health problems as well as being rejected by his peers
“For my Nana and Papa not to argue so much about the beer. For my Nana not to drink or smoke, that my papa wouldn’t smoke, that my Mama wouldn’t do drugs.”
— 9 year old boy who is being raised by elderly godparents because his mother is a substance abuser. His godparents suffer from depression, health problems and financial stress.
“Everyone in life would get a break, and peace on earth.”
— 14 year old boy living with his mother and three other siblings who cries at night about missing his father.
“I wish my parents would get back together and that I could spend more time with my father. I wish my uncle could come back; he died in a car accident and I would like to win the lottery and take my parents to [our home country]”
— 10 year old boy living with his mother, diagnosed ADHD, severely depressed and lonely
“My country would be a better country, that those guys won’t bother me if I visit my country and that I could be a basketball player.”
— 12 year old boy who came to Canada as a refugee after witnessing his father being murdered in cold blood in his country
The children’s answers have been an inspiration to me and, I think, offers some hope for a better future for us all.