Revisiting Family Work

After being an ally to young people and parents in family work1 for many years, things started to feel difficult for me. I think some of this was because of racism. I realized I felt like I had to “take care of” white families. (I am mixed heritage, with one African-heritage and one white parent, and have had a lot of patterns of pleasing white people and assimilating into their world.) So I stopped doing family work for a while and discharged a lot on racism and internalized racism.

The growing leadership of Fela, Teresa, Chuck,2 and others in family work for people of the global majority has helped me find my way back to family work. I can enjoy myself more as an ally when I can see that I don’t have to be a caretaker for children, or worry about making their parents feel better.

At a recent family work leaders’ workshop I had the chance to spend time with a young person whose language I didn’t speak. He understood some English. It was the first time I had been in that situation at an RC family workshop. He had been shy and quiet, not playing much. We rolled on the mats together a lot, and he laughed and laughed at me when I used funny voices to try to repeat words in his language. After we did this for a long time, he started to cry. Even though I didn’t know what he was saying, and he tried to get away from me at first, he kept coming back to be close to me and cry some more. Later, as he played with his parents, I could see he was having more fun. It was one of the sweetest times I had ever had with a young person at a workshop.

If there had been white families there, I think they would have been louder or demanded more of my attention. I probably would have spent more time with them and ignored this shy little boy. Instead I got to know this wonderful boy and he got to know me. I think we will always remember each other.

It also made a difference to have other global-majority allies there. I felt like I could be honest with them about how sad I sometimes feel that I am not a parent and how difficult it can feel (as an ally) to have young people close in my life outside of RC workshops. I think it would have felt too humiliating to share that with white people. I would have worried about “looking good” and probably just told them that nothing was wrong and I felt fine.

Being around Fela at family workshops has helped me learn that it is significant to just stay close to a little one, without doing anything in particular. This has helped me remember that I am enough for young people, and others, just how I am. She also shows us, as allies, that we can show whatever feelings we have as we do this work. We do not have to pretend about anything.

Alysia Tate
Regional Reference

Person for Illinois, USA
Chicago, Illinois, USA

1 Family work is the application of Re-evaluation Counseling to the particular situations of young people, and families with young children. It entails young people and adults (both parents and allies) interacting in ways that allow the young people to show and be themselves and not be dominated by the adults.
2 Fela Barclift, the Regional Reference Person for Brooklyn and Greater New York City, New York, USA; Teresa Enrico, the International Liberation Reference Person for Pacific Islander and Pilipino/a-Heritage People; and Chuck Esser, the International Commonality Reference Person for Family Work and the Regional Reference Person for New Jersey, USA



Last modified: 2022-12-25 10:17:04+00