Last Thursday night a tiny piece of history happened here in the Time & Space shed and in seven homes in the Shepparton region. Seven Year 7 boys and their mums (or female mentors) from Notre Dame College joined in to a Zoom meeting. We were scheduled to gather in the Mons Bones Hall there in Knight Street for their annual Mother and Son night. Last Monday, Emma Reynoldson, Deputy Principal, contacted us to say that the school needed to postpone due to the rapidly changing situation with the Covid19 pandemic.

On Wednesday morning, John Cortese from his Principal’s office and me from this shed, recorded a video to send to the participants for the scheduled Time & Space session for Year 7 girls and their dad or male mentor. We sent the video (which is in the previous post to this one) and a 1-to-1 conversation activity and asked them to upload a photo of the treasures they shared with each other.

We also recorded the video at the bottom of this post that Wednesday morning. By Thursday the instructions in that video were out of date. We had worked out we could try a live remote meeting at around the time the scheduled event was due to start. Time & Space at Home it’s been dubbed. Here are six of the seven pairs of participants.

The seventh pair left the meeting unable to get video of them up on the screen like Sarah and Ryan above but said in the chat function that they had the questions, could see the others’ treasures and were going to complete the 1-to-1 activity together. If you were that other pair, please write in the comments box below and let us know how you went.

We started with everyone sharing their treasures. One pair at a time, their microphones were switched on. As you can see above Kath and Hayden went first. I’ve zoomed in on Kath’s treasure here – it is a photo of Hayden in his pre-school days with a python wrapped around his shoulders! Hayden appears to have been brave from a very early age.

Similarly Ethan held up his own pre-school memory – a photo of when the ambulance came to his Kindergarten. We had a bit of a chuckle in the video meeting as I first thought it was for an emergency. Ethan said no they were just visiting to show us the ambulance.

It was a scramble to get this meeting happening and so there was a loose plan in my head. I thought we’d get everyone to share their treasures and then I would close the meeting and ask everyone to then have their 1-to-1 conversation straight after we finished. Then just as we started a thought occurred to me that at a Time & Space session, every parent-child pair sits down together and asks the same questions, all at the same time. Same questions. Different answers. We set the chairs in a special format so that no one is parallel and they magically enter into their own conversation with their child or mum/dad/mentor. Often I called this community practise (with an ‘s’, the verb, the practising of community). Here’s a photo of the last ‘all in one place’ event that I facilitated at CBC Adelaide two Wednesdays ago.

So instead of signing off and our screens going blank the six Notre Dame families on the video were invited to stay on camera and have their 1-to-1 conversation using the question sheet they had been emailed. Their screens were muted and, for 15 minutes, they asked questions like what their first memories were of the other. They asked if they were frightened or saw positives in this extraordinary time. They asked each other if they could remember a moment when the other felt proud of them.

As each pair asked and answered their questions, they appeared to be drawing comfort occasionally glancing at the screen knowing that each of the other pairs was there having their own individual conversations. They were connecting as an individual family and also together as families who are part of the Notre Dame community.

At the end of the 1-to-1, I invited everyone back, unmuted their microphones to ask for feedback about the experience. Jacqui said that she and Reeve talk like that all the time and then Reeve added something like, “But mum, yes we do talk, but we’ve never talked like that before”.

The next day, because it was a small group, I was able to make a call to each of the Notre Dame mums who made it to the Time & Space at Home session. I got to speak with some and exchange some texts with others. Jacqui and I had a chat.

“Jacqui it’s interesting what Reeve said about your conversation” I said, “What did he mean?”

“Bill, it was amazing” Jacqui replied, “Reeve said that yes, we do talk all the time but that because he’s my son and I naturally worry about him, he said that we only talk about him.”  She described how Reeve then went on to say, “Mum, until tonight, I have never heard you talk about you and how you are feeling.” Wow. Jacqui considered this a stunning new insight.

Then an email came in from Megina with a photo of hers and Sabian’s three treasures.

Megina’s email simply said,

Spoon- This we gave to Sabian when his first tooth came out since it is a tradition in our culture.

Photo- The photo was Sabian’s first ever trip to Echuca and when he was 1 and a half months.

Bear- The was given to Sabian when he was born and to the age of 2 and a half he would take it with him everywhere he went.

Then I spoke with Carien, single mum of three. Ethan is her middle child. Brace yourself for what she shared about her conversation with Ethan. You saw previously, one of the questions was, ‘Has there been a moment when you felt proud of me?’

Ethan’s answer was extraordinary. He said to his mum Carien, “Mum, one moment? Every day there is a moment when I feel proud of you”. I’ve retold that story a number of times since Carien shared it with me, and I am unable to prevent the tears welling up.

After interacting with each of the mums I can report that the impact of the activity matched (if not surpassed) the feelings of delight that participants have when they encounter their family stories at an event all together in a place like their school hall. These times are serious, no question, but there is no way I would have come up with this possibility if we had not been faced with this global challenge. You probably have thought of different ways to do what you have always done this past week as well.

We are running another video session for Our Lady of Mercy College in Heidelberg, Victoria – a Mother-Daughter session tomorrow night. And this time we will have virtual breakout rooms for small group discussions. For all of our partner schools and any others looking at this with interest, be assured we are still working. Indeed we are doubling down at Time & Space to keep serving your community.

Has there been a more important time to help young people and their mums, dads and mentors have important conversations?

I do apologise to the ‘Notre’ families who missed out because we only worked out we could do the live video session about an hour before. We will keep getting better at this. We will circle back to the Notre community very soon and when things return to something like normal, we will again have events where we can all be together in the Mons Bones Hall. Can I just let you know, your Principal is a great human and a brilliant leader. Stay close as a community.

And everyone, keep an eye on this blog because we have some special plans for how we can share lots of people’s treasures of being a daughter, son, mum, dad or mentor. As you cast your eyes on these words, I sincerely hope you and yours are well.

Here’s that video where John Cortese and I shared our treasured items each as a son of our respective mums.

If you are reading this as a visitor who is not connected with a Time & Space partner school then here is something you might like to try. Have a go at having a 1-to-1 conversation either as a mum/dad/mentor to your child or the other way round. Take it in turns to ask these three questions of each other and find some time (do you have a little bit more of that at present?) and some safe space (allowing for social distancing) to have a conversation that might be helpful. One of you asks Question 1 first and then the other asks Question 1 next and so on. If you do take this on, please let us know how you go in the comments section below.

You can pass on anything you don’t wish to answer at this time.

Older Person’s Questions 

  1. What is your first memory of me? Can you remember where you were and what you were doing?
  2. How are you feeling about the challenge our world faces now with the Covid19 virus? Are you frightened? Do you see any positives?
  3. Is there a moment when you have felt proud of me? To ask this a slightly different way, can you remember a time when you felt particularly close to me? Could you explain your answer? 

Younger Person’s Questions

  1. What is your first memory of me? If you were at my birth, what do you remember about that time? How was my health? How did I look? Whether it was when I was born or later, how did you feel when you first saw me?
  2. How are you feeling in this challenging time in our world? What is the closest thing you have seen to this situation? Do you have memories of someone you know personally who has been brave in a tough situation? Tell me about that time. Tell me about that person. How do you feel when someone is brave?
  3. Is there a moment when you have felt proud of me? To ask this a slightly different way, can you remember a time when you felt particularly close to me? Could you explain your answer? 

A final word from Irene…

At a Time & Space session we often say that we tap the wisdom in the room. There’s no one person standing up the front telling you how to be a better parent or a better son or daughter. We hear insights from each other.

So in that spirit let’s take in Irene (BTW Irene say ‘Go Bombers’ to Caleb), a Notre Dame mum’s words who was in the Time & Space at Home session last Thursday night. She sent me a text after I asked permission to use the screen shot above. Here’s what she sent…

Hi Bill it’s Irene here, a big yes from me to use the photo you have! I’m at work today and a bit short on time to call you back with feedback…

Yes, very interesting times we are living. I’m a glass half full person so there is light at the end of the tunnel. Positivity is the key, especially with the kids…

Regards, Irene.