One Book, Two Voices

I started writing the skeleton of I See Red about a year ago, when I was in my last month of working as a Behavior Specialist. I had spent previous four years working alongside children with behavioral difficulties and special needs who required extra encouragement to be active members of their school communities. I was tired; it was time to hang up my hat. I am a big believer in walking away from careers (especially careers with kids), when you know in your heart that it's time to move on. I had given all that I had to give, and wanted to leave on a peak rather than a valley. My last client and I left on great terms, he has a wonderful family, and he continues to experience social success in his new school placement. Sometimes we even write each other letters and send them in the mail.

Firstly, let me be clear in saying that this book is not about me, and it is also not about any of the children with whom I have worked over the past few years. The story's main characters Dallas (6), and Zoe (26) are entirely fictional. The storyline is a fictional representation of a likely scenario with a child who fits Dallas's description, and a possible response from someone in Zoe's position. The real beginning of I See Red came when I stopped working in the behavior field, and wanted other people to understand "difficult" children the way I did. I wanted to explain that the very children who make life hell for teachers and parents, are the ones who are the most misunderstood. These are not broken children, they are developing people who need adults to love them fiercely. Sometimes this love is cosy and warm; but most of the time it exists in the setting of boundaries, consistent responses, and the daily building of trust. Love lives in the small moments where two people are walking along together, and occasionally, there's only one set of footprints.

For this reason, the bare bones of I See Red began in both the voices of Dallas and Zoe. I could easily have written the story from Zoe's adult perspective alone, and sure, it would have been an easier read — but I felt it wouldn't do justice to the character of Dallas. As adults, we like to think that we understand why children do the things they do, but after a decade of working with difficult and marginalized children, I beg to differ. When adults assume a child's motivation, they react according to the assumption before seeking to find the truth. When difficult children experience these assumptions time and time again, they begin to live with a very low set of expectations from adults, and no motivation to go beyond. After all, why bother trying to be "good" when the only lens you've ever been viewed through is "bad"? So, I let both characters speak. Both the adult and child have their own voice, and you the reader, can use your own judgement when it comes to who's right and who's wrong. And maybe, just maybe, you'll discover that life isn't so black and white.

When you read I See Red, you'll realize the vital importance of listening to Dallas. You might think about an out-of-control child you know; a loner, a bully, a class clown. You might remember a child you once knew whose actions were confusing, obnoxious, and downright defiant. You might think of your own experience as a child, or someone in your own family, who could never seem to get their act together. It is my hope that you will begin to see the people on the fringe of society (especially children; especially those in the formative years of 0-8) in a new light — and make room for them in your life. Instead of desperately trying to change someone else, why not love them just the way they are? You'd be surprised how much change someone experiences when they are truly loved.