Locker room talk has been getting a pretty bad rap lately, so that’s why I was a bit surprised when I got an unexpected gift from a few words shared in a locker room.
Sometimes the words you need to hear the most come from the most unexpected people, in the most unexpected places, at the most unexpected times, and last Friday was one of those times. Having just finished my weekly Dance Jam class at Life Time Fitness, I was grabbing my bathing suit for a few minutes of zen in the steam room when I heard someone say my name. Now, time in the steam room is my jam. It’s one of my ultimate favorite ways to quiet my mind. Due to an extraordinarily stressful week, I was pretty anxious to get my steam on – but I was also excited to see that the person calling my name was a dear friend whom I hadn’t seen in far too long.
We started chatting away like dear friends do, filling each other in on the latest goings-on in our respective families. She, like me, has two young boys. She, like me, is having quite normal angst over the best way to raise her boys and how best to support them through their challenges.
As our conversation drifted toward the subject of school, we heard an unfamiliar voice pipe into the conversation. “Oh, my youngest boy went to that school, and it was just wonderful!” The voice belonged to a woman slightly older than my friend and me. “You two remind me so much of where I was a few years ago. I can tell you this – you’re doing better than you might think,” she said, going on to describe her experience with her two teenage sons. We didn’t know this woman, but as it turns out, she had quite a few tidbits to share with us.
The three of us chatted away for a bit and then another unfamiliar voice entered our fold. Another slightly older woman joined in, offering us her perspective as a grandmother of two young boys. “There’s nothing more important than loving on your children,” she offered. She even gave us a few cute ideas about how to make Valentine’s Day a special time for mother/son love.
“You’re doing just fine. It’s all going to be okay,” said the mom of teens.
“Love, love, love. It all comes down to love,” said the dear young grandmother.
Those two women could never have known how much I needed to hear those words that morning. January was a pretty brutal month on the parenting front. After years of questioning whether our oldest child, The Professor, had developmental delays, we had our suspicions confirmed and have started a rigorous occupational therapy program that had thrown our entire family schedule off kilter. Things have also come to a head for our younger son, Huck Finn, whose behavior at school has worsened due to escalating teasing and bullying issues. We’ve been dealing with lack of sleep, harried homework sessions, testy tempers, calls and conferences with teachers and therapists and all sorts of other trials. I was doing the best I could. My husband, Lancelot, was doing the best he could. We were reaching out for help, taking things one day at a time, employing grandparents and friends for assistance, keeping ourselves grounded, surrounding ourselves and our kids with support … and we were also hurting.
Parenting may be one of the most important things we can do in our lives. It’s probably also one of the hardest. In theory, parenting looks easy. Advice from books and other people seems logical and sound. In practice, parenting is hard. Kids are human from the very moment they are born, and they don’t know they’re supposed to follow the rules dictated in the books or spewed from other people’s mouths. They are unique and challenging and precious little souls. Sometimes it seems like the harder we try, the more we fall.
And that’s okay! Falling down is a great mark of courageous growth. We have to fall down sometimes so we can learn and propel forward. This is especially true with our children. Lancelot and I know this. We welcome the growth, so we welcome the falls. We give each other and our children grace to falter a bit. We don’t expect things to be easy.
And sometimes, it’s just hard. Sometimes, the little stuff just piles up a little too high and it gets a bit overwhelming. Sometimes, it is hard to see that things will get better or that we are doing okay or that we have the things that our children truly need.
When I hit that moment last Friday night, I was surrounded by two little angels. One of them told me, “You are doing okay.” The other one said, “What children really need is love.”
It took me almost an hour later than normal to get to the steam room that Friday morning, but the locker room talk was the best thing I could have asked for. The wisdom from these women who had been where I am at and who had gotten through it was like a salve on wounds I didn’t even know were bleeding. I was filled with a sense of calm, wonder, and gratitude. I thanked the women as I left, and I hugged my dear friend goodbye, but those gestures seemed insufficient for the gifts they gave me that day.
“It’s going to be okay.”
“You’re doing better than you think.”
“Just focus on love.”
We are not alone. Even when we feel alone, and overwhelmed, and maybe a little bit confused … we are not alone. Others have been where we are. They can point us in the direction of love.