Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The Universe Shoved

"What do you want to be when you grow up?" It's a simple question, right? Teacher, firefighter, superstar, tooth fairy...any of the above are so common to hear.  My answer was always teacher; I ALWAYS wanted to be a teacher.  I never really had a good reason why, until I got to high school.  I wanted, desperately, to be like some of my favorites- imparting wisdom, helping students find their passion, and coaching a team. 

You may not know this, but I am obssessively stubborn about achieving my goals.  I ended up doing almost exactly what I set out to do. Sure, my major in college changed and I ended up teaching at a different school than I originally planned, but all in all I'd say I achieved according to my plans. I teach at a large suburban high school, sister school to the one from which I graduated (where I wanted to end up teaching). 

For twelve years I coached the winter guard at this school.  I never knew what impact coaching would have on my life.  At the time, it was something I needed to do for myself, something that helped me express my creative side, something that gave me an identity before I had a family, and something that reminded me who I was after the girls were born.  One day last fall, I had an epiphony while making one of many weekly treks back to school for practice; I didn't need to coach anymore.

My life was being fulfilled in other ways.  My health was on the upswing and with that came new happiness. My kids were becoming little people, and bringning a different kind of fulfillment than they could offer when they were infants. My team had reached the goals I'd set when I started coaching- we were considered some of the strongest competitors in our circuit.  Whatever I had been grasping at, whatever need coaching was helping me achieve, whatever goal I'd hoped for- it was met, it was fulfilled, it was done.

When I told the other coach, who happened to be my dear friend Megan, it was like our innermost thoughts had been working together without our knowing it; she too felt ready to move on.  So we did.  We finished the season with another victorious title, we cried with our team when we broke the news to them, and we walked away without regrets when the new coach took the reigns.  We haven't looked back.  Until last week. 

As teenager after teenager wandered into our lunch period, tearful and mourning, a connection and bond was renewed.  You see, we became exceptionally close with the team members and their families from the years of 2008-2012, so when one of our families tragically lost their oldest son, we all gathered and mourned together.  How could something like this happen to such a wonderful family? How could something like this happen to someone so young and full of life? How can we be there for our friends in their time of need?  It was then that I understood why I ever coached, what need the act of coaching fulfilled in me. 

I needed to be part of a community.  I needed to learn from families that loved their children with all the ferocity with which I love mine.  I needed to see how different parents handled different situations.  I needed to be influenced.  At the time, I thought I was coaching so I could make a different kind of impact than what I could do in the classroom.  I didn't know it then, but coaching was a learning experience for me every bit as much as it was for the kids.

To those families who showed me support as a coach, I thank you a million times and more.  I learned from you what it is to support my kids; it isn't about wanting things my own way, it isn't about making my kids the team princesses, it isn't about believing my kids will always be right. It's about exposing my kids new people, new skills, and new challenges.  It's about teaching my kids they can't and won't be the center of every universe throughout their lives, even if they are the center of my universe at home.  It's about getting to know the other adults who will be involved in my childrens' lives and growing a trusting relationship with them. It's about letting them go and trusting the world will do right by them.

And to the devestating loss of one dear family? It is an awful thing that we watch you live through.  It has reminded me though that life is short, too short.  It reminds me that my polka-dotted, freckle-spotted faces will grow and my favorite little spots will fade.  One day it will be just myself and the husband and then what? I will be satisfied that I stole enough cuddles and put my energies in just the right places.

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