When you have a kid like Calvin you hear all sorts of things from family, friends and strangers. Often I hear comments that appear to try and level the playing field such as “welcome to motherhood” or “when he starts talking you’ll wish he hadn’t because they never shut up.” There are those who try to give me unsolicited advice like, “you need to restrain your anger”, or “you need to get over it.”
But then there are those individuals who offer the most honest and thoughtful words that erase all of the others. Recently I heard from my friend Meg, a woman who, as a young girl, was a favorite swimmer on the team I coached when I was eighteen. She wrote:
“I'm sure you realize how bad we are in this culture in knowing what to say when people are suffering. I cannot even begin to imagine what you go through day to day. To be honest, I start to imagine and stop because I have the luxury of doing so.”
She went on to share many other insightful, poignant and beautiful sentiments. Clearly she was speaking from her heart and not second-guessing what she thought I needed to hear. I was deeply moved.
Having said that I do not like to minimize any concern by parents for their children whether it is a bruised knee, a hurt feeling or an illness. As my father-in-law likes to say, “it’s all relative.” While a spilled glass of milk might seem trivial to an adult it can be a tragedy for a toddler. The best we can do is to listen to the struggles and triumphs of other people. To try and walk in another’s shoes is the only way we can truly begin to empathize.