When I entered the office I was greeted as always by a polite and friendly receptionist. “Are you teaching any parenting classes” she asked. quietly. “Yes I am as a matter of fact. I’m teaching at the college on Mondays and in a nearby town on Tuesdays.” She was quiet. So I asked. “Is there something I can do for you”. She hesitated for only a moment and then said, ”I have a daughter with some special physical needs and she is struggling with her 4 year old. I thought maybe one of your classes might help her.” I nodded in agreement. “Is it possible for her to make one of the classes?” She nodded her head no and replied, “she is too far away”. I filled out the paperwork and before I passed it to her I said, “here is my phone number and my email address. I would be happy to drive to her, sit with her and chat and see if I can lend some help. Parenting is hard and we need all the support and encouragement we can get.” She teared up, said thank you and took the small piece of paper with my information in it.
The woman next to her, half our age looked up and said, “you are the woman who wrote the book Duct Tape Parenting.” I nodded yes. She said “a friend of mine gave it to me a year ago. At first I was insulted, but then I understood. I had been complaining about my two kids for months. She offered suggestions and I kept ignoring her. Finally, she just gave me the book and said, “read it if you ever want to talk to me about your kids again. So I did, and within the first few pages I knew what she was talking about. Thank you.” I nodded my head and smiled and went to sit and wait for my appointment.
Over the years I have taught a parenting class to everyone in this office. The doctors, their nurses and their administrative staff. Each time I go in for a checkup, it feels like I am visiting with old friends. We give each other updates about our kids, we share a giggle about the exploits of one of our college bounds kids, we roll our eyes at some nonsense one of them pulled and then we get back to the task at hand. It is a lovely feeling being so connected to all these wonderful people.
When the doctor came to get me, he paused and said, “can I tell you something personal?” I said “sure.” “One of my nurses had been coming into work and complaining about her kids for a few months. My wife and I shared some of our experiences with her, but she was having none of it. You know how that goes, right. They ask, you offer and then they tell you, before they have even tried anything that it won’t work.” I nodded, I certainly did. He continued, “She was going on vacation and as a going away gift, we gave her our edition of your book. Notes and all, and I can tell you it wasn’t an easy thing to do.” I giggled a bit imagining how insulted this woman might have been when she opened her gift. He said he didn’t have any hopes that she would read the book, but that she would understand that her stories about her children were disrupting and upsetting the rest of the staff and at the very least she might stop talking about her kids in such disparaging ways. He continued, “I got a call from her three days later on her vacation in sunny Florida. She opened the book on the plane, read the first few pages intending to put the book down and finished it by the time she closed her eyes on the 2nd night. She told me how grateful she was that I had reached out and taken a chance. That I wasn’t afraid of offending her and had shared a book that had meant so much to me and my wife.”
My eyes teared up. It is these moments that make me so grateful to be doing what I love. We finished the exam and before I left his wife came in to say a quick hello. We hugged and caught up bit. She said, “I’ve been meaning to send you an email for several months.” “Oh,” I said “About?” “Well, as you know, our oldest daughter is in her second year volunteering abroad and that never would have happened had we not taken a parenting class from you when she was a mere seven-years-old.” I rolled my eyes as I often do and said, “I had nothing to do with that, you raised that remarkable young woman.” “No its not true,” she said. “Because of you we were able to support her desire to travel half way around the world when what my instincts told me was to keep her close by, to limit her options, to keep her safe. But I heard your voice over and over and it helped me find the courage to support this young woman, my daughter, as she followed her dreams. Now our youngest is pushing me to let her grow more, to stretch more as she talks about traveling to Turkey for a semester abroad. I feel a pit in the center of my stomach and everything in me wants to keep her home where she will be safe, but I know I can’t do that, because it is much more likely that I will lose her if I try and stop her than I would lose her to Turkey.”
We shared a quiet moment, both of us understanding what it’s like to live with courageous, fearless, adventurous, engaged children and then hugged goodbye. I walked to the car and sat for a moment. My heart full. Full of hope and full of gratitude. For so many things.