I was thinking about struggle at the gym this morning. It was a fitting thing to be thinking about. I was on a machine and hadn't looked to see what weight it was set at. I go to the gym pretty early so sometimes my brain is functioning kind of slow. I leaned in to lift, and WHAM - the weight was too heavy. The person before me must have been a giant - it was probably the Husband. He can lift TONS of heavy stuff.
It made me think of struggle. The weights only benefit me when I have to struggle a little to lift them. If I weren't struggling then the exercise (and the early alarm) would be pretty useless. It is the very act of struggle that brings about a change in my muscle strength.
And it is also true in other areas of my life. The parts of grad school that really pushed me, were the very parts that lead to areas of growth. The things that I struggled to comprehend pushed me to dig deeper, and think about things in new ways. The struggle was the very thing that made change happen.
I struggled in school when I was a kid, too. I did NOT have my multiplication facts memorized. I was the LAST kid still working on subtraction when the rest of my class had moved on to multiplication. We did these horrible one minute drills and there was a chart in the room that made me shame clear for all the world to see. Everyone else had this long row of stars, but my row seemed to be frozen forever in one spot. This constant competition did not seem to move that line of stars forward. However that struggle was not wasted. I did eventually master my subtraction facts, and move on to multiplication, but more importantly I never have forgotten the anguish of being last. I try to keep it in the forefront of my mind whenever I stand in a room full of children. I make a point of talking to my students about the ways I've struggled. I want them to fully understand that struggle is normal.
My own Offspring are intelligent, verbal and creative. They also sometimes struggle. In a world of "My-Kid-Is-On-The-Honor-Roll" bumper stickers. We struggle sometimes to keep that "C". It is essential, then, that despite the fact that their report card doesn't always reflect it in the ways they want it to, my children understand that intelligence doesn't always have a direct link to a letter on a paper. When it comes to math, one of the Offspring REALLY struggles. Something inside their brain, scrambles things around, and makes learning more complex. We have support and a million ways to cope, but it doesn't change the fact that my Offspring doesn't learn math at the "expected" pace. They are divergent.
When I am lifting weights at the gym, or pushing myself to run for five more minutes, or trying to solve a complex line of code, I feel pretty good. "This is it." I sometimes tell myself. "This is the struggle where I am making things happen." I am okay with that struggle. It is always more difficult to see struggle on the Offspring. My natural tendency is to jump in and try to smooth the edges. The Husband has pointed out, more than once, "They have to find a way to cope without us." He is right of course. It is the deepest truth of parenting. They must be able to manage life without us. Which is why it is so important that I must let the Girl STRUGGLE through making her OWN Mac and Cheese. It would be so much easier to do it myself (That CHILD cannot focus on the directions sometimes.) "Hey, Mom! Did you know that Demi Lovato . . ." (Me Interrupting): "Hey, did you put water in the pan or just noddles because I'm seeing smoke." Yet, this struggle is so important. She must be able to feed herself without me.
To be honest, I wouldn't say that I am a fan of struggle. It is difficult, painful, and well, is a struggle. Yet the benefits of struggle are obvious - it makes us stronger. This is so easy to understand when facing the weights at the gym, but can be much more difficult when that look of struggle in not from my own reflection in the mirror, but on the face of my own children or students. I heard someone once say "Those who never struggle, will never achieve." I thought I'd missed the end of the quote. Achieve what? is what I thought, but then I dug in deeper and thought about it more. They won't achieve anything; without struggle you miss so much.
I will try and remind myself at the gym tomorrow morning, AND when I log on to the computer to check the Offspring's grades. Struggle is life.
Keep moving forward,