My son and I make a once weekly trip to his occupational therapist to help him learn how to cope with his sensory issues. It is making a world of difference for him. It is making a world of difference for us. We still have a long way to go but life is getting easier. The boat isn’t sinking. We are able to spend more time steering the thing and enjoying the breeze instead of frantically bailing water.
But I think as much as the occupational therapy is helping my son, the occupational therapy waiting room is helping me. It is filled with talkative chatty Moms. Normally I would shrink into a corner and pray they didn’t want to talk to me. My interactions with other Mom’s in my area have been painful at best and sometimes harrowing. I simply don’t have anything in common with them. We come from different places and perspectives. Honestly my primary goals are to keep my daughter’s heart beating and keep my son from beating the snot out of his caregivers and injuring himself in the process. I want all the other things for my kids. I just don’t have the bandwidth to focus on them. My priorities are generally a bit different than theirs.
But the ladies in this waiting room have walked the same path my husband and I are on. Some have kids with visible/tangible issues like my daughter, others have kids with the invisible/abstract issues like my son and some deal with both. They have dealt with the unexplained, often violent behavior that wrecks havoc on families. They have been through multiple daycares. They have spent hours trying to calm a crazed child. They know the advice they get from other parents who have kids that can process the world normally only makes things worse, like throwing water on a grease fire. They have given up on taking their kids out in public. They know the stares, the whispers, the judgement, the embarrassment and the shame.
I suddenly have Mom friends. We buy each other coffee while we are waiting on our little ones. We trade stories and tips and tricks. And unlike other Mom encounters I have had, there is no judgement. No comeuppance or competition. No bullshit. I hear “I know, right?” I don’t hear, “Well you should just….” Just Mom’s comparing notes on weighted blankets, compression vest, fidgets, joint compression and what works to calm their kids down when they absolutely lose it. And what works to calm us down once we have calmed them down. The looks in their eyes mirror what I feel day in and day out.
I found my Mom tribe in that waiting room. Lacey, and Deborah, and the college professor lady with blue hair that wears the death metal T-shirts whose name I can never remember. My tribe. And I am thankful.
We are pack animals at our core. We humans do better in groups, even the introverts. We all need a tribe. We need a tribe to thrive. Or tribes.
After several decades of searching, trying to fit in and failing miserably for a myriad of reasons, I have been welcomed into a few tribes. While the path hasn’t been easy, I found my tribes on that path. And I have thrived.
Age has brought gray hair, wrinkles, and good friends. Friends that I never found in my youth.
My Wednesday night tribe has stuck with us through all the offspring’s very public hijinks. Bruce, Susan, and Sheryl are awesome and I am lucky to have such good friends and fine Godly examples for my children.
My game night tribe. Michael, Rachel, Brian, Jim, Richard, Angie, Rusty, Robert and occasionally Hardy put up with my kids running wild and demanding plane rides while we are battling orcs, burning down villages, and generally participating in nonsense. I love game nights. I love the insane stories we weave, the laughing, and silliness, and the utter lack of drama. I enjoy being questionable heroes with these people. I am proud that my kids love game nights and consider these creative, genuine, and open minded individuals something akin to family.
My Vanderbilt tribe kept and still keeps me laughing, humble and grounded. Hardy, Brian, and Jim are also in this tribe. But DaveO, Nelson, and Tony, make it a full complement. They made me have pride in working on a team with an important mission doing awesome things and making a difference. They also set the bar high for any other group I work with. We never named ourselves. Which is unfortunate because this is a team that deserved an awesome name. I don’t get to see them as often now that I don’t work there but we still pester each other with electronic media. Even if we don’t work together, they will always be my guys.
The Department of Hell tribe is the first group of people who embraced my weirdness and raised it with their own. Sue, Rusty, Shannon, Steve, and Alisa gave me confidence, a hatred of Seinfeld, images I can’t erase of Fernando, epic Christmas parties, glitter stories, and more than one reason to jump off a perfectly good boat. I should do a better job of keeping up with them.
Then there is my beer tribe. We called it Beer Church until we all got old, married and familied. Thank God “the good days” were primarily before Facebook and camera phones. We actually had to carry a camera around to take pictures. Noelle, Gizzi, Tara, Claudia, Richard, Dovie and Jason were the first people to let me sit at the cool kid’s table. Probably the first group of people I have encountered that I would consider lifelong friends.
Last but not least is my Trapp tribe. My husband’s family welcomed me as one of their own without hesitation. Matthew, Dawn, Beth, Mike, Luke, Allee, Emilee, Patrick, Natalee, and Tucker have added something beautiful to my world. (Who would have ever thought I would be an “aunt”. Still don’t feel like an “aunt”. Don’t know what to make of it. It sounds so responsible and mature. Like I am supposed to know something. Eeewwww! No! I would be cool with “Uncle Terry’s wife.”)
So often I find that people are grateful for things and stuff. Or for opportunities to do things. That is all well and good. But I think life is about who we are spinning on this rock with. And the who is often forgotten in the chaos of what, why, and how. What good is stuff and things and opportunities and journeys if there is no one to share it all with?
The ladies in that waiting room, through the sum of their experiences, are focused on the who. Less on the what, why, and how. Their children taught them that. And they extend it gracefully to the rest of us. Even when the rest of us don’t return the favor. It is the who that makes the what, why, and how important.
This life is about people. And I have been blessed with good ones. Without fail. When I needed them most.
All this to say, I wouldn’t trade the challenges. Not for a thing. I wouldn’t trade the hard paths and the people I found on them. They are the people that make the stuff and opportunities worth having. I love my tribe.