This week, I had the most embarrassing and challenging experience I’ve had for a while; one which reminded me a little of my parenting experience. It’s been a number of years since I went regularly to an exercise class, but with my recent flare up of back pain I thought it time to be more disciplined with exercise that helps me. Having looked around at all the classes available, I chose to try one called Body Balance; a mixture of pilates, yoga and tai chi. While I had never tried anything like this before, a friend highly recommended it and so I thought, ”There’s no harm in giving it a trial.”
Due to my previous experience of pilates, I was anticipating an hour of physically tough, but slowly paced exercises that worked on my core strength, and an instructor who took you through the different positions carefully; allowing you to go at your own pace, and giving help when needed. Someone who was sensitive to each individual’s capabilities. My past experience did nothing to prepare me for what was about to happen.
No sooner had I entered the room was I confronted by a large group of people, (mainly senior citizens) all on mats facing an instructor who was on a raised stage. Dressed in the latest lycra fashion and complete with microphone headset; it was a confronting first impression. On seeing me enter, she asked for anyone new to raise their hand, and when I was the only one to do so, she then insisted that I take a place at the very front of the class. Her tone implied I should not attempt to quietly slip into the back row, even though I was tempted to. What I didn’t realise was that my walk of shame wasn’t the most embarrassing or difficult thing I was going to do in the next hour.
Without much introduction or explanation, the instructor proceeded to put on some music, then launched into an exercise workout that I was clearly not prepared for. Without a clue in the world as to what I was supposed to be doing, I was propelled by pure pride to keep up and maintain the pace and postures of the instructor. I was sandwiched between two older women, one of which, every time I glanced her way, was amazed at how limber and lithe she was. I was being out done by a woman possibly twice my age. After what felt like an eternity of body contortions accomplished at quick speed, I looked up to the clock with a desperation that begged, “When is this over?” Only to discover I’d only completed 15 minutes…45 left to go. There was no letting up, no escape, no going back. I was thrust into a situation that was uncomfortable and unexpected. But the only way to get through it, was to do it.
As I’ve reflected and laughed about this experience, I couldn’t help but see a humorous parallel to parenting (teenagers in my case). It reminded me of how humbling and confronting it is to become and embrace being a parent. Somehow, every imagination of what it will be like never matches its reality. There are many moments when you feel under the microscope of others. Your capabilities and failures or that of your children’s, can be the source of feeling shame and embarrassment. And once you’ve begun the class of parenting, there’s no leaving, no opting out. You’ve got to get with the program, and somehow keep pace with it.
There are of course moments of great pain, caused by the extreme pressure of doing things you’ve never done before. But equally, there are moments of pure exhilaration, as you find yourself overcoming what you thought impossible. Being forced to push the boundaries of your capabilities (your ability to be patient, to love unconditionally, to pray without ceasing, to forgive, to trust and to let go) grows you in amazing ways. Believing that if willing, the more you allow yourself to be stretched and challenged, the fitter and more flexible you become; becoming more resilient.
On Sunday, my third child is about to join that most singular of life stages; the teen years. While on one hand I’ve had the last five years to get my head around parenting teens (feeling slightly more comfortable with what to expect, and how I should be), the truth is, I still feel at times daunted by the reality of having a house of three teens, and one who wishes they were. While I’ve certainly been stretched and grown, I know there’s a whole heap more of that yet to come.
On finishing my class, I was approached by one of the elderly women who asked if I had enjoyed things, and seeing my exhausted face quickly encouraged me to come back next week. Afterwards I had a great laugh with my husband about the incident, and laughed again harder still with my kids. Sometimes, all one ever needs to carry on and front up to new challenges, is a friendly encouragement from those who have gone before and a sense of humour.