There was a locker room just for the girls. It was small, and it didn't even look like a locker room. It had chairs instead of benches, carpet instead of rubber mats and no hooks on the walls. But it was just for the girls.
It was empty but for another hockey bag when we walked into hockey camp yesterday morning. The emptiness led to concerns and tears, which you can read about in yesterday's post.
At the end of the day, six smiling girls filled the locker room with laughter and joy. They exchanged tips on keeping their hair out of their eyes when they play. A shared comaraderie of being the only girls among the boys brought these girls of all ages together. The older girls helped the younger ones with their gear and encouraged them along the way.
This might sound like normal behavior for girls in the locker room, and it is. But my youngest has never gotten to experience this with other girls. She's the only girl on her hockey team. She sees other girls on other teams, but she never gets to talk to them or play with them. Having a locker room just for the girls is a luxury we don't often get.
Usually, my daughter just dresses in the locker room with the rest of her team. The boys are busy trying to whack each other with their sticks and talking about the latest Star Wars show or the latest sports scores. My daughter can hold her own with the stick-whacking and the conversations, but she misses having another girl to share the experience with.
As I watched these girls interact, I was reminded of just how important it is for each of us to have people with whom we can relate, people who are in the same age and stage of life -- people who can fill our "locker room" in life. We need people who can commiserate with our current struggles and share in our joys, people who can not only listen to us, but people who can look at us and say "I have been there."
I love having friends in all ages and stages of life. They bring perspective and interest to my life. But I also love having friends who are right there in the ditches of raising kids with me. We all need a friend we can call and begin the conversation with "Do you think I can sell my kids?" and they won't immediately call social services. More likely, they'll offer some encouragement or even offer a few hours of kid-free time.
Just like my daughter who needed to know that there are other girls out there who like hockey, who struggle with keeping the hair out of their eyes and who understand what it's like to be a girl in a world of boys, we need other people who understand where we are in life and the struggles that we are dealing with.
God never intended for us to go through this life alone. From the very beginning, God declared that "It is not good for the man to be alone." (Genesis 4:18) He wants us to share our lives with others. Being with friends who know what we're going through gives us a better perspective on our struggles. Others' experiences can help us know that there is light at the end of the tunnel. If someone else survived the Terrible Twos, then maybe you will, too.
Proverbs 27:17, "As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another," tells us that friends make us better. They offer us wisdom and they help us work through our problems. They can find solutions that we might not be able to see.
One of the girls my daughter shared the locker room with is getting the same bandana that my daughter uses to keep her hair out of her face. The other girl's mom was so grateful for a solution. It was a small thing, but it made a difference.
We and our kids need these "locker room" friendships -- ones forged out of common interests and struggles. Encourage your kids to seek out some friends who share their interests. If your child loves Legos, schedule a playdate with another child who loves Legos and let them create to their hearts' content. If your child loves baseball, take him and another baseball-loving friend to see the hometown team. Encourage your kids' interests and help them find friends with whom to share those interests.
Hanging out in the girls' locker room forged friendships and solidarity for my daughter. Seek out your own "locker room" friendships. Life is so much sweeter when you share it with a friend.