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Why “Put Your Stuff Away!” Isn’t What I Should Have Said

I pulled myself out of bed and dragged my tired, achy body downstairs. In the kitchen, I almost tripped over a lacrosse stick, equipment bag, and running shoes. Again! Seriously, how many times do we tell our kids, “Put your stuff away!”

But wait, I’m an empty nester. My husband is traveling and I’m home alone.

I recently started a second job as an assistant coach for our high school girls lacrosse team and we were in the middle of tryouts week. After finishing my day job, I went directly to the field and 32 anxious young women athletes vying for a position on the varsity team.

When I arrived home late last night, starving and exhausted, all I wanted was to dump my stuff, eat and crash on the couch. From the looks of the kitchen, that’s exactly what I did.

So I have a message for my kids: I get it now.

For all those nights you came home totally spent after a long day of demanding teachers and impatient coaches, I get it.

For those mornings you were slow to get out of bed because you had aching muscles in places you didn’t know you had muscles and just getting out of bed felt herculean, I get it now. I’m sorry I didn’t give you a few extra minutes.

For those days when you came home pumped because practice was amazing, the team was coming together, plays were clicking, you made an amazing catch and you couldn’t wait to share it with all of us, I get it now. I’m sorry my first words were, “Put your dirty stuff in the laundry” instead of, “Hey, tell me about it!”

For the nights you were quiet, sullen and just wanted to go to your room because nothing had worked out that day, I get it. Even though you couldn’t stop thinking about it, you refused to talk about it and I get it now. I’m sorry I didn’t give you some much needed space.

For those nights when you came home and dropped all of your stuff and left it there, not because you were lazy or didn’t care, but because every muscle in your body was aching and it took any strength you had left to get your backpack in the door (never mind get in the shower, have dinner and finish homework), I really get it. I remember the look on your face when I told you to pick up your laundry, empty the dishwasher, and walk the dog and I get it now.

I get it because I am walking in your shoes now. You worried about disappointing your coaches and I worry about disappointing my players. You worked hard to be a good teammate and I am working hard to be a good coach.

You had teachers holding you accountable for work that was due, and I have a boss who does the same. You had tests and I have deadlines.

Life can be overwhelming and I get it. I’m sorry for those tough days and nights. No mom wants to see her kids stressed, exhausted or struggling.

But the tough times can also be a time of tremendous growth as you learn to be responsible and accountable.

Yes, even at my age, I am doing the same.

“Just do the best you can. Take it one step at a time. Prioritize. You got this!” I told you so many times, and now I’m telling myself the same thing.

So kids, it may be a little late, but I get it. Would I have changed the way I handled things? Maybe. I could have been more understanding, given you more space when you needed it and attention when you wanted it. But honestly, looking at where you are now, I wouldn’t change much at all.

Now Dad is learning to cook and have dinner ready for me when I get home. So you know what? I think I’ve got this too.

Mindy Gallagher is the Social Media Manager for Your Teen Magazine. She is the assistant coach for the girls’ lacrosse team for Solon High School in Ohio.

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