So, picture the scene, a bunch of pre-teen girls are playing their first national final in a Rugby tournament. It’s 130 miles away from home and only a handful of parents have made the journey to watch. They win one, lose one, and have to win the third to progress out of the group stages. They are out classed and out sized in this final match, but sheer determination and a refusal to give up see them edge into the lead, and their star player is making a run for the try line that will make victory unassailable when she is tackled and falls awkwardly with her opponent on top. It’s immediately obvious that it’s bad, the tournament doctor is summoned, an ambulance called and the team coach leaves with the player (as she must), leaving the girls in the care of a student teacher.
The mood has changed, from pride and excitement on the touchline we are thinking of the phone call the girl’s mother is getting at work, (the unbearable knowledge that your child needs you and you are hours away), we were thinking of the pain of the girl on the floor as she waits for the paramedics, and of our gratitude that it wasn’t our girl lying there.
The Dads were practical, they took over the coaching, but the mums, the mums were nurturing. We ran around picking up coats and fleeces, getting the girls warm, cuddling and comforting. We assured them, we cajoled them, reminded them how strong they were; we rubbed cramps on the touchline, reassured the winded and applauded those still playing. When they crashed out of the competition in the next game, we knew that one of us needed to travel home on the team coach to support the student teacher.
It’s life; when you play sport, injuries happen and this wasn’t any worse than most, and we didn’t do anything remarkable in response. But it reminded me of the how instinctive the drive to care is amongst mothers, and how this underpins not only motherhood but also life itself and therapy.
It is our care as mothers that give our children the foundation from which to learn about themselves and others. In caring for them we prepare them for life. As therapists we often have clients who missed this early care and we get to help them repair these deficits through our care and attention in the room. As we give our children strength, so we remind our clients of their own strength and help them to find it.
The girls at the tournament knew that they didn’t have the strength to win their last match, as did we. How often we sit with a client acknowledging the difficulties, recognising that sometimes there is nothing that makes it better. After years of avoiding it, facing that reality is hard and that’s why we walk with our clients as they do it. In a similar way we recognised the difficulty of that last match from the touchline and held out our hands (and hearts) to the players at the end.
I find it really heartening that our girls could express their feelings, some cried, some were angry, some wanted to be alone, but they all felt safe enough to do what they needed. Again as therapists we provide this safety to clients who haven’t had that space, and sometimes the room is the only experience they have of difficult feelings being allowed, and contained.
I’m not saying that to be a good therapist you have to be a mother, but that I was reminded again of the parallels between nurturing new life and how we can be privileged to work with our clients. I also love the fact that scratch the surface of a bunch of women, and a whole heap of love, care and attention pours out.