I have a favourite poem and it has, on the surface, at least, very little to do with being a relationship coach. Or does it?
After Making Love We Hear Footsteps by Galway Kinnell
For I can snore like a bullhorn
or play loud music
or sit up talking with any reasonably sober Irishman
and Fergus will only sink deeper
into his dreamless sleep, which goes by all in one flash,
but let there be that heavy breathing
or a stifled come-cry anywhere in the house
and he will wrench himself awake
and make for it on the run—as now, we lie together,
after making love, quiet, touching along the length of our bodies,
familiar touch of the long-married,
and he appears—in his baseball pajamas, it happens,
the neck opening so small he has to screw them on—
and flops down between us and hugs us and snuggles himself to sleep,
his face gleaming with satisfaction at being this very child.
In the half darkness we look at each other
and touch arms across this little, startlingly muscled body—
this one whom habit of memory propels to the ground of his making,
sleeper only the mortal sounds can sing awake,
this blessing love gives again into our arms.
I first heard this poem more than twenty years ago in an introductory English Literature class. The professor was a quirky little thing whom I found completely fascinating; she wore big, clunky rings on each of her thin fingers, cat eye glasses, a well-weathered motorcycle jacket, many of mismatched layers under it, and her hair was always in a frantic state of looking like it was trying to run away from something. She was a delight. And the way she spoke the words of the poetry in the class was captivating. She always had a mint in the side of her mouth as she spoke, so it sounded like she was somehow consuming the words she was speaking, and that they were so delicious she had to share them. I particularly like the way she would chuckle, throwing her head back with abandon at her own cleverness and sometimes snort. She introduced me to many poems in the time I spend in her class. Some, like Robert Frost’s “The Road Less Taken,” prompted me to make big life moves, and I ended a relationship that would have had me married and pregnant in no short order (and thus would just not do.)
The poem is about a child, who, after hearing his parents making love, awakes and races to be with his parents in their bed.
And what an irresistible space that is, right? Warm, a little sweaty, smelling sweetly of love and bodies and delightful friction. I don’t blame the kid.
So what does this have to do with coaching and why am I writing about it here? Good question.
It’s why I do the work I do. Why I’m passionate about helping people tailor and make-incredible their communication, and create a cozy nest at home for their kids to grow up in. I talk about this with clients all the time:
What are you teaching your little ones?
It’s an interesting thing to look at. If we approach life, work and love with the intention of modelling great things for the tiny, wondrous eyes that are always watching us, we may behave in a different way. Yes, we will still fail and fall sometimes, but our kids will see all of that and become braver for it.
At the risk of sounding like a Whitney Houston song, children are our future. I believe that what we are modelling and communicating for them now will become their reality. I believe they are going to learn from us and then go out into the world in a way that will actually change what is happening and long after we are gone, they will be changing everything with the way they know how to be.
To me, this poem is all about this little Fergus, who—picture the cuteness— screws his little self into his pyjamas, they are so small, and is the centre and complete delight of these parents who so adore him, and each other. It is about intimacy, and wonder, and soaking up all that is around us.
So I will ask you: What are you modelling for your little ones? If you could create that with intention, how might that look different?