So what do you do when the adorable kid with special needs is the one your kid is to guard in basketball? I’m sure you would say a silent prayer that the other child does well and that your kid remains calm and positive when the boy keeps grabbing his arms, or knocks him over in his exuberance. For 4 periods, your prayer is working, and life is good.
What about when this adorable kid with a heart of gold and awesome attitude “GREEAAAT Game!!” manages to break away from the defender (your son), hooks the ball one-handed over his head and sinks a glorious shot, possibly his first ever? Would you whistle and cheer with the rest of the crowd—an explosion of admiration and awe?
Well, I would and I did. It was stunning and beautiful!
What would you do when your kid, hearing your hoots and the thunderous applause, sags and crumples, chokes back tears for as long as he can, then ultimately gives in to his emotions and needs to sit out for a while? What do you do when the entire gym falls silent, while the coach tries to talk to your son, whose body language says, “I’m done with this! Don’t even bother?”
Well, I tell you what I did, later in the car. I apologized for seeming to betray him, but I explained that this beautiful moment probably meant the world to the other boy, his dad (the coach), and the bystanders who don’t even know the family. It meant even more to the boy that no one just let him score, but that he got that gorgeous shot by working his tail off against a great defender. I explained what a wonderful example the boy’s stick-to-it spirit was to all of us, even the 40-somethings who are prone to give up when things are hard.
Our cheers were for the boy and his accomplishment, not against my son.
As I write this, I am struck by several things:
…how inspiring it is to see someone work extra hard with an awesome attitude to do what comes so much easier to others, and what others take for granted. This makes me want to try harder when faced with challenges, and remember to APPRECIATE what comes easily to me.
…that some people’s struggles are overt, told by a stumbling gait, a too-loud voice or other mannerisms, while others struggle in ways we can’t see, until they come bubbling up like they did for my son.
While most people do not face anything as difficult as the challenges the little boy, Nate, has to deal with every day, many people struggle in small ways every day—ways we can’t see.
It is so much easier for me to show grace to those kids and adults with overt struggles, such as physical challenges, than those which I can’t see immediately or to which I can’t relate.
To Nate, I’d like to say thank you. Thank you for the joy you brought the crowd by trying your hardest. Your heart is huge. You even tried to comfort my son when he was crying.
And to my son, I’d like to say: Trying something new like basketball is not easy for you, but you accepted the challenge. I like the way you have taken chances with hard things like going to camp by yourself, playing on teams, and navigating difficult friendships. Being coachable and staying positive take extra effort from you. I see how hard you are trying. Some days are better than others.
My wish is that you remember these words and that they go all the way into your heart: Your emotions may seem too powerful to you, and that is hard, but they are part of what makes you you. I love you, I love the way you are made, and I am proud to be your mom.