Monday, February 15, 2010

A Swish and a Wish

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.


Shay said...


I work with children with special needs and I wish everyone was like you and could see what that moment meant to that child and his parents. Thanks for sharing that with us.

purejoy said...

okay, crying.

wow, what a well-thought out post. and a good reminder as we encounter little "sand in the oyster" kind of people in our lives that sometimes we can't see what is handicapping them...
what a lovely, thoughtful post.
i heart your heart!

Caroline @ The Feminist Housewife said...

What a difficult situation! I'm sure your son will grow immensely from it!

Marg said...

What a wonderful post, very thoughtful, thank you.

Tracie said...

I'm tearing up for Nate and for your son. I could see them both so clearly.

It sounds like you and the couch handled this very well.

for a different kind of girl said...

This post makes me tear up AND bust out in a big goofy grin. I can't imagine there being a better way of handling the situation, and what an opportunity to paint a little corner of 'the bigger picture' canvas this was.

Ali said...

I love this post! What a lucky boy your son is to have a Mom who will talk about this stuff with him!!! Some parents would just ignore it after the fact.

My son is in high school sports now and there is no cheering for the other team - just mean parents clearly wanting nothing but a win. I miss the younger years when cheering for another child's win was ok!!!


Anonymous said...

You are such a good person and mother! You floor me every time.

I too am teary eyed.


Kate Coveny Hood said...

This was one of my favorite things you've ever written. I sent it to my friend who has a son in Oliver's special preschool class. J's reaction reminded me so much of him - such a sensitive little soul. Life is so hard for the intense little guys - especially the ones who feel things so deeply. And as mothers we just hope that others understand and think that if they only knew...

Christy said...

What a beautiful post Anna. Your son is so lucky to have you as a mom. I strive to be as kind and thoughtful and sensitive as you are! We all should! Thank you for reminding me of this.

Gretchen said...

I have a post floating around in my brain, and this post of yours speaks right to it. What do our kids want from us? To just be their biggest fan, plain and simple? To teach them? To hug them? To keep them out of trouble when they can't keep themselves out? To rescue them? To feed them? WHAAAATTTT?

And, why do our kids wants and our vision of doing our best always have to be so far apart?

(As you can tell I feel deeply for J. I love your story about the special needs kid but I also identify with your son.)

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Heidi said...

Anna, this is beautiful. Really beautiful.

Anonymous said...

Ahhh! You made me cry!

vawriter said...

I would say you made me cry, but then I do that at Hallmark commercials. So I will say instead that you made me THINK, and FEEL and REMEMBER...and WISH there were more mothers like you. It's such a perilous job. You can kiss or kill with a word. You definitely kissed, Slouchy.

vawriter said...

sorry, not sarah--anna! sentiments same.

Cynthia said...

You are such a great mom.... an example to me.

K A B L O O E Y said...

Incredible post, great parenting. I'm going to miss you more during your blackout than you know, Bye. And I hope you make time for God and, to quote a sage, "boom chick a wow wow."

Rachel Elizabeth said...

This is a moment of good parenting for sure.

Anonymous said...

Ok, hard to type as I cry a former special ed teacher, I admire thae way everyone cheered and I understand why your son was upset. It;s awesoem to see that you used that as a teaching moment for your son. My own son battles ADHD and bipolar disorder but isn't "obviously" a kid with a disability. Luckily for me, he has a huge heart and has always gone out of his way to befriend and defend the kids that others pick on for their differences. I'm hoping he will someday follow my path into teaching special needs kids.
Thank you for sharing this story.

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