When baby girl started playing softball, I had to sit on the ground at the first few practices because it never occurred to me to bring a chair.
Her little water bottle was adorable. But alas, it didn’t hold enough water for a two hour practice.
I didn’t have snacks packed. And to be fair, if I had packed snacks they would have been totally unhealthy and not the right “sports” fare that I recognized vaguely as I looked around the practice area.
The blinged-out hat proclaiming the woman seated next to me (in her foldable chair) to be a SOFTBALL MOM seemed to mock me. Yes, I get it. I do not know what I am doing but we don’t have to spell it out in rhinestones. Do we?
Sigh. I am 17 years into motherhood and have no idea how to be the “sports mom”.
My little softball player is baby number four, but the first three are triplets – two boys and girl. My trio were born prematurely and as a result both boys have Cerebral Palsy.
Benjamin – who uses a power wheelchair — and Mason – who walks with crutches — have tried sports. (Their triplet sister, Claire, only wanted tutus.) My paradigm demanded that they must. We moved to the desert where the weather would not hinder their ability to get outside and play. And with the move, I signed them up immediately for adaptive baseball. They will love it, I thought.
The team was comprised of varying abilities. Some of the children had physical limitations, others cognitive. Teenagers served as buddies to the young children on the field experiencing their first baseball. I sat in the stands proudly cheering for my boys. Certain that this was a brilliant find on my part – a place where they could participate in sports.
My 8-year-old boys were less than happy when we loaded the car. I was beaming. “Did you love it, boys?”
Grumpy Mason, “I didn’t get anybody out.”
Ever-confident in this activity, I assured him that next week he would probably get someone out.
Benjamin thought it was boring. He liked watching football on TV more than playing baseball in the field.
I was hopeful that the next Saturday would prove better.
Nope. Not even close.
After four “games”, Mason got into the car, laying his little crutches (we call them power sticks) on the floorboard and glaring at me: “We just all run the bases. I didn’t get a hit but they made me run the bases anyway. I want to get someone out. I want to get out. There should be a winner.”
It is unfair to say we didn’t learn anything that baseball season. We did. We learned that Benjamin prefers theater, arts, and cheering for his parents’ alma mater in sports to actually playing sports. Valuable information.
We learned that Mason has an innate need to compete and non-competitive baseball was not going to cut it for him. We tried many adaptive sports before he discovered a passion for archery.
Most of all, we learned that parenting special kiddos challenges all of my paradigms. When we parent based on what matters to us, we very often miss what matters to our children. In my naivety I truly thought that finding a sporting outlet Benjamin could participate in from his wheelchair was important. Turns out that was not important to Benjamin at all. He had no desire to be involved in wheelchair sports.
And I should not have been surprised. Benjamin has been challenging my paradigms his whole life. I had forbid his therapists to utter the “w” word in front of him. I was certain that if he started using a wheelchair, it would limit him, hold him back, prevent him from reaching his goals.
Guess what? When five-year-old Benjamin finally tried a chair, it did exactly the opposite: It opened the world up for him! No longer did he have to use every single shred of energy to force one foot in front of the other so that the momentum of his walker would move. No, now, he could talk and move at the same time. He had energy left over for physical therapy, for occupational therapy….for school!
My paradigm that a wheelchair was limiting was the exact opposite of his reality.
Fighting through my own ideas of what life should look like for Benjamin and Mason continues to be one of my personal battles. The learning curve is steep in parenting children with special needs – almost as steep as learning to be a softball mom at 40-something! Think maybe one day, I’ll earn a blinged-out hat proclaiming I know what I am doing?