Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Not the Happy You Expect

When we first signed our son up to play baseball on a special needs team, we had no idea what would happen. A friend told us her daughter had played the previous season, and we trusted her. So we showed up and crossed our fingers. It turned out to be amazing.

Cole had only just begun walking, so we didn't think much would happen. He refused to wear the jersey, wouldn't put on the hat and cried and screamed when we told him he was going to play baseball. He cried and resisted all the way out to the field. 

We held out his arm to his assigned buddies, a pair of incredibly kind 12 year olds, and sat in the bleachers anxiously watching and waiting. What happened was nothing short of a miracle. But then, we've come to expect those when we expect nothing. It didn't happen right away, but little by little, game by game, Cole came around. First he wore the jersey, then the hat. Now, this is a kid who loves him some audience attention. When he realized he was being watched suddenly he cared more about what he was doing. Season one was about discovering the audience. His buddies helped him bat and run the bases. Season two was the turning point - for all of us. Our oldest son, my stepson, found that he had some friends who volunteered as buddies for the teams. So he joined, since he was with us anyway. Cole was thrilled that his big brother was on the field, and we all cheered them on. And then, one day - Cole hit the ball by himself. I fell apart in all kinds of ways, just like I had when he sat up, when he scooted, and when he finally began walking around age 4 1/2. I always harbored hope he would walk. But hit a baseball? Absolutely icing on the cake. We couldn't take enough videos and pictures. That first ball connecting with the bat, and the
realization that no one was helping him do it. I replay it in slow motion in my head often. I sobbed quietly in the stands, surrounded by parents and friends of players and buddies. Then I also realized that this was a place where no one would laugh or judge. They just patted me on the back or hugged me and nodded in true understanding.

At the beginning of Season three the coach could not fulfill the commitment, and my stepson stepped up to take over the role. We were proud but we could not predict the emotions that overtook us the first time Sam pitched to Cole. I am the most fortunate stepmom ever with Sam. I had the opportunity to be part of his young life and watch him become the young man he now is. He is an amazing big brother. 


This past weekend we began season four for Cole. Shortly after the first game of the season began, a beautiful young girl in a wheelchair took home plate. Her buddies helped her bat and maneuver the bases. Faintly at first, then increasingly less so, a woman was weeping in the stands to my left. When I looked over at her she claimed embarrassment. With three new families on our team this year, tears are sure to be expected. We all chimed in to let her know it was ok. After all, we've each had that moment. "I can't believe what I'm seeing!" she said through her tears. "I never thought I'd see this!"


Parents are proud when their child achieves something. We all want happiness for our children. We want to feel happy watching them. But this, this is the moment when your child does something that defies what doctors and professionals said they couldn't do. Like live. 

It's the moment when you experience a happiness you could not have
anticipated when you were forced to divest yourself of the expectations you had of what your life as a parent would be.

A happiness your child also realizes in their own way when they suddenly do something new and exciting. When they discover an audience cheering them on. You can see it in their eyes, even when they cannot speak. "Mom! Did you see me??" 

I wouldn't have missed it for the world.