Another cliché I’ve heard about parenting is how parents of kids with special needs talk about how brave and inspiring their kids are. It sounds like something people say just to make themselves feel better about how difficult their lives are. Then it happens to you.
My daughter declared yesterday that she must sign up for softball. She had said this before, and I had looked into it, then I hid the flyer someplace in my desk. But she said it again, with that determined face that said this was not something I could hope she’d forget. (Lots of parents say things like, “Oh, just ignore it. Your kid will forget about it.” They don’t have my kid!) So bright and early this morning, we were off to softball try-outs.
I have written about how my daughter loves soccer. But really, she loves all team sports. Not watching them on TV. Not watching other people playing them. She loves them for two reasons: Learning something new, and getting a uniform. Practices, as long as they include learning something new, are fine with her. Games? Well, as far as she’s concerned, games exist so you can get a uniform. She doesn’t seem to have any great competitive streak, just a hunger to learn to play all games and to collect as many uniforms and t-shirts as possible. In fact, she said the other day, she could dress only in Santa Cruz Soccer Camp t-shirts at this point. She was pretty proud of that.
The thing is, she’s never actually played softball. Since I attempted to forget about her interest in softball — though she’s been asking since last spring — we don’t own a softball. We own a glove because she saw one at the DLC Flea Market and begged to buy it. She didn’t even care that it’s pink! Have I mentioned that I abhor games that involve balls? When I was a child, my eyesight was very poor. When a ball was coming at me, it would split into two balls and I’d have to do eeny-meeny-miney-mo on it. I always lost.
But this is where the bravery and inspiration comes in: We get to the try-outs and she reveals that in spite of my reminders to bring “everything for softball and your riding lesson,” the glove was sitting on the bench in the front hall. Furthermore, all the other girls are out there warming up with their dads, and she’s got no glove, no ball, and her mom’s tendons scream every time a ball actually hits her glove (accidentally, of course).
But happily, she lines up with the other girls and waits her turn to show her stuff on a softball diamond (never set foot on one before). She is instructed that she’ll first catch a ground ball (she learned what that is from a Youtube video yesterday), then throw the ball to first base (that’s the one where all the people are waving their arms and saying, Good Catch! Throw it to me now!), then after three balls, run to first base.
Good thing we didn’t arrive any earlier, or she would have had to go first.
But the fact is, she did just fine. She watched about five girls ahead of her, girls who had clearly been playing softball since they were in the womb, and she was not discouraged. She marched out there with her borrowed glove and she got those ground balls just fine. She threw them so that…. eventually… they got to first base, and then she trotted off herself.
I know myself: When I’m going someplace I’ve never been before, to do something new with people I’ve never met before, and those people are most likely much more accomplished than I am, I get nervous. In fact, I try to find many reasons why I can’t go. Really, it’s not that I know that I’ll fail, but, uh, I really did need to, uh, refinish the floors that day.
Or something like that.
But my brave girl doesn’t think like that. Everything she does out in the world is a challenge. Each time she walks into a new room, people figure out really fast that she’s different, and their reactions have not always been positive. Adults usually try to cover up their dismay, but it shows. Other kids have said really nasty things right to her face. But she plows on and does what she wants to do.
I was sitting next to a dad and his small son. When my daughter stepped up, the boy said to his dad, “That’s a boy!”
“No,” I said, “That’s my daughter. She hates brushing long hair. She has never played softball before. But she’s here, and she’s doing it.”
So much for another cliché. She was brave, and she inspired me. What a gal!