You see, two years ago, when Seraphina was diagnosed with autism, I hated seeing those posts. I was completely jealous about the milestones that the kids whom she was born with were reaching but truth be told, Seraphina is reaching her own milestones too and BECAUSE of her autism, I respect them. I respect them more than I ever respected my typical children's milestones in years past.
Today, we went to a Rugby "Festival". Its not like a festival one might expect. There are no rides, no ponies and no games to buy tickets for. Instead, this "festival" is a number of Rugby teams that join together to create a unique group of individuals playing a sport that seems to be receiving a cult following in our little state.
Last year, I tried to take Seraphina to said "festival". She sat in her wagon a little while but within moments she was gone. She dashed around fields, causing me stress and made me NEVER want to set foot on another Rugby field ever again, however my other kids, the children who came before her, they loved the sport and their dad, first generation American, born to a father of British origin, he too loved the sport that his dad played as a child and so, it called us back.
I tried to get away. I did. For me. It was easier but this year, those fields, that ball, the coaches called us back. With my middle child leading the pack, they begged once again to return to a sport that they hadn't grown to like but instead grown to love and the first festival? It would fall on a weekend when their father wasn't just away, he was out of the country.
In a week that was laced with illness and exhaustion, I planned to take these five kids across county lines to begin their playing season. I was apprehensive. You see, as I thought back to last summer I wondered how I would make it through one game let alone an entire festival, on my own.
I prepared. I had snacks, fruits, veggies, water, juice. I had iPads and phones, charged with downloaded videos of "Little People" and I had slept. I went to bed before 9 p.m. anticipating that I would spend a majority of the morning chasing my small, loud cherub around the fields as my older kids tried to pretend she A) wasn't their sister or B) was going to disappear into the abyss of the air conditioned car.
Neither needed to happen because as I prepared, I provided opportunities to success.
I set an alarm for hours prior to their wakeful moments.
I packed up, got dressed and woke them each with warmth.
We ate. We prepared. We drove. We arrived.
As we did, they embarked on yet a third year of Rugby and I prayed I could survive.
I asked a friend to watch my kids, the ones who may need help and I planned to focus on my own child.
Tuesday we met a woman who I will say became my friend.
Earnestly I told her about Seraphina and instead of questioning me, she listened and accepted me. She accepted Seraphina. As I posted on Facebook, another friend, a friend for years, from when I first had Seraphina told me to find her daughter so Seraphina had a playmate. I asked for prayers and people must have offered them because today, today was a milestone.
There was no cap and gown.
There were no shiny trophies.
No pretty pink ribbons wrapped around a bronze medal but still, I won.
Seraphina made it four hours. She played. She found a friend. As I talked to the foster family, he told me of his own journey with autism an his son's journey through special needs riding. It gave me hope and his suggestion of finding her a place to ride made me wonder.
Then, she sat. She waited. Patiently in her wagon as her siblings played. Each on their own team, four teams. She watched and snacked. Waiting for the right moment to visit each at their game.
She also asked her brother on his break to be with her, and he, as her protector and best friend, obliged.
Today, however as she rode on my back, one of the Coaches and I chatted. We chatted about Seraphina. we chatted about her special needs and we chatted about how she's changed our life and today he made a comment that will be with me for a while.
Not today, not tomorrow but when she's ready, they are willing to welcome her. Special needs and all. It may not be right for her. It may not be "her" thing but no matter what his words resonated and meant so much. Her differences didn't mean she couldn't be or wouldn't be, no matter who she was, she was welcome and today, to me, that was a milestone.
Thank you Base Camp for your program. Thank you for your dedication to health and wellness and thank you for your ability to welcome kids who may not be your "picture perfect athlete". You see, in the words you shared, I hit a milestone. The first time there wasn't pause about my child being welcome, about my child being included and about my child trying to play.
Today, while her siblings enjoyed a day of play, and I tried to be where they were as much as I could, Seraphina also reached a milestone, without medal, without honor...to just be included for who she is, entirely.