Sunday, April 7, 2019

The Road to A Championship

Yesterday was one of those moments when you have to change the game plan. Perhaps the plan was always in place but learning to accept that the road to where you want to be isn't the direction you expected to go. It was fitting as I snuggled my sweet babe and watched MSU succumb to a better playing Texas Tech. The loss doesn't  make them lesser players, a bad team or a loser. Each player still has their talent. Tom Izzo is still an amazing leader these young men with a Big Ten Championship under their belt have still found success even when the end didn't look the way they had once imagined.

As a parent of a child with a disability, I have continually had to revamp and revisit my own expectations and celebrate differences and the path that we are on allowing me to grow just as much as that beauty God placed in my care. You see, since she was less than two, I have been working to create the typical childhood experience for a child who is just not typical. Yesterday, I finally got it.

My road to acceptance of a child with a disability has been fraught with fear, sadness, hope, excitement and continues to move forward on this journey with incredible feelings that creep up at every turn and juncture. In fact its often obvious that I am still journeying to acceptance, even now.

Yesterday was beautiful. Although I began my morning in a tizzy trying to send my husband out the door with four of our children while I rushed around getting ready to coach, the day was going to be yet another opportunity to grow as a mother and person. One of my passions in life is working with children. It always has been. I have enjoyed teaching them, working with them, helping them to reach their greatest potential so its no wonder I struggle when I want so much for children who are not my own and can't seem to help the one that is born to me. I always envisioned myself being able to find a way to give Seraphina a "normal" childhood. Why was I trying to hard for something that she didn't want?

As the sun crept out from behind heavy clouds, I stood, whistle in hand working with children my daughter's age. I watched as they carried lacrosse sticks, learning how to cradle, scoop and even play a little scrimmage but my heart was with my daughter a few miles away on another field, with my closest friend trying her best to assimilate into a typical childhood activity. Soccer. I wished she could play on my team but I knew she wasn't ready. Perhaps however she could play soccer, at least somewhat.

As practice ended, I shed a layer, opened the sun roof and drove over the mountain with joy in my heart watching children grow each week on their journey to play lacrosse. As I drove into the field, it was apparent I was driving into the world that is part of a special parents life. One that is hard to explain. That joy faded and my heart sunk as I parked next to my husband, scanned the field, witnessed my older girls playing with children my daughters age and yet, my daughter was not in sight. My husband, head back, resting in the car looked defeated, deflated. It didn't work. There in the backseat was my little one, a bit muddy and disheveled, shoes and socks strewn about, resting. It was too much. My dear friend told me she tried. She had fun. She didn't like wet shoes (heck neither do I). She said she could come back, try again but when I talked to my husband, that look on his face told me, she wasn't ready.

Once again, I realized we were at a new phase of acceptance. We were adding another layer of understanding and a step on the ladder to success. You see, I realized in MY trying to give my daughter exactly what I thought she needed, I was only hurting myself and perhaps unintentionally, her. I realized that dance class I tried, not ready. Gymnastics? Not ready. Now soccer, not ready. I want this, but am I just wanting this for her childhood or my vision of what childhood should be.

This conundrum isn't just for parents of kids with extra needs, I see it in all parents. Parents whose children I coach, parents who wish their children were more successful at academics or sports. Parents that wish their children had more drive to try the arts or dance. Reality is, its our vision and although support is important, perhaps allowing our children to lead is even more important.

Yesterday afternoon, I had that typical parent experience where I watched these two beasts (one my own) run their hearts out on the field and work together to have great success on the field. I watched as they lead us in their own journey which I respected and realized that I had to do the same for my sweet Serrie, extra needs or not.

So as we drove home with the warmth of the early spring air, I decided to accept what is our road to a championship. It may not be a straight path. It may end before I am ready but I am certain there may be more curves in it that I didn't plan for but these curves may allow me to slow down, look at the beauty of the world and accept the differences that teach me to be more understanding and aware of the beauty of the world around us.

One day I know that our version of the Championship will look beautiful. It may not have all the bells and whistles that I will witness with other children but the beauty will be present and the joy will be just as much, perhaps even more.

She may never play sports, take dance class or even participate in typical activities, but we will celebrate the small steps, the joy she finds and the opportunity to grow. We will get dirty and messy and find opportunities to share the beauty this disability has given us to look at life through another lens. Once again, autism is teaching me that the blessing of raising a child on the spectrum is nothing I ever planned or imagined but still the greatest gift God has allowed me to receive.

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