The world I inhabit as a mom is a topsy-turvy one, where what is legitimately not standard is the rule. The classroom my son calls home is not a typical one; the activities in which my son participates aren’t familiar to most kids his age.
Will’s classmates -- his buddies and pals -- are truly his peers in every possible way, each with his own health issues and diagnoses. I say “his” exclusively, because there are no girls currently in Will’s class. It’s a man’s world in the Sexton Elementary Pre-K, baby.
I spend a lot of time in the classroom, lending a periodic hand to the educational entourage, which includes teachers, classroom assistants, therapists and aides. I dig interacting with the kids, who are almost always ready with a smile and a big hug. And a laugh, usually unintentional.
My favorite recent story: As would be expected, these little dudes have developmental delays, which are usually most obvious in their communication skills. As it’s hard for them to express their needs, they find creative ways to let you know what they want. One of Will’s classmates walked up to his teacher the other day and very matter-of-factly asked her “Do you have to poop?” Trying not to laugh, she answered, “Why no, I don’t.” It then occurred to her what he was trying to express, and she asked “Do you?” The answer was yes, and off they marched to the bathroom.
It’s a similar case with the community of the out-patient therapies at our childrens’ hospital, where Will’s been a “patient” literally since he was discharged from the NICU. There you get a wider spectrum of kids with “stuff:” some with only physical issues; some, like Will, with a handful of them. The common thread is that everyone there has something he or she is dealing with that’s a hindrance. Something that makes their “normal” different.
That’s the predominant section of my world at the moment. It defines my perception and how I approach things. So imagine my culture shock when I volunteered to direct the pre-school choir (ages three - five) at church this year. And was faced with 13 standard issue kiddos. The same age as Will. But with a completely different skill set.
What I soon came to realize, though, was that while Will is behind his age peers in basic developmental areas, he’s not unlike them in other ways. He’s silly, his attention span isn’t much bigger than a gnat sometimes, when he’s participating in an activity that he enjoys, there is no bigger joy -- and it’s evident. And frankly, he’s more musically talented than many of my choir urchins. Not that I’m biased or anything. But kid can carry a tune, riff on a melody and has rhythm out the wazoo. He gets it from me, you know.
And while we have our routine and scheduled activities, our regular days don’t look like that of parents of standard issue kids. We’re not involved with gymnastics or dance or soccer or music lessons (although I’m looking into that for Will -- American Idol 2019, watch out!). I’m a Road Warrior Mom, sure -- but we head to school and therapy appointments and doctors’ visits. Not most people's first choice of activities.
But today, for the very first time, I walked in the Chuck Taylors of a standard issue mom when my friend and I went to register our guys for baseball. Now, it’s what they call the Challenger League, and it’s designed for kids like Will and his pal, with a specially-designed field to accommodate wheelchairs and walkers and kids with other physical concerns. And the teams feature buddies who help the players hit, run and field. But the kids get to play baseball. For real. Wearing uniforms, wielding gloves, holding bats. The whole nine yards. (Yuck. Mixed sports metaphor. But it works. So it stays.) I filled out the paperwork, showed the birth certificate, signed up to be a Team Mom.
And it felt great. So great. Awesome.
I have no idea if Will is even going to like this, although I suspect he will, as he really enjoys being outside and being active. Regardless, it’s going to be good for the whole family, as I’ll have the chance to cheer for my son’s team (and very likely, all the other teams as well), get bleacher bum from sitting in the stands, work in the concession stands and make new friends. Of all ages. But of common experience. In a standard issue surrounding.
What could be better?
Let’s... PLAY BALL!