Sunday, June 29, 2014

Little Victories are Huge

This past week, we stepped outside of our box. Our G loves playing soccer in the backyard as a family, so we signed him and his big sister up for soccer clinic. It's two hours once a week for five weeks, sponsored by the local professional soccer team, held at our church so it's a familiar environment, and the kids are from our church so while we have four services, he would have likely crossed paths with many of the other kids and parent volunteers. We felt like this was a step we could confidently take to help him stretch his wings a little. The morning of the first day of "camp" I was nervous. I was anxiety-ridden FOR him, but made sure to keep my feelings to myself, and took every opportunity he gave me to tell him how FUN it was going to be, what things they would likely do, and how things probably work. He is so excited all day. I was cautiously optimistic, hoping for the best but preparing for the worst. Social situations are terrifying for him, the unknown is panic-inducing, but he has learned that his Mama, Daddy, and big sister will not let anything happen to him, and will help him when he's struggling, so when he has at least one of us he feels perfectly safe. Then at dinner we remembered his three little guy-buddies from church were out of town on vacation and were missing this first night of soccer. Then his sister reminded him that since she's a girl and 2 years older than him, she would probably be in a different group. He became a bit nervous after that, but kept reassuring himself and saying, "We'll see. They always let me stay with you in Sunday school. We'll see." I was proud of him for having the presence of mind to try and rationalize that could all be okay. That's huge.
   His calm was short-lived. The first half of soccer clinic was a disaster, with me- 3-year-old in-tow and 1-year-old in the Ergo on my back- running drills with 5- and 6-year-old boys while dragging a sobbing G by the hand. The coaches and parent volunteers at every station were rockstars just playing along with it and allowing me to do whatever I needed to. I got the vibe with every knowing smile, nod, and supportive comment that they thought he was Autistic. I didn't care. Like my sister agreed when I talked to her about it later: If Autism awareness helps the greater public GET that some kids are struggling deeply inside and not just naughty or bratty, then don't bother correcting them. Just be thankful that they're supportive of my guy regardless of semantics.
   By the end of the night, he was unsure, but willingly participating. That's huge. He was sobbing every time he made a mistakes or got "out" in that round of Sharks and Minnows, but he was going back in on the net round and trying again. That's huge. Sure, his body decided it was too stressed so sweating was optional so he got a screaming headache, spiked a fever of 104, and passed out(literally) in the van on the way home(we think now it was heat stroke. He's fine now.), but every day since then he has said he is excited for next Wednesday and the next soccer clinic. I'm torn inside. I'm dreading the physical and emotional exhaustion it was for BOTH of us to deal with it, but excited for him to have the opportunity to try again. To again see that it's a safe place that is both challenging and fun. To try allowing others to look at him and not panic, and to try looking people in the eye and telling them his name when they ask instead of running to me crying. I'm also going to be prepared with more water bottles, and a new Frogg Toggs cooling towel to put around his neck and over his chest under his shirt. Contemplating cutting a piece of it to make a headband, too. I'm just too crafty and cheap like that than to buy the actual headband they make. ;-) 

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