Volleyball season is drawing to a close, and the first of two all day tournaments was completed today, with Kenny and Olesya's team playing on one court, and Joshie's playing on another. The day felt a bit different than in years past, as Dominick was working and unable to get time off to be with us for the tournament, which because if involves
homeschoolers is really a family event. He went early in the morning for Josh's first game, but then had to head out and missed the remainder of the tournament. Funny how even at something like that, with one of us missing, we all feel a little off kilter. It helped that our friends, Jane and Steve, came to cheer the three on and stayed for a long day. Though both teams lost the tournament, Olesya and Kenny's team took first place for the season, so despite the tournament loss, they still came home with medals.
We don't have jocks, we have kids that are usually on the "B" teams, with the possible exception of Angela sometimes. They are playing for fun, for exercise, for
. There are no illusions here, no delusions of Olympic or pro futures. The league is competitive, and yet reasonably fair about playing time for most of the kids. The coaches are sweet and care about their players, so all in all it is a great experience for our kids and something they look forward to eagerly each fall. comaraderie
As our kids all mature, both physically and emotionally, they are teaching me more than ever, and it is humbling. Today, after the tournament, Kenny showed me how to be more gracious, how to be more appreciative, and how to simply be kinder in my thinking. A comment had been made to him by an adult afterward, in front of others. It was meant to be a compliment, but I felt it was inappropriate. It wasn't encouraging, it wasn't uplifting as it was meant to
be, I think, it was as if the adult knew they had to say something and had given it little thought, and so threw out what was at the forefront of their mind without thinking how it might be perceived. Kenny sits on the bench a lot, he is not one of the better players. His coordination is not nearly as well developed as his peers and probably never will be. Sometimes I think people think that just because he does so without complaint, that it means he doesn't also wish he could play a lot more ...he does.
When I mentioned this in the car on the drive home, and that I was not angry, but was disappointed that such a comment had been carelessly made in front of so many, and was feeling a little protective. Kenny had quite a bit to say about it. He was surprised that it had bothered me, and he said, "Mom, I can see what you are saying, and why you feel that way, but it didn't bother me the way it bothered you."
"Why not?" I asked.
"Well, a lot of reasons. First, we all say things when we are on the spot, and we don't always think about the words we use. I have done it, you have done it, we all have done it, and it's not fair to get mad over it, that's just being human. Second, I am not a good player, but I can be a good cheerleader. Sure, I'd like to play more, but someone has to sit on the bench, so why not me?" he responded.
I shot back, "Yea, but you have improved SO much, and that ought to be acknowledged. It bothers me that people often don't allow people to get out of their original boxes they are put in. We don't see change in others easily once we have pigeon holed them. I guess I am feeling that has happened to you, and it bothers me."
Looking in the rearview mirror, I saw him, and he smiled at me.
"Mom, I love you, and thanks for sticking up for me. But its ok, really. You taught me a long time ago that I was in control of my own attitude, and I decided I was probably always going to be the worst player, so I could decide to be happy and enjoy it. I like
practice, I like hanging out with the kids, I like playing when I play. And SOMEONE has to be the worst player on every team!!" he answered with his usual great humor.
What a comeuppance. What a way to practice the faith he has been taught all these years. What a way to remind mom kindly how to be gracious to others.
I saw more of that
gracious, accepting young man at Shriner's this week, where we had his annual team meeting for his cleft lip and palate medical care. Every day is a one that has Kenny confronting his disabilities. When asked for his birthdate, he couldn't recall it, and then when he did, he got it wrong. He just smiled good naturedly and moved on. He didn't pick up on important conversation around him, and I had to explain it all later. He was asked many health history questions, and had to look to me often for answers, unable to recall events in sequence.
Each and every time, there was a patience with himself that I was so glad to see, and which was pointed out by the psychologist who has extensive experience in working with kids with FASD. She explained that most kids of this age are behaviorally challenged as well, deeply wounded by a world that doesn't view them with compassion, doesn't understand the
unintentionality of their seeming disobedience and lack of attention. She said it is remarkable that Kenny is as high functioning as he is, and she agreed that despite not having a diagnosis that relies a lot on facial features that his cleft would disguise and a birth mother history which are not present for Kenny, he most likely is an FASD kiddo ...too classically falling into line with specific deficits.
There are winners and then there are "Winners". Kenny is a "Winner", through and through. I have no idea, other than by God's deep
goodness, that Kenny has the heart he has that is specifically prepared for the life he will be forced to live, but it is clear he does, and it will make him an even finer young man.