I wonder sometimes when I’m watching professional sports when the parents of those athletes knew their child had “it”. At what point did they decide to place everything on the line for the dream of a future in sports? Was it their first year of U6 soccer when most of the players are running the wrong direction, or laying down in the middle of the field? Or maybe in Minor A baseball when the All-Star team takes their son to the LLWS? A gymnast who at age 6 is doing triple back flips off the beam? A runner in high school blowing away all the state records? When do you know?
I ask this question for multiple reasons. My kids are mine…..by that I mean, I love them and think they’re adorable, smart, and talented because they’re mine. I helped make them so of course I believe they’re brilliant. But then throw them on a field with other kids, and I become clueless as to their actual skills. Grace just made the Girls U8 All Star soccer team this season. I’m amazingly proud, but am also full of wonder. Last year, Grace definitely earned her nickname of “Lolly” (short for lollygagger). She almost never ran on the field. She honestly didn’t really have to. There were four or five outstanding players on her team last year who ran circles around everyone else. She didn’t seem to have any drive, any aggression, nor much skill. Put her in goal, and you had a different story most of the time, but not all of the time. She’s a totally different girl this year, but I still hadn’t thought of her as being a “great” soccer player. But here we are…an all star on our hands, and other parents and coaches coming to talk to our daughter on the field to tell her how good she is. She’s 8 years old! So this started me to wonder….when do you know? Is my daughter going to be an Olympic goalie for the Women’s Soccer Team? Or will this year fade into oblivion? Or will she just fall somewhere in the middle, playing a sport she enjoys but is totally average at? When do you know? I know…world shattering problem, isn’t it?
When Ryley was born, we didn’t know how things were going to turn out. Plainly, for a while, we didn’t know if he would survive, much less be healthy. We didn’t know if he would be able to see, hear, walk, talk, eat, breath on his own. That was our reality nine years ago. He’s beaten so many micro-preemie odds and continues to amaze even his doctors. But I remember those early days of his life all too well. I wouldn’t even let myself dream the dreams mothers of full term children might dream….their son pitching the ninth inning of the seventh game of the World Series, their daughter dancing as the Sugar Plum Fairy for the New York Ballet. I begged different things of God and was afraid that if I looked that far ahead, then the future would not even be there for Ryley. I was afraid I would somehow “jinx” him if I let myself dream the “normal” dreams. I dreamed of him breathing without a tube stuck to his face. I dreamed of him eating without forgetting to breath. I dreamed of him not being attached to so many machines. Somewhere during his 93 day NICU stay, I started to dream of him coming home. As Ryley did come home, and started to grow up, defeating each challenge that came his way, I finally let myself look ahead.
I was so excited to sign him up for his first year of T-Ball. This was my standard then for “normal”. I could not have been happier to have a child playing Little League Baseball. And the first time he crossed home plate, I cried. The dream I hadn’t let myself dream for so long was right there in front of me. My son, playing baseball. He may end up being just an average athlete, but for me, even that is a dream come true.
I have asked so many times why Ryley came so early. Why did we have to go through all of that? What was the point? What is the purpose? I do believe that good can come out of bad, and it has in forms I never expected. But when your child’s life is threatened, and then he survives, you find yourself thinking that there must be some special plan for him. Honestly, that’s where I’ve been the past few years. In my heart, I believe Ryley is destined for greatness. I don’t know what that greatness will be. He is currently a very typical nine-year old. He gets into trouble, his room is a mess, he loves to torment his brother and sister, his homework can be left halfway done. But that child has a heart of gold. He is compassionate and empathetic. He is always willing to help out his classmates and peers. He gives the best hugs, to everyone. He is loved, he is looked up to as a leader. I have an awful lot to be proud of. Maybe the “greatness” I believe he is destined for is just him being normal. And what mom could have a bigger dream than that?