He didn’t look that different

On Saturday morning, I got to see Little Man play soccer for the first time in four years (if not more).  I was a little nervous. He is on an Under 14 team – I could only think of what Big Man’s U14 team looked like a few years ago – big, fast, skilled. I worried how he would manage, if he would be able to keep up, the potential for him to get hurt, how he would act with me there.

It’s been awhile since we were soccer parents. I had to write myself a note just to remember to take the chairs to the fields.  The soccer complex still looks much the same, with even many of the same people roaming around. It was surreal to be back, as I was convinced our years as a soccer family were done when Big Man finished his last game three years ago.  We took our seats on the sideline after chatting with some fellow teammates’ parents. Spouse is helping coach (totally in his element!) so he paced the sideline in front of us. The whistle blew, and the game started.

Our team got destroyed. We are a rec team, yet we played a comp team, which was evident pretty much right out of the gate.  We had one sub the entire game. Our boys were gassed early.  I lost track of all the goals the other team scored. We didn’t score one, although we did have a few shots on.

You know what I noticed more than anything else? Little Man didn’t look much different than his teammates. As in, if you didn’t know he was autistic, you’d never have guessed. He ran, he made a few passes, he moved around the field like he kinda knew what he was doing. He didn’t get taken out by another player. He could totally keep up. He did ask a bit more than his teammates to be taken out, but he played most of the game, and it was warm out there. He wasn’t a rock star, but neither was he just a body out on the field.

I can’t explain the level of relief I felt. He looked like everyone else. He played soccer! He did it.

I have to share this photo of him from in-game. Do you see the smile on his face? Good golly but seeing that did my heart so good. IMG_2030

I’ve Forgotten How to do This

We pulled Little Man from organized sports about four years ago. He had zero interest anymore. It had become more of a battle than it was worth at the time. And then, quite honestly, I had begun to fear for his safety as his skill level in baseball and soccer had fallen so far behind that of his peers, and he was much smaller than most of his teammates. Add to that the fact we were beyond busy shuttling the other two to their various activities, and, well, we just let him stop playing.

Last week, the mom of one of his besties in the ‘hood sent me a text. C’s recreational soccer team was looking for players, and would Little Man possibly be interested. Uhhhhhhhhh……….lemme check. This is a rec team, yes, but it’s Under 14 boys (read: some of them have had their growth spurts and are TALL), and it’s a full soccer field, and LM is not the most athletic of children. He regularly balks at participating in PE at school, especially when it’s an organized game with the full class. He’d much prefer to run by himself, or just sit in front of his computer and skip it all together. But I said I’d ask him about it, and so I did. What do you know, he said yes! I made it clear it’s the full field type of soccer, he’d have to run, he’d have to participate, he’d have to listen to the coach, and he would be in it for the entire season – he can’t just quit when he thinks he’s done with it. He said he understood, and still wanted to do it.

Fast forward three hours – I’ve emailed the coach, sent his registration form into the registrar, popped a check into the mail, and added practices and games to our family calendar, all the time wondering what the heck we’d agreed to. We have played in this soccer club – we were part of it from the time Big Man was five, through his eighth grade year. We used to set up camp on those fields every Saturday. But it’s been a few years.

Little Man came home from that first practice with his uniform.  Spouse got him new cleats, shin guards, and a ball on the way to his first game Friday night. I realized as I looked a  his jersey, shorts, long green socks, shin guards, and cleats that I’ve forgotten how to do this. I’ve forgotten how to keep track of uniform parts. I’ve forgotten about post-game snacks. I’ve forgotten how to do hot Saturday afternoons and too-early, cold, rainy Saturday mornings at various soccer fields. I’ve forgotten how to be a soccer mom.

You might be asking if I warned let his coach know what he’s getting. Yes, I did give full-disclosure, after we signed on the dotted line. Here’s the deal – Little Man ASKED to play, agreed to play. We aren’t making him do it, as we did with all our kids when they were younger and hadn’t figured out their interests. Also, Little Man has come an extremely long way with regard to maturity level and confidence since the last time he played an organized sport. He’s on the team with one of his best friends. He understands what’s expected of him. Do I think we will get through the entire season without a meltdown? That’s a huge negatory. It will happen – I just hope it happens on our time, and not his coach’s time.

I wasn’t able to be there for his first game last Friday. We had to divide and conquer as the Princess was cheering her first football game of the season at the same time. I did get reports from Spouse. His words when I asked him how it was going: “Having fun. Enjoyable to watch. Their team sucks.” Little Man was having fun. Spouse was enjoying watching him run around. Catch that – he was having fun. Ahhhhhhhhh goes my autism-momma heart. He was having fun. And there you have it, my friends, there you have it. eye on the ball

How Not To

I’ve been processing this post for weeks, and debated whether to write it or just let it lay in my head and on my heart. But the words keep fighting to get out, so here it goes. I’m going to preface this with a word to my Princess……Please know I am not judging or disagreeing with your decision to try new and different things. Now is the time to explore and experience. Just know these words come from my viewpoint, my experience as a mom, as your mom….

When I found out I was having a baby girl, I was fairly sure I was going to put her in dance and/or gymnastics at some point. Whether it ever stuck or not would be up to her, and I would never force the issue if she straight-up hated it. But I knew we would try it out.  Before she was even born, I imagined her vaulting, swinging on the bars, and in a pink tutu and tights. When she was three, she started a Saturday morning combo class which covered ballet, tap, and a little bit of tumbling. It was adorable. She was adorable. Seriously though, I needed something girlie going on in our lives, outnumbered by men in our house. She made it through one year, and had her first recital when she was four. It was precious, and everything I’d hoped for.

We took the summer away from the studio, and when fall rolled around, I asked her if she wanted to dance again. She gave me a firm yes, so back we went to that Saturday morning class. That year, we met and made friends with another family whose oldest daughter was in class with the Princess. They’re still dancing together. That year, they did a tap routine for recital. I got used to doing the recital hair and makeup, to dress rehearsals, and buying flowers for my budding dancer.

Year-after-year, I would ask the Princess if she wanted to keep dancing. The answer was always yes. Eventually, we added a jazz class. Now, she was also playing competitive soccer. By age ten, she reached a level of dance we were at the studio three or four times a week, and she also had at least two soccer practices a week, plus Saturday (and sometimes Sunday) games. She was a busy little girl. That fall, midway through soccer and Nutcracker season, she told me she was tired. We told her it was probably time to choose between dance and soccer. She couldn’t do both at a competitive level and NOT be exhausted. I fully expected her to choose soccer, as that had been our life for more than three years.  She sat on it for a couple of weeks, and then told me she’d made her choice – she wanted to dance. I made her evaluate that choice for a couple of weeks before we started making any announcements, and she had to finish the season with her soccer team of course. But in February that winter, she became a dancer full time.

I’ve spent twelve years watching her dance, watching her become such a beautifully talented young woman. Every time I see her perform, I’m touched by her strength, her grace, her courage, her ability. I cry more often than not. I can cry just watching her hands moving in class as she works at the barre. This has been our life. I can’t begin to count the hours I’ve spent at the studio, driving to and from the studio, sewing ribbons and elastics on shoes, altering costumes, watching competitions, dress rehearsals and shows. I’ve loved it all. When  your kid does something so intently for so long, it’s not just about her anymore. You develop your own friendships with the other parents at the studio. We definitely have a much-loved dance family. And don’t get me started on her teachers and directors. They’re so much more to my girl than *just* dance teachers.

This past February, the Princess told me she wanted to stop dancing – well, at least stop ballet. I had no words, couldn’t even begin to think when she told me. I told her we were in it until recital as we’d already committed, paid, signed on the dotted line for this year. She’s a sophomore now, almost sixteen years old. She wants to try new things, be more engaged with her school. I understand. But this is hard. She may not believe this, but she is such a beautiful, talented dancer. Her face lights up on that stage. I see her – what’s inside of her – when she dances. And I just can’t imagine not being able to see that ever again.

Here’s the deal – I don’t know how not to be a dance mom. I don’t know how to not be able to watch her do something she’s so good at. I don’t know how not to be part of this dance family.

I watched her dance recital this past weekend. I cried every time she stepped onto that stage, knowing it might be the last time. We’ve spent twelve years doing this. I spent twelve years watching her grow, watching her turn into a real ballerina, a real dancer. At the hour of dress rehearsal I sat through last week, every dance she’s ever performed rolled through my head, from when she was a tiny ballerina in a pink leo and tutu, through her Hairspray jazz number, to being a turtle and lion, and on through her turn as Clara in the Nutcracker, to her solos, duo, and other competition pieces, to her finale as the Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland. I could see them all in my mind. So  many hours, so many years.

Who knows what will happen in the next months and years. I know we have to let her choose, have to let her make these decisions. I will have to come to terms with change. She says she’s going to continue with some dance, but we won’t be here again, in this exact place. No more competitions, no more Nutcracker, definitely not nearly as much time at the studio. I will just have to learn how not to be the dance mom I’ve been for twelve years.

He doesn’t do anything

I pulled up  my Timehop the other day, and there were photos and video of Little Man on Opening Day of his rookie year of baseball. That was prior to him being diagnosed on the spectrum. He played soccer and baseball back then. All three kids were in multiple activities. He was challenging to say the least, but he did whatever we put him in, although often begrudgingly.

He gave up baseball first, saying it was boring and he was actually afraid of getting hit by the ball. He would have reached the level of kids pitching that next year, and the thought of it freaked him out. We pulled him out of soccer when it became evident he could actually get hurt as the skill of the kids he was playing continued to improve while his stagnated. He wasn’t exactly one of the bigger boys out there either, nor quite the fastest, which would have helped. We talked about other activities for a couple of years, but nothing seemed to interest him at all, and, quite honestly, I was hauling the other two all over town and beyond for their stuff. Having one kid not involved in anything was something of a relief.

So, he doesn’t do anything….no football, no baseball, no soccer, no music…nothing. He comes home from school, and goes to his computer. He isn’t alone – he has friends over all the time. And he does get outside frequently. But he has no extra-curricular activities. Sometimes I feel guilty about that, but most of the time, I’m totally okay with it.

It isn’t worth putting him in something he doesn’t want to do. That wouldn’t be fair to his teammates or coaches, because he would push back. So yes, we did kind of take the easy way out on this part of his childhood. Will he regret it, or hold it against us someday? I highly doubt it – he’s perfectly content with his lack of extra-curriculars.

We have sent him to camp during the summer. This past summer, he went to coding camp and he loved it. We’ll be sending him back to that program again this summer. He’s lately indicated an interest in learning to play the guitar. We’re working on that.  Big Man will have his driver’s license soon, and that will free up time for me to manage lessons and such for Little Man.

Spouse has started to take him running on Saturday or  Sunday mornings. He doesn’t seem to mind the running and it’s his preferred choice, given the option, during PE at school. We will put him on the cross country team when he starts high school in a year and a half.

For now, he’s not involved in any extra activities, and that’s okay. Do I miss seeing him in his uniform, out on the field? Sometimes, yes. But I certainly don’t miss the drama of making him get out there.

Friday Favorites #11

You know the hardest part of Friday Favorites? It’s remembering what number I’m on. Seriously…..I usually have to go back and look. I didn’t check today, so this might be number 12. Or maybe it’s #10. Who knows.

Little Man has fully recovered from whatever viral beast was messing with my boy.  Big Man tried to catch it, but I talked him down. No more missed school until Christmas for any of the Herd. That’s the goal.

I told myself today’s list would be short. It has to be short. The Princess and I leave in two hours for a dance competition. I have yet to pack. Thankfully, we’re only spending one night, but that’s just because she has to be back at the studio tomorrow for Nutcracker rehearsals, but then we’re back up to the competition Sunday morning. Ever do your daughter’s ballet bun and full stage make-up at 5am? Any takers? Please?

I also have to leave the house in 35 minutes to start the pickup loop for school. Yikes! Without further ado…..

  • Emma of Blu Chicken Ninja shares another portion of her bookshelf. Have I mentioned I love she organizes her books by cover color, in rainbow order? Awesome sauce. (Did I just type “awesome sauce?”)
  • I had to include Stiletto Momma’s post on her daughter, who does not dance, but found her niche on the soccer fields because Princess used to be both….a ballerina AND a competitive soccer player. When she reached the point of choosing between the two, she very well could have gone with soccer and been awesome. We ended up with the sparkly pink tutus.
  • Anxious Mom wrote about making her blog hot. She also made me spit my water on my computer screen. Thanks, Anxious Mom, I needed that.
  • Edward Roads wrote two sentences that formed a picture, including sounds, in my brain. I think I loved it most because he included the word “susurrant”.  Uber cool.
  • Do you think you ever show your third face? The one only you really know? Do you think it’s okay to have a side of you that’s never shown? Square Peg in a Round Hole brought it up, and I’ve been pondering the question for the last hour.
  • Blunderdad at Single Family Asylum brings up an even more inspired question. I dare you not to laugh.
  • I fell in love with kelzbelzphotography‘s photo today. Old buildings are so cool. The photo made me want to wander in, see what was inside, wonder at the story behind the abandonment.
  • Be Like Water’s post was the first one I saw this morning. Started my day off right. Have anyone in your life you could see doing this particular thing?
  • Cooper’s mom at findingcoopersvoice is always no-holds-barred.  She tells it like it is.  As another autism mom, I appreciate that. Too often, the dark side, the terrifying side, the it-totally-shouldn’t-be-that-way side of autism is hidden away. Go give her some hugs. She could use them at the moment.
  • The new James Bond movie comes out today. Daniel Craig is so on my island. I think he’s one of the best Bonds ever…..What’s your take? Who’s  your favorite Bond? Anyways, I have, as always, had to include Cute Overload. James Bond, and a kitten. You’re welcome.

Happy Friday all! Make it a good weekend!!

A season of “no”

Fall is our busiest time of year it seems. Big Man is playing soccer (two practices and one game per week) and taking golf lessons (one 90-minute lesson every Monday). The Princess is dancing five days a week, which includes competition ensemble rehearsals, private lessons for her solo, and Nutcracker rehearsals, as well as her regular classes. Little Man currently doesn’t do anything extracurricular because, well, we just can’t seem to find a good fit given his autism. Plus,where do I fit in another activity for another kid? All of this, plus homework, birthdays for the older two, family obligations, chairing the book fair at school, volunteering activities with the March of Dimes, and so on. This isn’t anymore than any other family, I’m fully aware. I know I’m not alone in this suburbanite overload.

It’s taken me a few years, but I think I’ve finally figured out, it’s okay to say, “No” sometimes. We can’t do it all. We can’t feel guilty for not trying to do it all. I’ve turned down girls’ night outs. I’ve said we will help with this thing, but not that. I’ve asked for help in getting the older two where they need to be, and then back again, when necessary. I’ve turned down two fun weekend getaways because I’ve already been gone on one long weekend, and have two more already on the books – one for a significant family birthday, and one for my mom who is having a heart procedure. It takes a lot of work to leave for the weekend, setting up carpool for school drop-off and pickup, getting rides to and from dance and soccer, making sure everyone has what they need and get where they need to get. Trying to jam two more weekends away in there will push me over the edge. Also, Little Man does not do well when I’m away too much. Four weekends away would definitely be too much.

I think I’m finding a good balance, but sometimes it takes a season of saying no to achieve that balance. Sometimes, we must step back. At the same time, I don’t want to stop living completely, so there will be some yes days in there too…times when I put my need to refill and refuel on the priority list, times when I need to reconnect with friends, times when I just need to take care of me.

Do you have a season of saying no? How do you find a good balance?

Hope

Last week was somewhat brutal to say the least. I was down and out, and then got kicked a few times for good measure. I was at the point of tears more often than not…unhappy, broken, angry, hurting, feeling pretty horrible about myself.

I did not want to take my princess to her ballet class Friday night. I was so tired. I just wanted to crash into my green chair and veg there all night. But she is committed, so we went. And as I watched her graceful hands and arms as she did her barre work, as I heard the shush of ballet slippers sliding across the floor, and as I saw her face as she danced, heard her laughter, I nearly cried. A calm came over me. A bit of peace slipped into my soul. Saturday morning, we were back at the studio for a make-up class, then we went to the soccer fields where Ry had his first official game for the year. He scored his team’s first goal of the season, and they went on to win 3-0.  Saturday night, we were back at the studio again for Nutcracker auditions. My baby girl was auditioning with the big girls this time…the advanced dancers on pointe. Sometimes she still seems such a little girl to me, but time is flying. We don’t know what part she got yet. She will be cast, we just don’t know where. The next few months will be full of rehearsals, and show week is always insane, but it is fun and exciting for her. She loves to dance.  That at not-quite-twelve, she knows what her passion is inspires and awes me.

Sunday morning…church time. A renewal. Our sanctuary was just remodeled and this was our first Sunday back in there. And it’s beautiful. The service brought more peace and healing to my heart and soul.  I felt hope, and realized that’s what I’d been given all weekend – hope. It’s amazing what hope will do for a person’s outlook. We had a good family day yesterday watching football, talking, hanging out with some friends to plan a neighborhood party. I got a good night of sleep last night.

This morning, I still have hope. E-man has some new plans and a couple of new incentives at school. Fingers crossed it helps. As patient as the school nurse is, I’m sure she could live without my son going into her office four or five times a day. And I know his teacher could live without the disruption to her class. His new anxiety med seems to be settling him, at least at home. Now if we can just spread that to the school day, all will benefit.

Hope is pretty amazing. When you  have hope, it’s hard to be down, much less get kicked while you’re down there. I feel less burden today. And for that small grace, I am thankful.