Monthly Archives: March 2011

Spring Training: Fair or Foul

April is the time of year we begin thinking about spring and summer sports. Nothing can compare to a summer baseball game. Many of my favorite childhood memories are related to baseball and softball. For as long as I can remember, sports have been a part of my life. My mother faithfully brought my sisters and I to watch my father play. If the Yankees or Red Sox were on, we gathered together in the living room to root for our favorite team. As a girl, I played softball in Little League and high school.

Now as a parent, my role is to introduce sports to my sons. The benefits of team sports are undeniable. Being part of a club can provide fun, friends, and discipline. Participating in athletic endeavors can positively influence academics and self-esteem. From the moment my oldest son, Ben, was born, I envisioned him as an athlete.

After Ben was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder, ensuring Ben joined community sports had an added sense of necessity. His doctors and therapists stressed the importance of social endeavors for children with Asperger’s Syndrome. Ben’s desire for friends is glaringly apparent; although he doesn’t know the appropriate social cues to initiate friendships

Sports seemed like an ideal opportunity for Ben to engage with his peers. Our local Y offered a basketball biddy ball clinic introducing pre-schoolers to the fundamentals of the game. It was advertised as a fun interactive program for the youngsters in our community, run by a professional coach.

From the moment we stepped in the gym; it was a disaster. Ben spent his time lapping the court. The coach didn’t even acknowledge Ben. I knew immediately, there wasn’t going be any mentoring in this program. After several weeks, unable to contain my fury any longer, I withdrew Ben from the program. Since then, we’ve tried t-ball, soccer, baseball, swimming, and track.

Each year, participating in sports becomes easier and harder. As Ben is maturing, he has more focus and a clearer understanding of the game fundamentals. Each season, his teammates become more aware of the fact Ben is different. Thankfully, Ben doesn’t feel different, not yet.

I know someday, Ben will have questions.  Sadly, my biggest concern isn’t the disdain of  Ben’s peers. I worry about their parents. On every sideline, there is always at least one competitive parent, shouting their critiques for all to hear. I see their disappointment as they watch their child, and mine.

Once again I’m faced with the decision. Do I enroll Ben in sports this season? Do the benefits outweigh the risks? Are the very activities meant to bolster his independence a detriment to his self-esteem?

Have we lost sight of the purpose of sports? Wasn’t the original intent for  children to have fun?

Ben is seven. He has Asperger’s Syndrome. His life will be full of challenges. They shouldn’t begin on the fields of extracurricular sports.

Adult Education: A Bully In Our Midst

My seven-year-old son, Ben, called to me as I was cooking dinner, “Mom, someone’s at our house.”  As I walked to the front window, I heard him gasp, “It’s the naughty boy from the bus, who has been bothering me.”

A week earlier, as we were lying in bed, Ben told me, “two boys are being mean to me and keep ripping my paper.”  I was surprised, because my son rarely initiates a serious conversation. You see, he has Asperger’s Syndrome, a disorder on the autism spectrum.

To most children, a piece of paper has little significance. Ben’s strip of paper is his security blanket, his “stim” of choice. He carries it with him wherever he goes. At bed time, Ben carefully places the paper on the headboard. When he wakes; it’s the first thing he looks for.

I don’t know what transpired on the school bus between the boys. I imagine other children on the bus think Ben is different. He is. Researchers struggle to find answers explaining autism spectrum disorders. I don’t expect a bus full of elementary school children to comprehend why my child is enthralled with a fragment of paper.

Parenting a differently-abled child can be overwhelming. Although I adore my child, sometimes I envy other mothers whose lives seem so much easier than mine. Certainly my parenting responsibilities are more daunting than theirs.

When Ben and I answered the door, John, the boy standing before us, wasn’t quite the bully I imagined. He was small. He looked as if he had been crying for a week. John apologized to Ben.

My chest tightened. I wanted to hug the little boy standing there. He seemed lost, frightened.

Ben was excited. He blurted enthusiastically, “Maybe you could come to my house to play some day. How about Sunday?”

My heart ached, knowing Sunday would never come. Watching this sweet, loving boy unconditionally forgive John, and open his heart to a peer, was almost more than I could bear. It’s possible, my child may never find the friend he so desperately wants.

I felt tears stinging my eyes. I glanced at John’s mother. Tears were in her eyes too. She was gracious and kind. I wondered. Would I have had her courage?  Would I have approached a stranger’s door? Would I have brought my child to apologize, knowing he was scared and uncomfortable, regardless of the lesson?

Sometimes we get lost in our own journey. Parenting is an enormous task, regardless of individual circumstance. It’s especially difficult when a parent dedicates themselves to doing it right. Today reminded me of that. John’s mother taught him something today, but she educated me, as well. She’s a mother who did it right.

Parent: The Role of a Lifetime

Throughout our lives, we each embody numerous roles. Humans juggle many relationships concurrently.  At each stage of development, the significance of these personifications varies. All individuals have defined a relationship hierarchy for themselves, whether consciously or subconsciously. In our earliest years, our kinship lies with our parents. Later we develop friendships and intimate interconnections, which become essential components of our happiness.

As we mature, and become adults, our associations become more complex.  For most parents, having children dramatically alters the landscape of their lives. I was no exception. Prior to parenthood, my primary affiliations were to my parents, husband, and employer. Motherhood shook the core of my relationship pyramid. Instantaneously, upon my first child’s birth, I was overwhelmed with a sense of accountability for this tiny person, my tiny person.

In time, the urgency of infancy wanes.  The innate feeling of parental responsibility does not. I often reflect on the fellowships I’ve been blessed with in my life. I know which role is the most important. My business card title reads, Parent, President. Parent is not simply my title, it’s my greatest contribution, biggest joy, and honored privilege.

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