Thursday, July 17, 2008

Wannabe Soccer Mom

One Saturday morning I had a particularly annoying time with appointments. All three kids needed to see the Psychiatrist, including Sam whose ADHD meds needed adjusting, and the Primary couldn't get it right. The shrink didn't have back-to-back appointments, so I had to make separate trips. And he only sees patients on Mondays and Saturdays, and Monday after-school appointments are hard to get! So, three trips it was. A good friend of mine called me when I was in the car, coming back from one of the trips. I expressed my annoyance with my Saturday. "So what," he said, "at least you're not on a soccer field."

Excuse me? A soccer field? He had the gall to compare running back and forth to the shrink with a soccer game? It was not the back and forth I was necessarily complaining about (though, who needs it). It was the fact that all three of my children needed to go to the psychiatrist's office, and on a Saturday! Saturdays are supposed to be for team sports and birthday parties. Did he have any idea how much more I would rather be at a long, boring, dragged out, parents fighting, possibly hot or rainy soccer game? Soccer games are for "normal" people. And not being able to participate in them reminds me, in a painful way, that my kids have issues.

My kids' sensory defensiveness has always prevented them from playing team sports. Too many people in their body bubbles, too much commotion going on visually, too much noise, too much competition, too much anxiety. They do, however, get their share of skiing, hiking, swimming, gymnastics, yoga, trampoline and biking - anything without a lot of screaming and random, unexpected balls coming at you. We have provided them with activities and outlets (between the therapy appointments), yet I have always felt badly that, despite the minivan, I'm not a "real" soccer mom. Not just because soccer games are for "normal" people, but because I feel like my kids might be missing out on something. The sportsmanship, the camaraderie, the chance to make new friends.

I remember a friend of ours whose second child has severe Downs Syndrome. Her first born son and Sam were the best of friends in first grade. She kept saying to me "we gotta sign them up for soccer, you don't want them to get behind in those skills. Soccer seems to be the game. We gotta get them signed up." Their first day, Sam's sensory bells went off; he got into a "fight or flight mode," and misbehaved in order to avoid being kicked at by hoards of over-excited 6 year-olds. I remember her telling me that they would not be carpooling with us any more due to Sam's disinterest in the sport and his bad behavior. I was not, in her mind, soccer mom material. And with 10 years perspective I can guess that maybe her second son having a severe disability had something to do with what I thought, at the time, was a major overreaction to Sam's inability to engage.

On the other hand, I have a friend whose child has emotional disabilities, and he is a fabulous soccer player. She is pleased because it is a healthy outlet for him, and he is proud that he is gifted player. But, I suspect it doesn't ease her pain around his issues. When I get real, I know that it's not like soccer is some magic bullet that makes all of our struggles and secrets go away. Another friend, again with a special needs kid (her oldest has Tourette's and major Sensory Integration Dysfunction), was the one who set me straight. I asked her if her youngest was on the popular team that a lot of kids from our school play on. "Nope," she said in a casual and unconcerned voice, "my kids can't play team sports. Doesn't suit their constitution." Thank you, friend, for reminding me that "it is what it is," and that's just going to have to be okay, soccer or no soccer.


Anonymous said...

Our son, who has the emotional disabilities, has bad years and good years. It seems we have to focus on different areas or challenges for that year's needs. You can't do it all. One year there was no recreataional sports, as he could not handle the pressure of losing, his social skills needed polishing and his emotions were out of control, as we were in between finding the right medications. So, that year was focused on three to four therpaies a week. It was a long year to say the least. This year is more fortunate. Not only does he get to play sports, but we have cut down on therapies to one to two a month! But, we have now focused on acadmeics and hired a turor to play catch up. We feel almost in the mainstream with this scheudle. Thank you for your insightful articles. You are a real gem!

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