I used to be one of those people who would say, “If I have a boy, I’m never going to push him in to sports or cars or trucks or any of that stereotypical boy stuff. He’s going to have dolls and tea sets and he can play with whatever he wants no matter what.” Well, Henry does have a doll, somewhere. I’m pretty sure it’s buried under a pile of balls and trucks and all of the stereotypical boy stuff that now fills our home. We’ve never pushed him in to any of that, he’s naturally gravitated toward it all. He would watch sports all day long if we let him, and our days are filled with threats of, “do NOT throw that ball at me when I’m not looking at you or I’m going to take it away!”
I was sure that my future would be full of practices and games, and loading up vans full of little boys off to a tournament somewhere, and I couldn’t wait. That was before we learned of Henry’s gross motor issues. Even still, I’ve held on to that dream for him, knowing that he’s really doing relatively well, and that he’s the most stubborn kid I’ve ever met and that if he wants to play sports of course he’s going to.
When you see Henry playing by himself, you wouldn’t think there was much wrong. He climbs stairs, he runs (sort of) and he does most things that most kids do, just a bit slower. When we enrolled him in soccer this summer, though, we could see that he was a lot slower: painfully, terribly, measurably slower. Soccer is great for Henry. The running and kicking is the perfect thing to help strengthen his weak legs, and his differences didn’t seem to bother him, though it bothered me. As parents we want to see our children succeed especially at things they love. Plus, it’s easy to forget his imperfections when you’re not reminded of them, and soccer was one big, huge, ugly reminder.
Last Wednesday, all I could do was chuckle at him while the kids ran laps. Mine was the one all the kids passed, then lapped, as he slowly and carefully ran on that black line. As had happened at every other practice, Henry got in about ¾ of a lap when all the other kids finished their two laps. When the other kids did jumping jacks, Henry waved his hands in the air, unable to jump quite yet. My heart hurt for him, but I was sure he was having fun.
But then, as I watched him kicking the ball with the other kids, I noticed something was wrong. The other kids kicked their soccer balls and they flew across the gym, hitting the wall on the other side. Henry kicked his, and it barely went a couple feet in front of him. This happened again and again, and watching him I realized he was crying. Sobbing, really. Had he been kicked? Hit by a ball? I went out to the middle of the gym and kneeled down in front of my little boy, “What’s wrong, Henry? Are you okay?”
I have never hurt as much as I did when he looked at me with his eyes full of tears and said, “I want you, Mommy. I can’t do it. It’s too hard. I go home now.”
I should have encouraged him. I should have told him that he is strong and perfect and that he could. I should have told him to get back over there with the other kids and to work hard. I should have told him that it’s not so hard and helped him one-on-one and made it through that practice. But, I didn’t. Instead, I broke down with him, right in the middle of that gym, with all the other parents watching. I cried for him and for me, and for all the times I know that I will have to stay strong for him and to tell him to keep trying even though it’s not as easy for him as it is for the other kids.
No, I scooped him up and carried him out of there and made it all go away for him. That won’t always be a choice, and will most likely never be the right choice, but in that moment it was all that I could do. Though Henry’s tears were long dried, I cried all the way home, and cried to my husband who was waiting for us when we got there.
Next week is our last week of soccer practice, and I don’t know if I’ll be able to take him again. Though I know better than to make this about me, I just don’t think that I can handle it again. Henry may need to strengthen his legs, but Momma needs to strengthen her resolve.