Today is Demetrius’ last Miracle League baseball game. There is an awards ceremony where he’ll receive a trophy, then chips, cookies and hot dogs galore by the jungle gym. He and Mom will have a fantastic time. I’m with Maya today at gymnastics (they are working on their tumbling right now) and then, per my earlier posts, we’ll be going to buy the now nefarious pink Skechers.
It is hard for me not to gush about Miracle League. Their URL is on my blogroll to the right. There are so many things right about this experience for both my boy, and me. If you are a Dad of a special needs kid, and you have a sports, sports and more sports background like me (and the knee and ankle surgeries to prove it), it can sometimes be very hard to find ways to bond with your child once he/she begins to move out of their toddler years. Why? Because its in our nature to do with them what I’m dong today with Maya, that being, get them enrolled and playing in sports, etc…(and by the way, thank the good lord for Mommies – because without them, again, per earlier posts, we might not expand these children’s experience beyond tee-ball…but also to earlier posts, we don’t want to make too much of a fuss). But enough of the high horse – it can be hard, and as I have said before, I have an extremely hard time watching dads and sons kicking the ball around or playing catch.
Miracle League is not a panacea – but it is a league that allows them to run around and play in a game, in a league, where they can build confidence and just plain run around to the best of their abilities. They are teamed up with a buddy if need be, these are just regular kids doing a good thing by being patient and helping them out during the game, whether that be helping them swing the bat, run the bases, or chase a ball down in the outfield. Demetrius has grown attached to an older boy named Michael – they actually look for each other before the games. Very sweet.
But what I never realized until I talked to the founder, was that this league ended up being something that he didn’t set out to create…see, he thought he was creating a league for kids to play games…he never thought he was creating a social eco-sphere for the parents.
How hard is it to be a parent of a special needs child (SN)? I think very hard, but I’m not sure how much so because our first kid is SN and it has always kind of been that way in our house. Ask a parent of a SN where he/she is a third or fourth and they’ll probably have a better gauge on how it affects the average/normal family. When you get your formal diagnosis – as stated before – you feel very alone, confused and even though there are paths have been walked before and people to talk to..it is all very personal. The therapies, the nights crying, the nights not sleeping, the constant wear and tear of worrying…and you go to the park and your kids don’t play with other kids, or in other places…and you begin to become somewhat stoic and put up barriers. Barriers, I think, that helps you as an adult deal with your child and try to block the heartbreak so to speak, but none-the-less, you can easily begin to sequester yourself and your family from parts of the real world. It is minimal grade slide down into hole, but it is a slide none-the-less.
You can outreach to others during therapies, etc..but if you are there to observe progress or talk to a therapist about next steps…you really don’t have time to socialize, not too mention many of the moms run errands while their kids are in therapies because it is, simply, down time for them to get some peace-of-mind while buying groceries without a high maintenance SN hanging on them or throwing a fit.
But this league, what it does is put the child in a more normal environment for the parents, on a sunny morning, where everyone pretty much is smiling, running around and enjoying themselves. If even for just an hour, I think those barriers are down for most of us there. You begin to talk…just like at last Friday night’s get together I was talking about.. and you begin to root for the kids like at a regular tee-ball game, and, low-and-behold, you go out for pizza with other parents, or get together for coffee, or have their family over…again, creating an environment for normalcy.
The founder, John, talks about how he has seen parents, over the years, not only become great friends, but gain confidence in themselves about their children. This comes from this, lack of a better term, nurturing environment where the older parents hold these get-togethers and social events for other ‘newer’ parents…and along with his league, we’ve seen groups form and begin to reach out to more parents. Sure, the League benefits from more children and more dollars to fund its existence (it is now expanding into bowling and swimming) but it also benefits from parents who are advocates and enthusiasts…and believe it or not, when they move away they work to create such a league in their new home-towns (I know one has just started that is based of our League in the Dallas/Fort Worth marketplace).
For Kim and me, well, we are maybe not social butterflies, but we are type-As that really don’t have a hard time talking about this or crawling into a hole. But we know parents that aren’t wired this way, and this League, over my year plus involvement in it, have begun to see their kids and their lives in a very different way (and this usually takes place in the younger divisions where it is all so new to us).
But for me, well, what is making me well up right now and gush on about this League? It is very simple: Jonathan, the world’s greatest buddy, has taught Demetrius to throw the ball overhanded. Enough said.