My Max. He kills me. At 9 years old he’s a wopping 3 ft, 10 inches and 45 pounds (aka the size of a six year old) and strong enough to wrestle a bear. Which frankly I’m not convinced he hasn’t done in a former life. Not to mention he’s Russian. Where am I going with this? GYM-NAS-TICS.
The former gymnast in me looks at this child and is ready to sign him up for pre-olympic competition, no questions asked. Reliving my glory days through my baby? Um. Let’s pretend I didn’t go there.
While I can play out fantasies in my head about the perfect gymnast I “discovered” and “rescued” and how America will fall in love with my baby during those athlete spotlight clips they play during the Olympics I do have to remember that my baby is special. With a capital S.
The fact that he could be the star of the team if he’d just apply himself means nothing. The fact that he is physically capable of doing a standing back flip without assistance does not make him interested in trying a straddle jump.
My shining star is trapped inside a cage of fear, anxiety, immaturity, and disregulation. I can’t put him in a session of gymnastics with coaches who assume he’s “normal” because he looks healthy. Overstimulating environment plus unqualified coaches plus dangerous equipment equals a really bad scenario. A scenario that left my baby sitting on the sidelines, unable to participate.
Enter the Special Olympics. I’ve seen the commercials of the cute little girls with Downs Syndrome doing their little thing. Heaven bless them. I never thought my physically-able boy would qualify as “special enough” to participate. But oh yes, he is.
Armed with a doctors note and a copy of his IEP in hand, we recently marched ourselves to a local gym to meet up with a group of other special kids, who just wanted to be included.
I’m not saying my baby thrived in this environment. Far from it. His own personal cage kept him from trying many of the skills his coach demonstrated. But this time it was ok for Mama to sit on the sidelines, ready to hold him when panic overtook ability. Mama knew what his little brain could handle, and what it craved, so when the darkness started closing in she could take him off to the sidelines for a little sensory time until everything was ok again.
And nobody thought that was weird.
Not only was my son included, met with his level of ability, but he was also appropriately challenged. By people who get him, and the fact that he’s not ready for his Mama to sit in the stands and play on her phone.
Maybe someday my baby will conquer his own personal cage and be able to do that standing back flip he’s quite capable of doing. When he does, you’ll all know the Special Olympics made it possible.