Wednesday, October 01, 2008

But if I cannot

A few weeks ago, I took my oldest two sons, A-- and S--, to watch my dear friend's daughter compete in the Special Olympics. It was an amazing experience for me. I spent most of the time we were there wiping away tears. Who knew you could feel the Spirit at a sporting event?

As we watched these incredible souls compete, S-- started to ask questions. "Why is that person so excited even though they didn't win? Why did that man keep swimming, even though everyone else was done a long time ago?" So I told him (or tried to, through my tears) about the Special Olympics Athlete Oath: Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.

Fast forward to this past weekend. S-- and A-- both competed in the Utah State Fiddle Contest. S-- was one of maybe 15 children in the Small Fry division playing fiddle; A-- was one of three in the Junior Guitar division playing, well, guitar of course. I was proud of both of them for even getting up there--neither one has ever played in a contest, and only S-- has played in public before (once). In spite of a few relatively minor mistakes, they both played quite well. Nothing spectacular, but nothing horrible either.

When it came time to announce the winners for the Small Fry division, they had all the children come up on stage. They handed out Certificates of Participation to every child until they got to the last four. S-- was one of the last four. They handed out the 3rd place trophy (not to S--). the 2nd place trophy (again, not to S--), and finally the 1st place trophy (still, not to S--), and told the kids that was it. S-- stood there completely bewildered. I could read his thoughts (and his quickly crumpling face): "Do I stay up here because they didn't give me anything? Do I get something special? I don't know what to do." I watched him fight so hard not to cry and I felt helpless. Thankfully, someone in the audience yelled out, "HEY! You forgot one! The boy in the red shirt!" So the officiators checked their hands and, sure enough, there was S--'s certificate. All they said was, "Oh. Oops, I guess we forgot one."

I was livid.

S-- came back to his seat next to me and spent the next hour and a half (at least) sobbing quietly into my shoulder. This is the boy who came home crying from his very first Pack Meeting because not one person acknowledged him as being a brand new Cub Scout. Other boys were brought to the front and introduced as new Cubs, but not S--. He didn't want to ever go back. I couldn't blame him. It took a lot of gentle persuasion to get him to agree to even attend another Pack Meeting, let alone participate. Given that background, and after all he's been through in the last year or so, I just knew that S-- would never, ever want to compete in another contest again, no matter how good he gets.

We had to fill out a survey about our contest experience. The first question was, "What did you like about this experience?" S--'s answer was, "Nothing." Then, at the bottom of the survey, was the question, "Will you participate again next year?" I expected he'd say, "No, never again." But he didn't. My brave little boy bounced back. His answer? "Maybe." I was never so proud of him as I was in that moment. (Well, except for when he was standing alone on that stage, trying not to cry.)

I thought back to our experience just a few short weeks ago and remembered telling S-- about the Special Olympics Oath. I didn't think he got it. Or maybe he always had it in him. Because even though he didn't win, he was definitely brave in his attempt.

He'll be back.


Queen Scarlett said...

Wow... what a great kid. My mother hackles were on end reading this. Something like this happened to my daughter - her sunbeam teacher totally disregarded her during the primary program - I was livid.

Kengo Biddles said...

My "Daddy-Bear" was awakening from hibernation, too. I'm just glad that he bounced back like this. I hope I can parent my dear boys as well as you seem to be doing with your dear ones.

B said...

Poor S, he's such a good kid. What stinky judges for 1. not noticing him, and 2. not trying to make it up to him more afterward.

Kerlyn said...

What a trooper. I love that boy. He always has a hug for me. I am missing seeing him in Q's class this is the first year they are not in the same class. He is very strong. I am proud of him for being brave enough to try and to have any desire to try next year. He and A are so handsome in the pictures. (I had a herd rime nit saying "cute" as I am surrounded by estrogen.) They are both Awesome!

Kerlyn said...

I just read my comment. Please excuse the POOR typing.

Marie said...

I am so proud of your boys! Contests are so hard . . . and those darn judges. I'm afraid that I would have been fighting back more than tears.

I'm also so glad that you took the boys to the Special Olympics. I am always amazed at the participants; there's nothing quite like the spirit there among the athletes and the crowds cheering everyone on.

Lesleigh said...

Oh, Julie!!! I actually wanted to cry while I read that...and I'm not a crier!! I could just see his litte face up there on the stage. Poor little S-.

I think he'll be back next year...if not there then some other competition. He's stronger than he thinks.

~j. said...

Wow. My heart cracked while reading that, for him, and for you.

Well done, Mama.

Julie said...

QS: Yeah, he is a great kid. Tender-hearted but stubborn. It upsets me when kids get overlooked during things that are important for them. If your going to overlook someone, do it to a grownup who can handle it, not to a little kid.

Kengo: Thanks. Most days I don't feel like I'm parenting my dear ones very well, but thanks.

B: Amen.

Kerlyn: Wow! I actually got you to comment on my blog! I must be moving up. ;-) And you type rill guud.

Marie: That experience with the Special Olympics was truly incredible. I would be laughing one second and weeping the next. One guy walked along in the water as far as he could possibly go, occasionally splashing his hands, before it got too deep and he was forced to swim. It was awesome.

Lesleigh: I had to stop to blow my nose as I typed. I get emotional just thinking about it. S-- has an exceptional spirit.

~j: Thank you. I wish everyone could know S-- better than is possible through a blog, because he is such an amazing kid.

Gerb said...

I have to work hard to suppress my tears (and anger) when things like this happen. What a great kid - and a great mom, too.

b. said...

that made me all teary!

You're a good mama.

Happy Harrison said...

I hope I can raise children like yours.

Melody said...

Beautiful post. I love S. I love you too.