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A Look That Breaks Your Heart.

This picture...

This is my six-year-old son, Malachi, slumped in his car seat outside of a tennis center following a disappointing cancellation of an event due to a missed communication.

It is a look of disappointment.

But it is more than that...

It is a look of defeat from a kid who so rarely gets the opportunity to join in community events, and then, when the opportunity does come along only to fall through at the last minute, after we have prepared and waited and built up the fun that would surely be had... only to have it ripped out from under him...

Let me back up: I saw an event flyer weeks ago about an upcoming "wheelchair tennis open house" event at a field house some 20 minutes from our home. The flyer said that all ages and skill levels were welcome and provided two date and time options to participate.

I immediately registered our family.

Malachi has never played tennis, or any organized sport for that matter.

The opportunities for a young wheelchair-user to participate in adaptive recreation, especially team sports, are limited -- as you might guess. As a result, my son struggles to understand such concepts as "team" and "game" and the various rules governing competition. How could he when there are so few opportunities for exposure? You cannot know what you have never seen, after all.

So, I was thrilled to find an event created for the sole purpose of introducing a new sport. It didn't matter to me what sport they offered! "Want your kid to try on tennis?" Sure! Sounds like fun. Let's do it.

The event flyer listed two time slots over the next two Saturdays: one beginning at Noon, and the second in the late afternoon. I registered Malachi for the mid-day activity on the first Saturday.

We spent all morning eagerly talking up this event. We wanted Malachi to roll into the field house with as much confidence as possible. We talked about how fun it is to play tennis. (I have, in fact, never in my life actually played the game, but no matter....) We talked about the cool yellow balls with fuzz and the rackets that make really funny sounds when they hit the ball. We really sold the game!

We loaded up and arrived early. We had our lunch in the parking lot outside the field house. Malachi sat in the backseat, excitedly dancing, laughing, bopping his head up and down. I unloaded everything: his wheelchair, his wagon and all the medical equipment that accompanies him.

We rolled up to the front desk just inside the door.

"Hi. We're here for the adaptive tennis event," I say.

"Adaptive tennis?" The man behind the desk questions.

"Um, yes. Wheelchair tennis? There was supposed to be an open house.... I registered my son a few weeks ago."

"Oh, right. Didn't you get the email? They rescheduled it today for 3:30."

No. I did not get the email. (In fact, come to find out, several registered participants did not receive an email as they, too, rolled through the door.)

There was no way that I was re-packing everything back into my car, driving home to re-pack Malachi's food and medications for their scheduled evening doses, reloading both of my kids back into the car, and driving back an hour later to re-start the process.

Nope. Not doing it.

A silly "open house" introduction-to-sport event was not worth it.

Except... Malachi was already there.

He had already seen the cool, fuzzy balls and the noise-making rackets and the other kids who just so happened to be arriving for their own tennis lessons. He was already well on his way, following the other kids to the courts.

And I had to tell him "no."

I had to tell him, "sorry, they made a mistake. You don't get to play today after all."

I had to explain to him why he could not play with the other kids. Again.

We struggled to leave.

As I ushered him to the door, Malachi kept breaking his wheels and turning his chair around to follow the other kids.

When I finally got him through the door and back outside, he let go of his wheels entirely. He folded his little hands on his lap and left me to push his little chair back to the car. He drooped his little shoulders and slumped his little head, slowly shaking it back and forth as we went.

He was devastated.

I lifted him into his car seat and strapped him in tight. He barely moved. There was no resistance. He kept his little head bowed and his eyes turned downward. Quiet sounds of sadness escaped him, like a hum of let-down. The tears still welled in his eyes.

He was devastated.

And I was heart-broken for him.

"We're coming back this afternoon. Don't worry. We're coming back."

So, I re-packed everything back into my car. I drove back home to re-pack Malachi's food and medications for their scheduled evening doses. I reloaded both of my kids into the car and turned around an hour later to try again.

It was worth it.

1 commentaire

25 mars

These are the stories behind the stories, that lift our hearts, with a mom's perseverance and a boy's determination.

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