Soccer season is in swing here. Hannah, our emotional child, was in tears a few days before it began because she said she just didn't want to play this year and that soccer was boring. I gave her a hug and told her to go to bed and that she'd probably feel different about it in the morning, and she did. Hormones. She had her first practice last night and she's babbling on and on this morning about how great soccer is and how she can't wait for her next practice.
Toby loved soccer when he arrived at his first practice, and then hated soccer half-way through the practice, and loved it again by the end of practice.
Naomi has had two practices now, and it's been rough. Her coach is using the first 10 practices or so mainly for conditioning, meaning he's running the girls for about an hour. This is really difficult for all the healthy young girls on her team, but impossible for Naomi. Because of her genetic condition, her metabolism runs at about 75% of what a healthy girl's metabolism would be, so she has 25% less energy to begin with. Add to that an enlarged liver and spleen that add weight and make running painful, extra weight that is a result of her condition, problems with balance and coordination, and running with full ankle braces on to keep her ankles from turning. To top it all off, she has been much weaker in her left leg since birth and spent her whole childhood galloping instead of running so that she could always lead with her right leg. It has taken two years of physical therapy and new braces to even get her to where she CAN run, so throwing her into a practice with girls who can run sprints for an hour is a little unfair. I talked to her coach and he is very supportive of her and accommodates her well, but I also don't want her to get used to extra-special treatment, so I told her she just had to do her best.
She gave it a good shot at the first practice, but eventually just sat down and refused to get up or even talk to anyone. We had a good talk on the way home about pushing ourselves, how to keep trying when we think we can't go anymore, and how to do our best without giving up. I gave her another pep talk last night before practice, and then she amazed me. She was really a warrior last night.
Naomi ran sprint after sprint across that soccer field and back last night. Yes, she was always the last girl to finish (sometimes by a mile), but she kept going. Coach had them sprint backwards and she tried her best, she fell down twice but got back up and tried again. When Coach told them to run sideways and cross their legs while they ran she just stood at the starting line, confused, while all the other girls took off so I walked up and said, "Lets' do this walking together, but we're not going to sit out," and then we walked it together and she eventually got it. She did take a break for some of the sprints to drink extra water and to walk off a stitch in her side, but she always got back in as soon as she was physically able. I have never seen that girl move that much in her life.
All the while, I wondered what the other parents standing there saw. Did they see a lazy, overeating child? Did they see poor parenting? Did they groan at the weakest member of their team?
Did they have any clue just how many physical therapy sessions that girl has cried through just to learn to walk, to run, to jump? Did they have any idea how many social speech therapy sessions Naomi has cried through trying to learn how to interact with other kids? Did they know she's in stage 3 kidney failure, carries a huge, heavy liver full of fibrosis, doesn't know what it's like to feel satisfied after a meal, and has 25% less energy than anyone else on that team?
I don't know what they saw, but I saw the most determined, hardest working, strongest little warrior on that team, and I nearly had tears in my eyes when I told her how proud I was of her after that practice. Her face glowed with pride, and with a little help from a post-exercise endorphin high, she chattered the whole way home about how well she did.
Soccer season has begun here, and the season looks bright.