At some point this spring, I opened up Abby’s backpack to find the forms for Special Olympics. Tears welled up in the corners of my eyes. It was one of those days I’ve been dreading since day 1. (I’ve got a long list of those days… the day her brother asks me why she’s different, the day she asks me why she’s different – and give me strength if he asks me before she does, the day she comes home having been bullied in some fashion, the day she does or doesn’t get accepted to college, the day she wants to move out, the day she decides she wants to get married, the day she tells me she wants to be a mama…)
I set them aside. Far aside.
A week or so later, I picked them up. I found every excuse – all completely valid: The sport is something she’d hate. (Bonus points that I’m not a fan of the sport either but then… I also am not a fan of dance and we’re about to start year 4.) It’s at a completely unrealistic time of day. (I swear to god when I run the world, it won’t be on teacher’s hours… but that’s a post for another day.) She already does a sport. Just fine. With the normal kids.
All perfectly reasonable excuses.
I set them aside for another week.
When I finally picked them back up, the voices of friends and family ran through my head.
“Is she old enough yet for Special Olympics?”
“What sport is she going to play?”
“We’ve met so many amazing people through Special Olympics – it’s the best part of this community!”
Maybe if it was cheerleading? She’d like cheerleading. For the love of Christ, I’m already the most reluctant dance mom – I can’t be a cheerleader mom. Especially the cheerleader with Down syndrome’s mom. Those moms are supposed to be inspiring and nice.
I am straight up neither.
Excuses, you’re thinking?
I filled out the forms.
A day or two later, I threw them out. I put it out of my brain.
It wasn’t until 3 or 4 weeks ago that I even thought about it again. Two of my colleagues and I were discussing why people might be afraid to share personal information in a professional setting. It could be fear of being outcasted, judged, retaliation… We talked about several of those scenarios.
And then, to even my surprise, these words came out of my mouth:
“It could have nothing to do with work. It could be totally in their own head and completely illogical. Take me, for example. I’ve got a kid with a disability. It’s a perfectly visible disability and I make no attempt to hide it for her – in fact, I’ll tell anybody about it. I’m forever sharing disability-related stories on social media. I blog about it for all the world to see. But I can’t enroll her in the Special Olympics because then at some level, I’m admitting she is and will always be different. I just can’t do it.”
I took a breath. All three of us took a breath.
That was a little more intense than I typically like to get at work.
Listen, guys – I know Special Olympics is amazing. I know there are a million great people in it. I know it would be good for her and it’s life changing and inspirational and all that stuff. I know in a year or two when I finally give in, I’ll think ‘yes, why didn’t I do this sooner?’ Yep.
I’m just not ready.