What IS Normal Anyway?

What is your “normal?” Have you ever found out that your view of normal was not the healthiest way of being? My nine year old son Ryan helped me see in the last month how I could create a new normal in my life and let go of the past. Isn’t it great how kids can be some of our greatest teachers? 

Ryan has never been a big fan of sports. His only experience with organized sports to date was in pre-school playing soccer. He literally sat in the middle of the soccer field watching the butterflies and picking dandelions that year. Despite my best attempts to support him (including being a coach for the team), Ryan never took to the game. Other than gymnastics, he did not seem particularly inclined towards any sports at all.

That is, until this year. We had a 10th grade exchange student – Gilad – living with us this past fall. Ryan and Gilad became close friends. They would play basketball in our cul-de-sac almost every day. I feel certain it was Gilad’s influence that inspired Ryan to become interested in that sport. He bugged me daily to play basketball and couldn’t wait to get started. 

He had a blast during practices, but once the actual game started, he felt lost. He couldn’t figure out what was going on with two teams moving around on the court. He was confused and overwhelmed. It was no longer just a one-on-one game in the cul-de-sac. So much so that the first game he was scheduled to play in, he hid his jersey under the sofa hoping that if he couldn’t find his gear, he wouldn’t be able to play. That’s a story for another time, but he did end up playing that day, running up and down the court, managing to look engaged while at the same time staying as far away from the ball as possible. 

His last game was on February 23rd. My parents were in town visiting that day. I had told them the week before about the game. They did not offer to come, nor did I ask them to. As the stands filled, Ryan’s best buddy Brady came in with seven of his family members. It was not unusual for Brady to have several folks in attendance at the games – typically his parents and often his grandmother and uncle. Today there were three more there to support him. To be honest, all season I found it sad that I was the only one watching Ryan play. The beginning of this game was no exception.  

By the second half of the game, Ryan had not scored. He was the only player, in fact, not to have scored all season long in a game. Rather than substitute Ryan out as he did the rest of the team, that day, Coach left him in. He was determined not to let Ryan end this season without giving a 120% effort in helping him score. Every time Ryan’s team had the ball, Coach yelled to the boys to pass to Ryan. It wasn’t long before the kids figured it out, and Ryan was the first one back to the net after each rebound, waiting for the pass to make his shot. (Ironically, the other team saw all the passes being made to Ryan, and had their best and tallest defender on him that whole second half too.) 

I imagine most of the parents knew Ryan had not scored during season. He kind of stood out all season long with the various ways he had of avoiding being engaged. Twirling the string on his shorts, biting his nails, etc. At one point during this last half, I muttered to myself, “I so want Ryan to score before this is done.” Brady’s mom, sitting right next to me said, “We all do Christina, we all do.” 

It was then that I noticed what was going on in the stands. The other parents were yelling for my kid too. Telling him where to stand, how to escape the defender, rooting him on, wanting him to score as much as I did. And Ryan was in the moment, fearless and in the flow, like I had never seen him before. He never did score any points, but he couldn’t have been any happier at the end of the game.

This moment shifted everything for me. Suddenly all the games that I had as a kid that my parents never went to didn’t matter. The fact that my parents were in town and chose not to see their grandson did not matter. That Brady had seven family members there cheering for him did not matter. The illusions that I had carried with me all my life about family were shattered. I felt an experience of empowered love, coming from the coach, the kids on Ryan’s team, and the parents that day completely and utterly overwhelmed me. That my parents missed this was truly their loss. And I had changed the cycle of non-parental support for my son – I was present for him in a way I had never had from my parents.

This past week, I tried to call my parents just to say hello. I did not hear back from them, so I tried again later in the week. My mom finally called me back on Friday. Turns out they had been in town on Wednesday and Thursday visiting with my sister, but hadn’t felt it important to call or stop by. I realized while talking to my mom that if I had known, they could have seen Ryan get an academic award at his school on Wednesday. For a few seconds I thought about saying something to them about what they missed, and then realized it did not matter. It was okay for me to let go of all of it – the illusion, the anger, the resentment. They are who they are where I and somehow that got me to this point of here and now: where it is all perfect, am able to be who I am without apologizing or trying to be something moreIt was all really okay. 

We continued our conversation, with no mention of the timing on Ryan’s award and their visit. As our conversation ended, I told my mom I loved her and I meant it. 

I have known for some time that my normal was not healthy for me. But something was missing in bringing that full circle for me. Last month, being in a gymnasium watching a Sunday morning basketball game, I learned how to love and how to forgive. And I am so excited as I feel my new “normal” unfolding.


No comments:

Post a Comment