I have been struggling a lot recently with panic and anxiety. It is not something I think people think of when they see me, and I work hard to cover it, but recently it has taken over a little. Upon walking into Matthew's school for a meeting, I could hardly breathe, it was a response I was totally shocked by. I basically had to focus on breathing and holding back tears most of the meeting, not something that is typical for me at all.
On Wednesday I found out that Matthew had a Special Olympics Statewide Basketball Tournament that started at 8:30 Saturday morning, and all I could think of was, "I can't possibly do this. I don't want to, you can't make me." As I was talking to the coach, I talked of all of the struggles;
* It's 30 minutes from home- some teams were driving 5 hours
* It's too early in the morning- really? Because Matthew will be up.
* It's too long a day for the other two boys- have his respite worker bring him
Essentially, there was no good enough excuse to avoid me going to this tournament. I had to face my fears, put my big girl panties on, and go and see what this Special Olympics Tournament was all about.
I was afraid, true deep pit of my stomach fear. Matthew is a great athlete and loves basketball. He can shoot a 3 point shot with amazing accuracy when he is just shooting hoops at home. However, he can't play with a team of typical peers because once the action of the game starts he can't focus and follow the ball. His basketball team is made up of mostly players in the age range of 25-40, and their reality is a little too real for me. They are all men who struggle with their own disabilities, both emotional, and developmental.
It is this reality that had me wanting to avoid the tournament. I try hard to live life in the moment, dealing with Matthew at the age of 13. I have no idea what will happen between now and when he is 21, and thinking about it is too much for me, so I live in the moment. However, being surrounded by his teammates, I have to face his future.
* there are men on his team who are married.
* there are men on his team who live in group homes
* there are men on his team who are dependent on non family members for their care
These men are very happy, but to me it is a lot of reality, and not the reality most of us dream of. It is not the white picket fence, 2.2 children, happily ever after. However, it is their happily ever after!
They are a true team who enjoy their time together. They have friendships. They have camaraderie, and they have an intense love of basketball!
On the other side, most can't do so many of the independent tasks of living as an adult. They can't balance their checkbook. They can't manage their finances. They can't drive.
They are reliant on agencies and staff to do most of the things that adults do independently. While some of these agencies are made up of awesome individuals, and some staff are incredible, there is still a reality that a paid person is responsible for helping these guys with so many things that we all take for granted.
For me this tournament was like facing Matthew and David's future realities all at once. I couldn't picture what this tournament would look like. How would these guys cope in a big tournament? How would Matthew cope? What would it look like.
I decided that I could not let my fear keep me from going to this tournament, so I had to hold myself accountable. I did that by posting my fears on Facebook so that my friends would ensure that I took Matthew and faced my anxiety head on. I made a plan for Matthew's respite worker to come at 7:45 to pick Matthew up, so that I could go a little slower with the little boys, and so that she would be there to support Matthew while I helped the little boys. She is an awesome cheer leader for Matthew and a great support for me!
Peggy, Matthew's respite worker, kept in touch with me by phone to keep me posted on the day's events. At 10:30 Matthew's games had still not started, there was no definite start time on the horizon, but I was actually finding myself needing to be there with my son. My anxiety turned into excitement, and I was ready to go see my boy and just focus on his playing basketball.
We arrived at the tournament just as Matthew's team took to the court for their first game and it was awesome to see them play. They struggled a little with finding their footing as a team, and barely scored at all in their first 2 games. However, the more they played together, the better they played.
In the end, I found myself becoming the cheerleading mom that I dreamed of being as I cheered my boy on as he played 4 basketball games. He had some awesome shots, he had amazing team spirit and he made me super proud!
At the end of the day when I asked if he wanted to play again next year he said he wasn't sure because there was too much swearing and too much roughness! My basketball giant, playing with the men, but still a boy at heart!
- I am a single mom of three amazing boys! All three of my sons entered my family through adoption. All three of my boys have developmental disabilities. My oldest son, Matthew has been diagnosed with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and Bipolar Disorder. David, my middle son, has a genetic condition, he has a duplication on his 15th chromosome which leads to autism like symptoms, seizures and learning challenges. My youngest son, Jacob has learning disabilities. Each of my children bring unique challengs to our family and also bring their own personality and joys to our everyday life!