Parker (2) is a climber and can pretty much figure out any kind of baby-proofing device on the market. Georgia (almost 4) is a talker. The house is filled with questions, answers, sassy responses, negotiating, and general endless chatter. Some days – like most moms of young kids – the noise, clutter and constant vigilance is exhausting.
And then I got smacked in the face with a bit of perspective. That always seems to happen when I am at my most frustrated.
This last summer, I volunteered with the YMCA as a “buddy” for their Miracle League of Milwaukee. The league, played on a custom-designed field, allows all children to play organized baseball, regardless of ability. The kids dress in uniforms, make plays in the field, have at-bats and round the bases. Buddies help the players on and off the field in whatever way each player needs.
The severity of need differs from player to player. Some do just fine on their own with a little coaching and reminding of which direction to run the bases. Other players require very hands-on assistance in holding and swinging the bat and wheeling from base-to-base.
The atmosphere of the game is upbeat with sounds of ballpark music, a play-by-play announcer, and lots of cheers from parents and buddies – a stark contrast from my quiet, reflective ride home.
I thought about chatty Georgia and climber Parker. And then I thought about how some of these parents – the parents of the children with the most severe needs – will never hear their child utter one word. They will never see their child take a step, let alone climb. They will never dream of the day their child is potty trained or goes off to college or who they will marry. Their exhaustion comes from endless doctor visits and around-the-clock caretaking. Their vigilance is infinite.
While it makes me incredibly guilty for the frustration over my day-to-day parenting challenges, and sad for what will never be, I was reminded of the joy on so many players’ faces when they hit the ball off the tee and reached first base and later scored. The excitement of hearing their favorite song on the speaker or applause when their name was called. And I was incredibly moved by the older siblings – children themselves – who stood by the side of their player and made sure he or she was cared for in the way only they knew how.
On the Miracle Field, they are the stars. The metaphorical and literal playing field is level. On the Miracle Field, they aren’t special needs kids, they are first basemen and outfielders, batters and winners.
It was a humbling experience for me, and one that provided perspective for my own situation. When I think of those games and players, I have a renewed sense of patience for our noise and clutter. I am mindful of being grateful for our challenges and appreciative for what I have. Like so many of the players, I try to find the joy in the simple things that make life so great.