Saturday, April 23, 2016

Day 6: He did it. The gift of running.

My six year old ran his first cross country race. We really were not sure whether or not he would start. We thought there would be tears. But, we also thought it was possible to be an activity he would enjoy. And, he did... eventually.

There were hundreds of kids participating; an overwhelming scene. He happily played with his friends before-hand and seemed eager to participate. This was very much to my surprise. I anticipated him becoming overwhelmed early on but he handled this part of the event with ease. To see the excitement in his eyes gave us hope he may have found an activity that "clicked" for him. He loves to run and, of course, it's such a great activity for his well-being but the potential stress surrounding the events left much uncertainly. His 3 year old brother was all too eager though, so I took him from the start/finish area to cheer from the mid-way point.

Dad stayed with our six year old and as it was time to start, the crowd gathered closer and as I am told, the hesitation rapidly set in. There was a sea of people and it was not something a parent could talk him into. We were so fortunate that his teacher was also the cross country coach. They have an amazing relationship and as my husband said, "She knew just what to say. Just how to approach and encourage him. She just knows him so well." It is truly remarkable to have a person like that in our son's life. If one cannot bring him out of his "shell". He shuts down. Completely shuts down. He is the child who will scream, hide and either frantically moving or freeze completely. In this state, there is no communication to be had. He has to experience his emotions and after an hour if we are lucky, then talk about his feelings. When he speaks about his feelings, he then usually triggers another response as he seems to feel heavily guilty for his "inappropriate" behaviour.... and the cycle continues. When he was younger these "episodes" could last six hours, easily. Rather than frantic, pacing movement thought he'd flail his body..... he is learning. We are all learning.

I need to pause as a I write this. If anyone stumbles across this and has a child who has some anxiety and more emotionally sensitive.... with patience, tremendous patience, your child can learn to cope. We are going on four years now and I may go as far as to say he is thriving. Our version of thriving. Just last week I still had someone say to me, "oh gawddddd, I could never deal with THAT." They stood up and walked away shaking there head. This was their reaction to my son's behaviour in a particular situation. He was transitioning to a new activity within the scope of the day, and he was needing a little extra support to do so. He had started to stress and swatted his hand at me which then followed tears and repetitive, "I am sorry!!  I am sorry! I am sorry, Mommy!  I didn't mean to hit you. I shouldn't do that! I am sorry!!" --- followed by massive tears. So, with this response --- why would we even "expose" our son to a new activity in a crowd of people? Quite frankly, how else will learn to cope? And, our son asked to participate. We will support and encourage him in anything he chooses --- within reason. ;)

Back to the race....His age group had about 200 kids. After words of encouragement from his teacher, he started with the crew. At the half-way mark, closer to the finish line I guess, we saw the first runner... the first hundred runners.... more and more runners..... and then, we saw this:

Our guy is in the foreground with the hat. He was running. He didn't look happy but he didn't look miserable. We'll take it. He lined up to receive his participant and placing ribbon, 184th. You couldn't see he was sad. When he finally opened up about his feelings, "I didn't get first." It was that "simple" of a statement. The little guy that shuts down has a fiesty, competitive nature in him. My response, "No. But, you did your best and that makes Mommy happy. Did you have fun?" The conversation continued, "I pushed people, Mommy. Other people were pushing. There wasn't room for everyone. I pushed some red guys. Some blue guys. And some green guys. But, not some yellow guys. Those are my team." ---- and, that left me speechless.

Running has brought something out of him - and that is a tremendous gift.