Where We Belong
There is nothing like going to a local community event to make you realize that we’re not your average ordinary family. Today was Sports Day at Cubby’s school. The 18th annual sports day for this preschool, and most families have been coming here to cheer on the kids for years now. This was our first time.
Most of the other families have lived around here for a while, and they know each other. A couple of faces were familiar to me from morning drop-offs, but we were definitely the outsiders. One mother, hearing my accent, asked where we were from. Did she mean my country of birth, my husband’s or the kids’? I could have given her three different answers for a fairly simple question. We don’t belong here, but you can’t tell that just by looking at us.
Nobody really noticed that Cubby wasn’t trying to win. He was more focused on what the other kids were doing than what he was supposed to do. And probably nobody noticed that his muscles tired a little sooner than the other kids his age. He wasn’t first, he wasn’t last, he did what he needed to do. He passed.
But those sitting close to us probably soon noticed the five-year-old who is the size of a nine-year-old who was constantly squirming and repeating the same phrases over and over, and twirling hair. Indeed, when twirling her own hair and mine wasn’t enough, Pudding moved on to the long braids of the lady sitting next to us. But she doesn’t want to twirl a stranger’s hair, so she asked her name. “It’s an African name,” replied the lady with a smile. “Hello African,” responded Pudding. You can’t make this stuff up!
Pudding doesn’t really pass any more. Her differences are too apparent, too inappropriate for her perceived age. Even her actual age. But if she has realized that, she hasn’t expressed it yet to me. There is solace in that- I’d rather have my girl unaware than hurting.
This sports day required actual participation from the families too. There was a mum’s race (I came fourth!), dad’s, grandparents, teachers, brothers, and-yes- sisters. The groups were divided up into big sisters and little sisters. Even if Pudding was up against kids her own age or younger, racing isn’t something she really understands. She has no competitive streak that makes her want to be first to the finish line. She only “runs” while holding my hand, and even a few years of OT and PT haven’t changed that gallop into a running gait. There were many reasons for Pudding sitting this one out, but none of them mattered; because I asked if she wanted to run with the other sisters, and she said yes.
She was on her marks, she got ready, but she didn’t go at the same time as the other girls. I encouraged her and she set off, then twirled around, then galloped on a pace or two. The race was already won, but for us it wasn’t over. I could hear the cheering and applause, and I heard it die down. Pudding wasn’t even half way through. But she kept going, and I kept cheering. By the time her gallops took her across the finish line, the next racers were already lined up.
But it didn’t matter. Pudding was pleased with herself. I spun her around in victory, and we returned to Cubby and Daddy and we all cheered her on as if she’d just competed in the Olympics, and won. And right at that moment, I thought about how all of you would be cheering too. There is a place where we celebrate triumphs that most people don’t even recognize. Where we don’t stop cheering until every child makes it to the finish line, in their own way, in their own time. And that is where we belong.