His face was beginning to twist in pain.
I knew immediately what was wrong.
It was all the people. The noise. It was getting to be too much for my boy with Aspergers.
“Remember to breathe,” I muttered. I waved my hand, trying to get his attention. I was sitting in the bleachers but he couldn’t see me. He stared vacantly ahead. I’m not sure what was going on in his mind.
My boy has never been a sports boy. There are some boys who sign up for football, softball, soccer, etc.
He was never interested.
But he was interested in track. I was surprised that he decided to do it. Surprised and pleased. I knew it would be good for him.
But it wouldn’t come without hiccups.
Such as dealing with his first track meet.
“First call for fifth grade boys for shot put,” an overhead voice said.
To my surprise, I saw my son stand up.
He didn’t tell me what events he’d be participating in. Maybe it was because he wasn’t sure. I did not expect him to do shot put.
It’s…well, he can’t throw very well. Tom used to try to play catch with him and Tommy could barely return the ball. And then he’d start to get frustrated and go, “Everyone else can do this but me!” He’s struggled with his fine motor skills. I was told he had low muscle tone. It was why it took him awhile to even ride a bike.
I couldn’t see him very well because they were off in a corner. From what I did see, he managed to get the heavy ball thingy to a pretty good distance.
I began to relax. He would be okay.
“Mommy! Lookit!” Natalie hung from the balcony divider.
“Natalie. Stop it! Can’t you just SIT and BE?” I hissed. It was difficult to watch Tommy and pay attention to Natalie as well. With Tom gone, it’s just me. My head would swivel from my boy to my girl. It was like I was watching a tennis match.
“Weeeee!” Natalie dangled from the bar.
“Stop it and sit down. I don’t want to go to the ER!” I snapped. She’s prone to injuries. We’ve been to the ER more times than I care to count.
Natalie gave me a Look. The same Look she’ll probably give me as a teen as she sat down with a loud plop. “Oh-kay but I’m borreeeddd.”
“I’m trying to watch your brother. Oh, there he goes to get ready for the relay,” I said, watching as he strolled over. He didn’t look nervous. His face didn’t look pinched as it did before. He was adapting to the noise.
“I’m hungry,” Natalie complained.
Crap. Snacks. I should have brought snacks. They were selling snacks there but I didn’t want to deal with making sure Natalie didn’t get it all over. So I dug through my purse and handed over an old mint.
“This looks weird,” Natalie whined, fingering it with disgust.
“If you’re really hungry, eat it,” I said with a shrug.
She gave me another Look and started running up and down the bleachers.
“STOP IT and SIT!” I yelled, rubbing my temples. “Come watch your brother.”
“He does not. Just sit.”
I watched as Tommy waited at his lane to race. Then the gun went off and he darted forward….and quickly fell behind.
I’d like to say that he passed everyone. That he came in first.
But this isn’t a Hollywood movie. He didn’t.
He was last.
Right as he crossed the finish line, he began wiping his eyes. He was crying. He thought he disappointed his team. He hates disappointing people.
“Mommy!” It was Natalie, dangling off the bar again. “Mommy I need to pee!”
“Not now,” I muttered. I tried to get Tommy’s attention. “You did great, son!” I shouted as loud as I could. “You did great!”
And it was then, as my boy sniffled on the field and my daughter behaved like a spastic monkey that I realized I was alone. My husband would be gone for many months. It just hit me then. Right there. On the bleachers.
I wanted to go to my son. But I wasn’t able to. I wanted to cage Natalie. But that was against the parenting rules.
It turns out my boy was comforted by someone. The girls on the team came to him, rubbing his shoulders, hugging him….the boys, I noticed, stayed away but the girls were there. They’ve always been nicer to Tommy. The boys are at an age where they frown upon crying. But the girls. They get it.
He was okay.
“Mommy.” Natalie tugged on my arm. “I’m bored AND I need to pee.”
I led her to the bathrooms and then took her to an area where she could run around. I wasn’t sure if Tommy would be doing another race—but then he was behind me, a tiny smile on his face. He had calmed down.
“Tommy! You did great! Really,” I said, hugging him.
He seemed to agree. “Someone always has to come in last,” he said with a shrug. “I guess that was me.”
“And that’s okay,” I said. “Even people who come in last do great things. Have you ever seen The Mighty Ducks? Rudy?”
Tommy blinked at me.
“We’ll have to watch those. Seriously, great things come from people who come in last. I promise,” I said with a wink. “I know this type of thing is not comfortable for you but you DID it. You tried. That’s important.”
Tommy shrugged. “I guess. Yeah.”
“Tommy!” Natalie shouted, running over. She wrapped her arms around his waist. “You ran fast!”
A tiny smile played on his lips. “Yeah. Yeah, I guess I did…”