The weather was warm and humid at Wil’s baseball game on Sunday. It was only the first inning and Wil plopped down on the field, bent his legs, hugged them tight, then planted his forehead on his knees. Wil’s not a fan of the heat.
Each player on the baseball team is assigned a volunteer. The volunteers are middle school and high school students. Wil’s volunteer, Devin, could not have been nicer, but Wil was not interested in working with him. Truth be told, I believe Wil was bummed out he received a male volunteer. He likes the girls.
Coach Howard, Coach Mark, Devin, Matt, Katherine, Elizabeth and myself all tried to coax Wil up to play. He remained on the ground firm, forehead tight to the tops of his knees. I found myself at the point of bribery; a vanilla shake after the game if he took his turn at bat. “Just one swing, Buddy!” There was a slight lift of the head and eye shift in my direction, then right back down to his knees.
Wil is good at being stubborn, and we knew at this point there would be no negotiating with him. Matt asked Wil if he wanted to take a break and sit down in the grass (outside of the field). Without looking up, Wil gave a few quick nods of his head. Matt took his hand and Wil willingly stood up and walked outside of the field.
Wil kept his head bent while holding Matt’s hand. He did not make any eye contact with the spectators. He wanted to be anywhere but on the baseball field at that moment. Matt and Wil made their way to a little grassy hill and sat down together. Wil put his hands on the ground, leaned back a bit and began to stretch out his legs.
My parents had come to watch the game. My mom recently had hip surgery so was needing to get up and walk around frequently to keep her hip loose and mobile. She and Katherine were walking around the field headed over to visit Wil and Matt. My mom and Katherine asked Wil if he wanted to walk around the field with them. He agreed.
After a brief walk, my mom and Katherine were able to coax Wil back on to the baseball diamond. The coach positioned them at 3rd base. He didn’t sit down this time, but was still unwilling to play.
Then Allie showed up. If you ask Wil who Allie is, he will say, “She’s my girlfriend.”
Allie took Wil’s hands and started dancing, swinging back and forth, then Allie lifted her arm high and spun Wil around. Wil and Allie danced on until it was time to come in to bat. He agreed to continue to play if Katherine and Allie stayed with him. (I felt sorry for Devin, his only fault being a male. Fortunately, the coach found Devin a position as catcher.)
The other parents and I shared a few laughs as this whole thing unfolded. Being parents of kids with Down syndrome, we all know very well how these stubborn streaks go. “Funny how people think our kids are happy all the time,” one of the parents said. And it’s true. Our kids being joyful at all times is a common misconception. The reality is that our kids get angry, anxious, frustrated, sad, and oh, so stubborn! When life gets hard Wil feels all of it and remembers all of it. But for Wil, when the moment is over, it’s over. He doesn’t hold on to past hurts. He experiences them, learns from them, and moves on.
As I watched Wil, my mom, Katherine and Allie, I thought, he could still be harboring and harping about the fact that 15 minutes ago he felt too darn hot, was assigned a volunteer he did not want, and on top of that had all these people in his face telling him to do something he did not want to do. Sheesh!
But not Wil. That moment had come, was fully experienced, and now had passed.
Right now, it was time to dance on 3rd base.