Friday, February 20, 2004

On Becoming a Soccer Mom

So, we took the plunge and bought a minivan last week, after years of cramming both of the kids and their car seats, diaper bags, strollers and toys into my cramped sedan. The very next day Bug came home from school with a signup sheet for the local Challenger Soccer league. As I enthusiastically made plans to enroll him, I bemoaned the fact that I was on a fast track to becoming a suburban cliché.

Truthfully, I could not be more thrilled to be planning something so refreshingly conventional . . . so NORMAL. As a special needs mom, sometimes that is what I long for the most. Ever since Bug was an infant, I have always felt a bit cheated out of many simple, basic pleasures of motherhood. Instead of going to play groups and Mommy and Me classes like other new moms, we spent his first few months parading around to a variety of doctors and specialists who checked him for heart problems, retinal damage, congenital deafness, and the myriad gastroenterological issues that so often accompany Down Syndrome. While other parents stimulate their newborns with classical music and Baby Einstein videos, we employed a troop of physical, occupational, speech and early intervention therapists to help him learn basic skills like sitting up straight, chewing his food properly, and picking Cheerios off a plate.

Sure, we did a lot of ordinary things too; we snuggled and tickled and picnicked in the park and visited the zoo, played “This Little Piggy” and watched hours and hours of Sesame Street and Blue’s Clues. But inside I always felt alienated from other parents, who got to do things like sign their kids up for swim lessons or Gymboree classes without having to muddle through hours of explanations or modifications.

This is why I have a much keener appreciation for the normal moments I DO experience, like last July’s end-of-summer-camp dinner at the JCC. I was positively euphoric as I walked to my table, balancing a paper plate full of hot dogs and macaroni salad. I was overflowing with gratitude, towards the camp director and staff who were so willing and eager to accomodate Bug, to my mom for shuttling him back and forth across town each day, and to the other campers for accepting and including him without hesitation. Because of them, for once I got to be just like all the other parents as I admired the papier-maché pencil holders and clay sculptures in the crafts room and watched the kids sing and perform camp tunes with joyful gusto. To see Bug dressed like all the other kids in a lime-green Camp Shelanu T-shirt, running around and giving high-fives to his counselors, was something I will never forget.

Once soccer season starts I have a feeling my life will be like that of so many of my friends, involving a lot of carpooling, uniform laundering, post-game pizza parties, and time spent shivering in the bleachers – and I will relish every moment of it.


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