Gio's dad is coaching his peewee basketball league this winter. Dee asked me if Ryan wanted to join and play.
A team sport? With typical boys? I really don't see that working out too well.
Dee said "But John will be coaching, he'll keep an eye on Ryan."
"No," I explained, "you don't understand. Ryan would need a one-on-one to keep him on task. He'd have to follow the rules..."
"Oh just do it," Dee encouraged, "they're just little kids, it's not even like it's real basketball." Dee speaks with the authority that comes with having raised five kids.
One of the moms I've been chatting with on the sidelines at Nutcracker rehearsal has raised 13 foster children. As we watch #13 stomp around in her ballet slippers and shriek her objections to perceived slights, "Jean," the perpetual mother, declares she's done.
"Once you have a handicapped one," she confides, "you just can't do it anymore."
First of all, God bless this woman for taking on the raising of a dozen children who needed a loving home. That's just beautiful.
But secondly, I've been thinking about Jean's breadth of parenting experience. Kids 1-12 must have presented her with the full spectrum of challenges neurotypical children can provide, from the mundane to the terrifying baggage related to whatever threw them into the foster care system. Jean had seen it all.
And then she adopted "Cathy," the first in her brood who needed an IEP. Jean doesn't even know what Cathy's current diagnosis should be: at age
three she was diagnosed with autism and exhibited unusual behavior that
was attributed to being abused by her birth mother, but now at age 12
there are clearly other things going on, so she is being reevaluated.
Not knowing what's wrong, of course, makes it harder for Jean to figure
out the best way to help Cathy, which leads to frustration on both
Raising Cathy has taken such a toll on Jean, she decided she will never again have the stamina to open her home and her heart to another child. Her experiences have reinforced what I have come to believe:
It can be really hard to raise an atypical child.
All the typical parenting experience in the world will not prepare you. There is no Dr. Spock or Parents Magazine for you. Your own mother probably doesn't have any tips from her experience raising you that would be helpful. Peewee basketball is less about playing basketball than about learning to respond to your name, following directions, learning that there are rules and that it's important to follow those rules, and not stripping naked at inappropriate times.
There's no shame in admitting that this stuff is hard.
Even if you can handle raising 12 foster children.