Today I spent eight and a half hours - yes, you read that right - playing, watching and thinking about soccer.
My little guy kicked us off (ha ha) at 8:30. He's a goofball on the field, but he takes the game very seriously. Which is only just a little odd in a four-year-old.
Then it was my diva's turn. Last year, she was a cheerleader and very, very girly. But in her recent I-want-to-be-a-tomboy phase, it suited her to try soccer instead. She's jumped in with both feet (ha ha ... yes, folks, it's Bad Pun Day here in the Elbow-verse).
We had a short break, some hot dogs for lunch, a quick turn on the Wii, then dashed off to my Aspie's game. He finished at 5:00. Nearly dinner time, and yet not one of my kids was hungry.
This is because, in the New Millennium, soccer is less about the sport than it is about the snacks.
I remember orange slices and big coolers of water when I was a kid. Not that I was an athlete. I figured this out when I'd go to the park looking for a quiet place to read. Instead, I'd find orange rinds in the grass. Not so fun to sit and read in the middle of a pile of orange rinds.
These days, no one is that healthy. Cookies, crackers and "juice drinks" in individually wrapped packages, that's what we give our kids. Lots of sugar and refined starches. Ick. Tasty ick, but ick nevertheless.
My Aspie loves the snacks. He begs the snack mom for handouts at his siblings' games. Bright orange crackers, powdered cheese, juice boxes - well, juice pouches - and all.
Which is how I discovered that he can't open his own juice. He snagged a juice pouch at his brother's game, then brought it to me and said, "Mom, I can't open this. I have a disability."
Um ... what?
I haven't talked to him much about "disabilities" and "special needs." He can see that he's different from other kids, and generally he knows how he's different. But it's the first time he's ever used the word "disability." At all. Ever.
So, with him perched on my lap to watch his sister's game, I started the conversation. Do you know what a disability is? No, but some kid in middle school (oh, yes, we love middle school) told him he had a disability because he has an aide. We talked about how a disability isn't a bad thing, it's just a different thing. I pointed out the ways he needs extra help in school - his medication to help him focus, his new Neo to help him write, his aide to help him calm down and stay organized. And we talked about the things he's great at - that he can spell practically any word he hears and do math in his head and read a 93-page book in about 6 seconds flat. And I told him that everyone has things they need help with and things they don't.
I also finally gave him some names. We talked about ADHD and what it stands for and what it means. I didn't yet give him the Asperger's. That will come, though, now that we've opened the door.
And then I taught him how to open his own damn juice.
Because he's right. His fine motor delays have made it hard for him to learn things like how to tie his shoes or stick a pointy straw into a little plastic pouch full of sugar. But I'll be damned if I let him use it as an excuse.
So, juice. And soccer. Lots and lots of soccer. One gorgeous, sunny day. Three exhausted kids. And thirty minutes of a really wonderful conversation that helped my son learn more about who he is.
Not that his disabilities define him. What I think he's learning is that, in fact, they don't.
P.S. - For those keeping track, the Sleep Plan is so far an utter failure. I'm sleeping less than ever. It has, however, sparked the greatest response in the brief history of my little blog, and soon I'll share the interesting ideas folks have sent me. In the meantime ... well, we're going to try and kick this sleep thing off again on Monday. Wish me luck!