On the weekend we went to a birthday party, a Tae Kwon Do birthday party. Victor was of course in his element, already having earned his yellow stripe belt. Oliver was a little less sure, but he said he would try.
The party started out OK. Lots of games, fun crazy physical boy stuff. Then they started timing the kids in a race and announced the top 3. Not so good. Oliver is very sensitive to the fact that he never wins ANY physical competition. His heart, his lungs, and his hypotonia are just a triple threat that is too hard to beat.
And then they brought out wooden boards to break. Ooh and ahhs from enraptured 5 and 6 year olds. The bigger kids broke them on the first or second try. Victor had done it before for his last belt test, so I wasn’t worried. But Oliver. Poor, sweet Oliver who doesn’t even have the strength to propel his tiny frame off of the ground in the tiniest of hops. How would he do it?
When it came to his turn he tried. And then he tried, and tried, and tried. Again and again. After 20 or so punches and as many kicks, the instructor gave up. It was time for cake. Only Oliver, and one much bigger boy had not broken a board. To be fair, the bigger boy just hadn’t accepted the concept that he could kick or punch at an adult. It wasn’t strength that held him back, but his manners.
The screaming and yelling for cake commenced, but I could hear it. The soft sounds of Oliver sobbing. Heart broken that he could not break a board. Everywhere there are reminders of the things he cannot do. Many times he shrugs it off, but it is much harder when there is an audience.
We went into the hallway. I buried my face in his soft curls. To hug him and to hide my own tears. The instructor came out with another board. Another mother, realizing I could not compose myself enough to ask, had brought the instructor to us.
We gathered ourselves. And he tried again, and again, and again. The wood did not budge. His little fist was red and starting to swell from the effort.
Let me steady your body,” I said. “I will hold you tight so you can put all of your energy into one kick. Then you don’t have to worry about balancing.”
He wiped his eyes with the back of his hand. I put on my best you can do it face, but my face was folding and unfolding like an origami project in an attempt to stem the flood of tears.
By now there was an audience. Several kids had come out, prodded by their parents, to tell Oliver is was OK that he didn’t break a board. Several even offered to break one for him.
No, Oliver shook his head. That would not do.
One kick, two kicks, three kicks, four kicks. No go. And then on the fifth his little foot sailed through, shattering the board in two.
It could have been a Olympic gold medal in Tae Kwon Do! We jumped and screamed and hugged. I wiped up his face to go back to the party and whispered, “Your super power is that you never give up! Ever!”
He smiled, the tears a glistened memory. He pushed the board at me, and it was then that I knew it was nothing about having the board. He just wanted to be able to do it.
The other, bigger boy who had been too polite to punch at an adult came out to investigate. Oliver told him to try again. And so I did the same for him, holding him still so he could focus all his energy on breaking the board. He split it in two with a resounding crack.
One the way home I told Oliver that he was very brave. And because he had tried and tried and not given up he had helped someone else as well.
And not just the other little boy.
My son is a superhero.