Oliver asked, “Why am I always the slowest?”
It is true. He is slower than the boys. Slower than the girls, even the two girls who are tinier than he is.
How do you explain weak muscles that just don’t have the same force generating ability. Lax joints that make his arms and legs go flailing, causing him to trip. Lungs injured from prematurity and countless infections. And then his heart, damaged even before he was born and jury rigged until he can get a valve replacement when he is old enough.
I tried to divert him, pointing out how he is better on the monkey bars than some of the other kids. It doesn’t matter, he doesn’t want to be last, at least not every time.
I told him that he won a race most other kids can’t win. How not all babies born as prematurely as he was survive. That he had complex heart surgery when he was only 3 lbs, and still stunned the doctors by going home from the hospital after only 9 1/2 weeks (he was actually ready to go home at 8 1/2 weeks, but no one could believe it given his heart surgery so they kept him another week).I told him how he never gave up when he fought pneumonia in the hospital. Seven times. Never mind the nights of illness at home, too numerous to count, where all he could do was cough.
It doesn’t matter. Nothing I say matters. His eyes are brimming with tears. I am fumbling in my bag of tricks, but the old standbys that I use for these rough patches fall flat.
Finally, I tell him how mommy was a terrible runner. How I didn’t run for seven years and just started again. How I am am slow (sloth-like really), but that I don’t worry about anyone else. I don’t focus on my speed or who’s in front of me, I focus on the things that make me a better runner. My posture, pumping my arms, and thinking positive thoughts. I tell him that a good runner runs against himself. That being a little bit better each time is more important than winning. I tell him that being better will mean different things on different days.
After giving it some thought, Oliver asked if we could go to the park. He was curious to know how he could use his arms to run faster.
And so off we went. Both boys running, with me screaming suggestions and encouragement. Up and down the path they went, the smile on Oliver’s face would have make an Angel weep it was so beautiful and full of joy.
Later that day I took the boys to the movies. Some animated thing that was really quite bad, that is until a plucky animal faced with some horror exclaimed, “I never give up.”
“Hey,” shouted Oliver, “That’s my super power too!”
Indeed it is.