Special Olympics State Meet – Day 2

We survived!! 😀 We didn’t go first thing in the morning since my second son’s first event wasn’t until 11am yesterday. We headed out with plans to be there at 10am. That turned out to be a mistake. Parking at the university campus was FULL. Lucky for us this was the campus we lived at years ago and I knew where all the out of the way parking lots were. This didn’t make my youngest happy and our walk over to the team’s tent was filled with his frequent declarations of “I hate my life.” Personally I think I did pretty good finding us a parking spot that was only a 10-15 minute walk from the tent. The walk would have been faster if I was walking alone, but when you have a dramatic 6-year-old in tow everything is much slower. Naturally.

The first event for my son was the soft ball toss and he came in 7th for his heat. I never can quite tell if he likes this event, or if he just picks this one so he can go for the day. His last event was the 100 meter dash, which always amuses me and warms my heart. He likes to run, but never to win. At first it really confused me as to why he even bothered until my father pointed out how he plays the competitive video games. He’ll give you a head start and then go in those games. His brothers really hate to lose and they’ll quit on you if they do. He doesn’t like it when they quit on him. And sure enough in the race yesterday, he kept watching behind him and made sure he wasn’t too far ahead of the last boy. I was cheering to run at first but then I saw what he was doing and let him be. Yes, he could run faster than he did. We saw that last year when due to small turn out he had to run with the older group so he wouldn’t have to run by himself. He wasn’t officially competing against them, the medal was his either way but he got his personal best time. He came in last that day but he RAN with everything he had against them. Too bad I can’t remember his time. I trust the coach has it. So yesterday my son got 4th place in his heat and he was very pleased with himself. The last boy didn’t quit and didn’t cross the line alone.

I wish I could take credit for teaching my son that, but I didn’t – not directly any way. I think it’s in his basic nature and this behavior is just an extension of his coping skills from dealing with his temperamental brothers.

And this is why I get so aggravated when people say those with Autism do not have empathy. They DO have empathy. What they don’t do is express it exactly the same as everyone else. That’s not a bad thing. All behavior has a reason behind it if we are willing to take the time to understand it.

Psst… that’s the true meaning of empathy actually: taking the time to understand one another. It’s just that some of us do it by natural instinct while others have to work harder at it. Yea I know, “empathy is understanding emotions” I get it. But how do we express emotions? We express them through behavior. Our words and actions express our emotions. Emotion never some passive magical thing that just oozes out of us. Emotion is behavior and behavior, when you remove speech, is the most basic form of communication. And this is why I often say it’s important to pay attention to what’s not being said to know what’s really going on.

Anyhow, I’m derailing! Saturdays at the state meets are the busiest. There are usually many booths with all sorts of activities for the athletes and children present. This year was no exception. There was an active movement drumming activity, coloring table, and an arts and crafts table. Of course there were the food booths. Somehow despite all that, it felt smaller than it did last year. My father always said our state lags behind with the economy. He says he are often the last to get hit with a recession and the last to come out of it. I kind of felt like yesterday reflected that. The news keeps saying we’re getting better but it doesn’t look that way here. Last year the Dunkin Donuts booth was open well into the afternoon before it ran out of its free offerings. This year it was out of free coffee mid-morning and closed up before lunch. By lunch all the food booths were closed up but the popcorn booth. The rest of the booths, like the souvenir T-shirts, were closed before the final long jump event was completed due to the incoming rain. So the day was good, but there was a dampened effect on everything. Perhaps it was just my own mental filter looking out upon the world. It likes to do that often.

My youngest did far better outside all day than he had inside that pressurized dome. He was high energy and had to be reminded often not to swing sticks around because of the crowds. Sticks and rocks was his preferred items of entertainment. I don’t know why I bothered to pack a bag. Oh yea… because if I hadn’t he would have complained of being bored. That’s why. 😉

We back to the same restaurant as the night before for dinner. The head chef knows the family and when I thanked him for honoring my youngest’s weird order request before heading home, we talked for awhile. Talked about how the day went and how the boys are doing. Talked about how I’m doing. I mentioned how there are days I feel like is all I can do to keep my shit together. He said to me that I seem to do a pretty good job of keeping my shit together with all that I’ve got going on. I take it as some nice praise considering these folks have had the misfortune of witnessing some of my youngest’s most epic tantrums and meltdowns. Sadly they know and have been all too kind as to NOT kick us out. I try to come when they are not busy. I try not to be a pain. I try to keep the boys under control. And I truly appreciate the fact they understand why I bring my boys there. But that’s for another post.

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