Natalie behaved like a perfect child and I'm happy. I'm proud! And I'm embarrassed!
by Kay Marner
I must be either crazy or incredibly stupid. Either way, I'm embarrassed.
Natalie started T-ball last night. She stayed with the group the entire time. She sat and listened when she was supposed to sit and listen. She followed the coaches’ every direction. She greeted a friend from daycare, Jared, and made a new friend, Carson, and played with him at the adjacent park — joyfully, appropriately — after practice.
Who was this perfect — normal — child? And why in the world would this scenario embarrass me?
We've never had very good luck with Natalie doing any kind of group sport or lesson. We've tried gymnastics, soccer, swimming, and Kindermusic. Even semi-private gymnastics lessons, just Natalie and her friend Harry, were a disaster.
Let me qualify that — they were a disaster when I was there. Nat wouldn’t stay with the group or follow directions. She disrupted the group and monopolized the coaches’ time. However, she does better when someone else takes her. She and Harry had one great gymnastics lesson — when Allie took them instead of either of Harry's parents or me. She did fine all last summer at a dance class — accompanied by her babysitter, Jacquie.
So, when Natalie wanted to sign up for T-ball this summer, I made arrangements for Gayle, Nat's in-home therapist, or Gayle's staff, to take her. I wanted her to be able to participate, and to have a good experience. And I didn't want her presence to be a burden to the coaches or to detract from the other players' experiences.
Gayle's staff would act as Natalie's 1:1 "coach," teaching her skills to help her succeed in a group situation, and taking responsibility for keeping her with the team and focused. Great plan, huh? Don't you wish your kid had this dream service?
So, the first practice starts, and there are three of us there. I’m there because it’s the first night. My plan is to stay until Nat seems comfortable, and then slip away. Gayle is there, along with her staff member, Robin. She's going to introduce Nat to Robin, and stay while they get to know each other, so that Nat feels secure. Robin is out on the field with Nat, ready to chase, coax, and re-focus.
Within minutes, Robin comes over to sit with Gayle and me at a picnic table. Natalie's doing fine, so for now, she'll just observe. After 45 minutes, we've decided to drop the whole plan. Nat's doesn't need any extra help. She's doing better than some of the "normal" kids.
So, we change our strategy: Nat's reward for doing so well is that mom or dad will take her to T-ball. If she starts having problems, we'll bring Gayle and Robin back in to help.
This is a huge success — a milestone. But, does Gayle think I exaggerated my past experiences with Nat? That I'm just spoiled, or stupid, or lazy?
Natalie succeeded! I'm happy! And proud! And, logical or not, I'm embarrassed.