The Bite

Noah on the Dover YMCA Swim Team Circa 2016

This past week, while at lunch with Joe’s family, Aunt Millie was retelling an oldie but goodie of Noah’s. I told her I would include the story in my next post.

Noah from a very early age was a great swimmer. His oldest sister, Zoe had him swimming in the deep end of Maple Dale Pool at three years old. Having three older siblings who loved the water led to most summer days in the pool or ocean.

Zoe and Malia were both on swim team at the Y in Dover. Zoe was also a lifeguard. We seemed to live at swim meets. One year they were having tryouts for the younger swimmers, and the girls implored me to let Noah try.

He knew all the strokes, it was getting him to swim from one end to the other that was the problem. He would often get distracted and ‘duck dive’ to the bottom of the pool. Splashing while doing laps was the norm. Some parents would grumble during practices and say under their breath that he should be in Special Olympics instead of the Dover Dolphins. (I am looking at you Tracey!)

The coach of the team asked if I would sit on the board, since the girls were on their fourth year. Since the team had been run for decades by the same cliquey group, Brendan thought it was a perfect time to bring in fresh ideas.

It was decided that I would coordinate the volunteers and get them plugged in to open positions. The day before the first meet, the kids were swimming, the adults were all lined up and I was ‘on’!

I had parents learning to time, others learning to run the scoreboard. I had a group that was stocking the concession table, others making the lists of donations that were needed for the meet the next day. I was inwardly giving myself a pat on the back for how smoothly things were running. I can do this!

Somehow I lost the ‘why” of why I was doing this!

The next day was the big meet. People were checking in, balls were in the air. I was large and in charge, just the way I like it. I got Noah lined up on the block. Goggles, swim cap, suit, stroke all checked. I gave him a hug and told him to do his best.

Joe was running late at work. This was my nudge to slow down and focus on why we were there. It wasn’t so that I could run the show, which of course I could. It was to support our kids and give Noah any extra instruction he might need to successfully compete.

The races started! I missed it! That’s o.k. I’ll catch the next event. Uh-oh their was a problem at the grill. While I sorted that out, Noah was getting ready to swim his next event.

As I walked to the pool a very angry father came over to me. He started screaming at me and pointing at Noah. What. In. The. World. I looked at my son, trying to gauge what happened. He nonchalantly looked back. The man’s son was sobbing beside him with a huge bite mark on his thigh!

Apparently he was racing Noah in the butterfly (Noah’s best event?) and when he started to pass him, Noah turned his head and bit him!

Mortified, I stammered, apologized and took Noah’s goggles off so that he could look his victim in the eyes while he apologized. That’s when the father saw Noah’s disability and quickly walked away.

Joe walked into the pool entrance and was quickly filled in on what had just taken place. My man was MAD! Not at Noah, at me! He started to raise his voice (which he seldom does) and told me my priorities were all wrong! Our oldest friends came by and tried to usher us in a corner, but Joe wouldn’t have it.

He wanted me to resign my ‘important” position and do what only I could do, parent Noah. Ever since Joe married me at 23, he has worked tirelessly to provide for the four kids and I. Often working 60 hours a week to allow me to homeschool our children. Often that means he misses out on events and programs.

I sheepishly went to Brendan and resigned from my position. I spent the remainder of the season, cheering on our kids and being on bite patrol. It’s a mistake I repeatedly make. I want to believe that parenting a child with special needs is just like parenting my typical children. It is…until its not. It is during those times where things go off kilter, that I need to be ready to step in and give the extra support needed.

Noah, now at 16 needs me less and less. Still the text, call or email comes where extra love and care is essential. I am so grateful for the grace given to me by my family, Noah’s teachers and friends as we grow up together. Doing hard things with great love.

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