Young child with cerebral palsy in wheelchair tosses a bean bag at a yellow matt in front of them.

Field Day 2014-Maya tells Mom, “I’m going, so stop pushing the issue!”

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When will this mom ever learn?

In my attempt to protect Maya I told her teacher that we would not be attending the school’s Field Day today. I planned to make an alternate fun activity day for her at home. She was not very happy with me when she found out. We talked about it and I shared my concerns including something that happened this past weekend.

We went to our friend’s house and when we arrived the family was in the backyard. Maya became very upset and said she didn’t want to go back there and instead preferred to go into the house. When I asked her why she told me because there was nothing for her to do in the yard. Hearing these words and knowing she was starting to openly process what it’s like to be left out hurt me deeply. But in this case I actually disagreed with her, because she had always been able to find something fun to do here. We went back to see our friends and she decided she wanted to stay there for a while and hang out on the trampoline. Any thought or feeling about not being able to find something she could do seemed to have left her. But it didn’t leave me. It was the first time I had heard Maya clearly articulate her feelings about being left out. So, on the following Monday when the email from her school Principal came around that they were having a Field Day this week I thought to myself, “No way”.

But I was wrong. What happened the other day was not carrying over for Maya into how she was thinking about Field Day. I figured this because she didn’t know what activities they would have. So I  went on to explain more about Field Day to her. It didn’t matter. She made it very clear to me that I had crossed a line and she absolutely would be attending. When I told her we would have a back up plan if it didn’t work out she turned to me, clenching her teeth and said, “Mom, STOP PUSHING <the issue>”!

I was a bit surprised and perhaps shocked by her response. I didn’t want her to feel left out, left behind, or sad. I had the best intentions.
But, what Maya wanted was to be able to make her own decision. I actually think this was more important to her than whether she participated in Field Day. One of my personal rules in navigating new circumstances or activities with her has always been to present the options and we discuss them together. I violated that rule in this case. I figured she didn’t know what she was getting into and I didn’t feel that I could make potato sack races, speed games etc work for her.

She was angry. She gave me a laundry list of ways she would make this work for herself.

I really goofed. My own child was pleading her case for inclusion. 🙁

Well, I made it right. Last night I called her teacher and e-mailed the school Principal that she would be attending and I would be there to volunteer. I also promised her that I would once again not make decisions about her participation in activities without her being involved. And I realized that what she feels may vary from one day to another. Some days she may feel like being creative and having us adapt activities and other days she may say “No, thanks”. But ultimately, the choice is hers. That was the take home lesson for this Mom.

So look who had a great time at Field Day…


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