My Cheeks Hurt From Smiling

Saturday was a day that I desperately needed.  After a school field trip in which I could not help but compare, that left me wondering about the Roc’s future and how to prepare him for the cruelness of others, to the defiance and discipline issues we’ve been facing of late, and a joke I heard that stung my heart instead of making me laugh.  I really needed Saturday.  I needed to see the good.  The good in friends, in strangers, in the Roc, in GC, in our life.  I needed to smile.

And on Saturday I did.

On Saturday morning I ran with my good friend Kelly, who moved into my little neighborhood a year and a half ago, and who happens to have a 10 year old on the spectrum.  I saw the magnets on the back of her car and introduced myself the first chance I got, which happened to be in the days where her house was still filled with boxes, I wasted no time.  Upon introduction I told her that my son had been diagnosed with autism and she stepped out her front door and hugged me.  I never looked back.  She gets it.  I knew we would be friends.  And so a year and a half later we are training for a half marathon and have a pact to run our long weekend runs together.  We run slow and we talk and laugh and tell the stories no one else would understand.  On Saturday she sucked in her breath just the way I knew she would when I recounted a joke that everyone laughed at, except me.  And we discussed how autism has fundamentally changed us, to the core.  How we will never again laugh at vulnerability.  I am not the same person I was 2+ years ago.  I am better.

So I smiled as I ran and discussed life with my good friend Kelly.  And we high fived at the end of our 9 miles, the farthest either of us has ever ran.

A couple hours later the Roc had his first baseball practice for the challenger team.  The challenger team is part of our area’s little league and is totally free of charge for children with disabilities ages 5 – 18 years of age.  I had heard of challenger teams but did not know there was one right in my town, and that they play at the park we can walk to.  A letter had come home in the Roc’s backpack a few weeks ago and I called the coordinator to get a feel for what it entailed.  After hearing her say it was all about getting the kids out there and having fun I signed the Roc up.  Last year it may have all been too much for him, but he was excited this year, and I was excited at the opportunity for him to expand.  And so yesterday, at the appointed time, we trooped over to the field to meet up with many people we did not know, and of course, as it is in our world, to see a few familiar faces and thus grin in recognition.  GC is to be the Roc’s “buddy” and help him during practices and games and I am so excited for them.  For them to have something in which I am on the sidelines, an observer.  For them to forge a deeper bond through baseball.  And so I smiled as I watched them play catch.

I smiled as GC helped the Roc when it was his turn up to bat.

I smiled as they ran the bases and the coaches cheered him on.

I smiled and my eyes filled up with tears as I looked around at all these children, who if not for challenger teams, would not have the opportunity to play baseball.  To throw a ball, to swing a bat, to cheer for their teammates (and those on the other team as well, because really, it’s about playing, not winning), and to hear the words “Great job!” or “Nice swing!” and “Go Roc, Go!”  It was more fun that I had imagined it to be, and the Roc enjoyed himself doing something brand-new.  An accomplishment in of itself.  Practice was an hour long, and when it was over the Roc said he had a good time and would go again.  I smiled all the way home.

After a quick wardrobe change we went over to the B’s house for dinner.  It was so fun to sit at the B’s dinner table, with our boys, and share a delicious meal.  And of course the Roc getting up from the table to go hide behind a pillow in the living room didn’t phase the B’s at all – they live with the quirks of autism too.  After dinner Christa and I popped the little boys in her car and our husbands rode together in a our car, and we all went up to the Please Touch Museum for autism awareness night.  The Roc had never been and I was a little worried about how he would react to all the stimulation there, and then when I saw the crowd of people going in I worried about how he would handle all the movement and noise the hoard of adults and children were sure to create.  Not to mention that the only people there were families with children with autism.  I didn’t have to worry, he followed P’s lead and had a great time exploring all the things to do and see.  I smiled when his eyes lit up as soon as he saw the “digger” in the Road Construction exhibit, as construction vehicles have been a hot topic of car conversation lately.

I smiled while helping him navigate the crowded grocery store and while checking out his chosen food items (fruit and cake) and when he climbed into the back of a dump truck to play with the “bricks” at a construction site.

I laughed out loud when he played the part of a doctor in the clinic, white lab coat donned, and told me as I laid on an exam table that I needed to “listen more” when I asked him what ailed me.  I smiled at his excitement for the carousal and even though the batteries were conking out in my camera, I was able to snap a picture of GC and the Roc before the ride started.

We saved the best for last and I smiled to see the Roc’s reaction to the “River Adventures” exhibit.  WATER.  He was in heaven.

I did have to bribe the Roc to leave, as it was already 8:30 pm, but I smiled as he said he wanted to come back again.  And that he wanted to come back with the B’s.  We drove home exhausted from a very full day.  A day in which I celebrated the knowledge of good friends and deepening friendships, rejoiced to see the Roc try a sport, cheer and be cheered for, and share something with only his father.  An evening spent with a wonderful family, watching our 2 little boys enjoy each other and have fun in a place just for kids on a night that was just for them.

I smiled thinking over how lucky we are to have our friends who have made this state finally start to feel like home, to have our boy, to have each other, and to experience all we get to experience.

After a long week I really needed a day like Saturday.

My cheeks hurt from all the smiling.

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8 thoughts on “My Cheeks Hurt From Smiling

  1. What a fun Saturday! You ran 9 miles? Wow, I get ecstatic if I run for 9 minutes. 🙂

    Looks like you, GC, and the Roc had a fantastic day. I can imagine your pride, joy, happiness, and excitement as you watched him play ball.

    Here’s to your cheeks hurting from smiling!!

  2. AWESOME! The baseball, though? Made me cry happy tears. I want that for Nik, too, but he’s not quite there yet.

    Wanted to go to the museum but didn’t get my tkt request in before it sold out. 😦 Did you get to see Holly Robinson Peete, too?

  3. Sounds wonderful!! We do Challenger baseball and basketball with our son. It’s a fabulous organization and yes, I smile all the time too, watching my guy on the field, made to feel that his physical limitations fade away under so much support and guidance. I say it all the time: God bless those volunteers.

  4. Oh what a wonderful day!!! I just signed George up for Challenger baseball, his first day is this coming Saturday, you’ve just made me more excited!

    I’m so glad you have such a great friend, too. I have a good friend in my neighborhood who’s son is 5 years older than George (and autistic). She and I walk our hills three times a week. There’s something about the combination of exercise and understanding that just lifts you for days, isn’t there?

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