Whenever I have the chance to take photos at a soccer game, I try to get a picture of the closing handshake. It doesn't matter what happened on the field, in the end, both teams acknowledge the efforts of each other. My son being the goalie, leads the line for his team. On this particular day, his team lost. That's when it is harder to lead the line. I tell him he must still put a smile on his face and be a good example for his teammates.
We spent the weekend in Detroit for a tournament. Truthfully, I was torn about going. Sarah has been so sick, still has her IV line and I was extra tired from being up for three nights. Yet, I did not want to disappoint Matt. He loves his soccer and so looks forward to out-of-town tournaments. On Friday afternoon I needed to wait for the delivery of the IV medications and the first visit with the home health nurse, so another family offered to drive Matt so he could participate in the fun of the afternoon. I followed later in the evening. I personally love three hour drives alone. It is so rare that I have that much time just to myself and it is the perfect time for thinking.
The first game was in a sportsplex in a suburb called Fraser. We were staying in Novi, so the drive was a good thirty minutes. The drive over was uneventful. The drive back, well let's just say it was white knuckles all the way. With all the drama back home, I never thought to pay attention to the weather report for eastern Michigan. Had I known it was due for a blizzard, I would have taken the van, as opposed to my little car we refer to as "the roller skate." During the drive, Matt was receiving text messages from his teammates to meet up at Olive Garden. I was working hard to keep the car on the road, so we did not end up smashed into the median wall or down in the ravine on the side of the road like so many others we were observing. Matt was not being particularly sensitive of the road conditions and just wanted to get to the restaurant.
We finally arrive and find several families gathered at one large table: adults at one end, kids circling the other end. How lucky was I that I got to sit closest to the kids:) Lunch arrived and it appeared everyone was as hungry as I was. Ten minutes or so later, the team clown chooses to attempt to entertain the crowd. So he picks up a strand of spaghetti from his teammate's bowl and proceeds to put it into the straw of the kid sitting next to him. Then he pours pepper into the water glass of another and this continues until he takes an entire meatball out of another kids bowl and puts it into a drinking glass. I watch in horror. I know I am already cranky from the car ride, but these are 6th graders. What happened to the teamwork?
I look at my son, who believe me is no saint, to see what he is doing. I can tell by the look on his face, he is as disgusted by it, as I am. And then we hear, "Oh ------, you are such a RETARD." And then it gets repeated a few more times, retard, retard, retard.
I was so stunned, I was speechless. Matt whips his head around and looks at me. I am waiting for him to say something. I am waiting for him to be that line leader after a loosing game. He says nothing. I want to stand up and say something, I'm not exactly sure what, but something. Then I remember a post that another mom did a while back about her son being upset when her husband said something to one of his friends and I thought to myself that I better let Matt handle this on his own. I recognize this is a heavy burden for a twelve year old though, and I realize we have not really discussed how one might go about this. The conversation moves on and it is not mentioned again until...
...we are back at the hotel and a few of the same kids are running down the hall, screaming about a "retarded policeman." I can tell Matt has had enough, so he sulks up to the room with me. Once we are behind closed doors, he and I have a discussion about the subject. And we do a little research online(so glad I lugged the laptop with me). We discover over on Rejenerations that on March 31, 2009 there is going to be an effort to "eradicate the R word." We are planning how we will participate.
Later that evening, Matt tells me he did share with the one person on the team that he spends a lot of time with, to please not use that word. At least, not around him because it hurts him and his family. I'm so proud of him, and tell him so. I just hope I can continue to give him the tools and support he needs to navigate these deep waters. Maybe a few Saturdays at Sibshops could help.