No, what gets me laser-focused is my son's swim competition. For the Special Olympics.
Of all the things I may go to hell for, this is likely in the top ten. I look at the competition and I say "manageable." I look at Billy and say "potential." I look at a pool and I get goggle-eyed, the chlorine concentration in my blood going just from approaching the parking lot. And what comes out of my mouth is new for me: Win.
He's at the state games this weekend, and what I am supposed to be saying is that he's doing fine. In reality, I think he's far too distracted by Olympic Town, staying in dorms, the Pirate Dance tonight, his hoped-for girlfriend across the tent, the ring pop I brought him and his progress in his Pokemon White game to really focus on his swim time. He told me before the meet even started that there were a lot of faster swimmers there and so he probably wouldn't medal. This, I had to take him aside to discuss.
Billy, I said. You absolutely can medal. Remember how you got the Gold, the Silver and the Bronze at the regional games? That nice police officer put them around your neck? Remember how great that felt? These are a lot of the same swimmers. You can do the same, just try your best, don't worry about any of that other stuff for the minute of each race, okay?
He looked at me like the idiot that I am. Billy is a perceptive boy. And he said it: Mom, it's only a race. It's okay to let other people win. Then it makes them happy. I have a lot of medals already. Then he wandered off to throw balls at a tree to pass the time until he was called.
And herein comes the needs of the Special Olympians' parents. I am aware that I am one of the youngest. In contrast to my grammar school daughters' parent events where my husband and I are ancient, here I am among the Very Young because with genetic testing, the number of kids born with Down Syndrome and other genetic anomalies shrinks more every year. Since Special Olympians can and do compete their whole lives (a heartfelt shout-out to the Special Olympics founders, coaches and volunteers for this), their average age thus creeps up a bit each year. And, most critically, we parents never really fade into the distance. We are not at home waiting for visits. We are feeding their child breakfast, cleaning their clothes, getting them onto buses, bringing them to the doctor and filling their prescriptions just like when our child was ten--but we do it still when our child is thirty, fifty, and beyond. Why not let us live vicariously through our kid every once in awhile? Our responsibility for our child never drops off because they never reach true independence--it stays in the stratosphere of intensity reserved for recalcitrant toddlers and temperamental teenagers, forever.
I of course understand why pregnant people would not volunteer for this, and yet I have the same bittersweet knowledge that they're missing out that all the other parents there have. It is truly fun lots of the time, and much easier to do a good job. Love them, care for them, encourage them, accept them. How hard is that? For every other parent there, seemingly not hard at all. For me? I want more. I want to motivate, to push, to bask in glory. Because every parent has that right, whether they exercise it or not.