Watching with Pride

Texas Pool Volleyball

Last weekend we attended the wedding of Kathy’s nephew. It was a reunion of sorts, because her family is spread across Texas and we rarely travel down from Minnesota to visit all of them.

On the day of the wedding, the wedding attendants and their friends stopped by to hang out at my brother-in-law’s swimming pool. The guys started up a game of pool volleyball. We didn’t mention Melissa’s disability to them, assuming that once they interacted with her, they would figure it out. The guys were drinking and generally cutting up when I heard one yell out “that’s retarded,” which of course got the hair up on the back on my neck. I hate the R-Word and wanted to offer a lecture, but decided to let it pass.

After the guys finished their game, they formed two teams that included the girls. I held my breath watching Melissa wait patiently to be invited to play. They picked her for one of the teams, and I could see how excited she was to get a chance to play.

They were all really great with her.

Nobody SLAMMED the ball at her. And when she did get the chance to hit the ball, she did a great job. She had a couple of nice saves … and a couple of aces when serving. Each time their team scored, there were high-fives all around. Melissa was bursting with pride at being a part of the winning team.

I was happy for her success.

But I was also struck by her struggle to fit in socially with them. She tried to make small-talk, but it just didn’t happen for her. They responded politely and supportively anyway. I’m convinced that her enthusiasm won them over!


Later that evening at the wedding reception, the guys and girls sought out Melissa and included her in their dancing and picture-taking.

Watching her with them brought a lump to my throat, proud that she was able to be part of the “group” activity.

The girls were especially nice to Melissa—which told me a lot about their character and upbringing. But again the other side of the emotional roller-coaster emerged as Melissa gathered with them. All the girls were beautiful in their glamorous mini-skirts and stiletto heels. It wasn’t hard to see that Melissa was different from them (wearing her comfortable tennis shoes!). But these fashion differences did not stop Melissa from having a blast.

My question today is … do you experience these same emotions when you watch your special child interact with their unaffected peers?


5 Responses to Watching with Pride