I know you want in on the game. I know it’s a big one. I know you told me I didn’t have to come to the game today because you probably wouldn’t play much. But I came and I’m here and I could not be more proud.
I see you leaning in and cheering on every break away. I see you greet your teammates with a smile at the huddle. I see you listening to your coach looking over with respect-and hope-at each pause in play. I know you want in on the game.
I know you want to play in the game
I know you gave up just as many Friday nights and early weekend mornings as the other kids on the team. I see you out the window shooting foul shots and driving left into the dark. I see you hustle when you get in with two minutes left in the quarter and I see you hold your head high and encourage your replacement when you’re called out again.
I know you think you’re not as strong as your teammates. I know you think you’re too small. But what I’m seeing is someone with a six foot four inch heart that’s going to beat loudly long after the final buzzer.
I know you want in on the game and I know it doesn’t help to hear this now but the world needs more kids like you on the bench-because you will not always be on the bench. I know you want in on the game but I want you to know your day will come. You will get the call. You will be asked to take the ball up the court. You will be counted on by friends and colleagues, neighbors and maybe a family of your own someday to take the lead and to take the ball to the hoop.
As you get older you will use the skills you learned on the bench
As you move beyond this gym, life will frequently feel like a full court press-and you will have to dig into the reserves of patience, humility, sportsmanship and grit you built by sitting on the bench. You won’t always get the nod. Disappointment and loss await as surely as victories and celebration but how you carry yourself court side today hones the traits that will carry you into tomorrow.
You can’t see it now but someday you will understand and draw upon the quiet confidence, compassion, resolve and resilience this time and that bench has nurtured within you.
I know you want in on the game but someday everyone around you, most of all you, will reap the rewards of the time you spent on the bench. I know when the time comes you will make me so proud. You always have. Today is no exception and I’m grateful to be here.
So throw up your arms at the buzzer. Embrace your teammates. Smile and celebrate the win. It’s yours. It’s all of yours.
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Eileen Flood O’Connor is a writer and mother of four, the oldest of whom has an autism spectrum disorder. She writes often about parenting and the joys and challenges of raising a special needs child alongside three ‘lively’ boys.