Stupid iPhone. I almost missed it trying to get the thing unfroze as I was attempting to take a video for Chrissy. But, I looked up just in time to see a basketball leave his hands and bounce off the backboard into the net. His face visibly shocked, he never thought it would go in. But that basket was so, so much more.
This scenario happened years ago, but I remember it vividly.
Just a short time before this moment, we wouldn’t dare attempt basketball practice. More coordination than soccer, more instructions for his brain to remember. Things that due to abuse & neglect are simply difficult for him to process. But 15 minutes into his first ever practice, he was soaring.
At that moment the ball hit the net, I shouted out “Great job buddy!” Apparently that was enough for all the other parents to leave their smartphone trance to give me a quizzical look. It was just one of a hundred baskets during a routine practice.
I didn’t care. This was our miracle moment. He connected that ball with the basket, something that he never ever thought he would do. And frankly, something we didn’t know either. Just two hours before practice started, we still didn’t know if he was going to go.
My heroes are my tiny humans. Well, they once were. One comes up to my nose, smells like a middle school locker room and fancies himself my equal. The other, just as fragrant, with a little less height and a one foot in childhood fantasy and one in adolescence. The things these boys have been through, the victories they’ve won inspire me to be a better dad all the time.
I grew up in a pretty cushy place, in a childhood where there was love and encouragement and discipline (ok lots of discipline- but that was of my own doing). I never remember wondering if we were going to have heat in the house or food in the pantry. I never cowered in fear from a beating.
Children shouldn’t ever know such things. But, sadly some do. Many actually. Mine did. Years later, they worry about whether we’ll have enough money to buy food or whether there’s enough gas in the car. They listen intently to adult conversations, ready to jump back into survival mode.
They don’t realize it yet, but they are conquerors. They’re fear slayers. They make the giant beings in comic books look like pushovers. They know how to survive, adapt, overcome, adjust, grow, learn and thrive. They know how to keep going when that is the last thing they want to do.
Take my ball player. He was all soccer, but his brother wanted to play basketball- so both of them showed up for team placement skills day. It wasn’t, shall we say, his finest moment.
My soul cringed a bit as he attempted to dribble the ball down the court in a skills evaluation. When it was over, he knew. Defeated, he came to me and said, “that was pretty bad, wasn’t it?” I couldn’t even pretend it wasn’t. “You went out there and did it,” was the best I could come up with.
He fretted back and forth for days on whether he would actually go through with it. While we encouraged him to give it a try, we also told him it was ok to take the season off. He thought long and hard about it, but he went for it and I think by the season end, he might have even enjoyed it. He made that lay-up on the second try, just 15 minutes into that first practice. I don’t think he made another one all season, but he didn’t need to, he made that one.
It’s that spirit of overcoming that we as foster and adoptive parents have the privilege of seeing first hand. What a privilege to get a front row seat for life change. It’s that experience that fuels our desire to do what we do. It’s the encouragement to keep going in the hard moments.
I love my heroes. They’re the best thing that ever happened to us.