Updated: Jan 10, 2019
Father of 3
My son, Alex, was born with cerebral palsy. He has always had difficulties with strength and maintaining his balance which caused him to fall a lot growing up. Every time he fell, we would come rushing to help him up and console him if he hurt himself. He wore leg braces as a kid.
Around the age of 3, Alex started showing interest in baseball. By the age of 7, he wanted to try to play teeball in the local YMCA league with the rest of his friends. I was worried. I lacked the confidence that he could do it. I knew that if I put him on a tee ball team, he would immediately become cognizant of his physical disability and possibly expose him to juvenile ridicule. I didn’t want him to become discouraged or develop low self-esteem. Despite my worries, I put him on the team. Walking was already a challenge for Alex, there was no way he could run in teeball. How would he swing a bat? What about catching and throwing a ball?
A few weeks of teeball practice passed, and Alex eventually figured out how to swing a bat, catch a ball, and throw it back. I was so proud and I let him know it. He would repeatedly fall down though. It happened so regularly, teammates and coaches would just help him up and move on. Alex and everyone around him became comfortable with his disability.
The came his first game. Alex was up to bat for the first time. He hit the ball hard between the shortstop and the third baseman. Alex started to run the best he could to first base. He fell soon after. You could hear an audible gasp in the stands. Players stopped. I instinctively started to make my way out to the field, but stopped. Alex and I locked eyes and I motioned for him to get himself up and run to first base. I admit I feared everyone would view me as a heartless dad. Everyone watched as Alex labored to get himself to his feet, but he did it, all by himself, with no help from anyone. That moment changed me and Alex forever. He needed to know that I believed in him and he needed to believe in himself, despite his disability.
There will be a time in your child’s life that they will face true adversity for the first time. How you respond to their adversity will create a standard in their mind that may impact their ability to manage adversity in the future. The level of your child’s confidence will only go as far as their belief in your confidence in them. When that moment comes and you realize your child is facing true adversity, exhibit as much confidence in your child as you can. Let them know they can do anything they set their mind too. Let them know they can overcome any obstacle. If they fall short, and they will sometimes, let them know you’re still there with them and you love them just the same. The most important thing is to make sure they know how much you believe in them and they will continue to believe in themselves.
Today, Alex is a successful college freshman. He is living independently, driving a car, has published over 100 online articles, and is on his way to becoming a sports journalist.