“MacDonald the Younger” is entering the seventh grade this year. His health is terrific, and for the first time in his life, there is very little fear about participating in physical education.
He knows that contact sports are out of the question and he must wear his MedicAlert bracelet every day. While this may sound very limiting, those of us who live with bleeding disorders see such precautions as routine. There are still many things that our sons and daughters can do compared to what they can’t.
My son’s issues are unique due to the many bleeds that damaged his left knee joint and his left ankle. While the bleeding stopped years ago, the aftermath still rears its ugly head.
“Mr. MacDonald” has trouble keeping up with the other boys. He struggles when playing street sports. He expressed to me on several occasions that he can’t run as fast as the other kids and that people may not want him to play on their teams. I listen, and it kills me. The only thing I can say to him is that I understand, and that winning is not as important as being with your friends.
I also share his frustration. “Yes, buddy, it sucks that you have some issues from past bleeds. I get it, but don’t let anything stop you. Go out and play and have fun.”
My son is an extrovert to the highest degree. He never meets a stranger, and through the several moves we’ve made due to my line of work, “Mr. Man” finds a friend within the first day we call a new area home.
Sometimes his openness is a little frightening. “MacDonald the Older” calls his little brother “Dad in his purest form.”
So it is no wonder that he wants to join a sports team. He wants to play basketball for his middle school. I am not sure whether he wants to play for the sake of the game or to be a part of something bigger than himself.
Whatever the reason, he hopes to participate in a competitive activity that demands physical requirements on the joints that give the most significant amount of trouble. The street is fun, but a sanctioned team changes the landscape.
He tells me, “Dad, I want to play basketball in school this year.” What am I supposed to say? My first thought is, “Absolutely not!” I want to protect him from the team members that taunt him because of his speed. I want to choose what I think is the best path for him.
“Why not chess?” I ask. He responds, “Chess is great, but I also want to play basketball.” With his last statement, I call a truce, hoping to find another way to direct him to something else that doesn’t require him to run.
I think of all the issues that he might face, and then I am hit with a sobering reality. The truth is, I can’t protect my son from the world for all his life. I want to, but I can’t. He may play basketball for a few months and realize that the pesky bleeds of the past caught up to him.
Whatever the decision, this must be something he chooses. I can inform my son and help him think about consequences, but I cannot make his choices. Stepping back and allowing a growing child to take the wheel is one of the most challenging situations a parent must face.
We equip our sons and daughters with wings. We must let them fly. How can they soar when we keep their feet on the ground?
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