For the Love of a Boy
Boy do I love me some Olympic swimming. And no, not because swimmers are hot. I just think elite swimming is a gorgeous sport. I’ll concede that the media were just SILLY with all the Phelps Mania — it’s not like the kid got Russia to pull out of Georgia or solved global warming or anything — but nevertheless, I got very caught up in his story. Not just his awesome physical feats, but his mom — how much do we love Deborah Phelps? I read somewhere that half the time she was in the nosebleed seats with his sisters, that there were several times after winning a race that he searched for but couldn’t pick out her face in the crowd. But whenever he could break free from the packs of sports-a-razzi and fans, he always managed to get to her — scrambling up rows of bleachers just to touch her hand.
I cannot imagine what it must feel like to be Deborah Phelps. Does her heart threaten to burst right out of her chest with pride and adoration for this spectacular boy she’s brought into the world? I am not the mother of an Olympian, but I am completely, hopelessly, painfully besotted with my five-year old son. I burst with pride on a daily basis at stuff he does — forget gold medals, I collapse in a puddle watching him build a Lego Imperial Starcruiser unassisted for the first time.
So I’m obsessed with and inspired by the Phelps mother-son bond. Even moreso after reading about Michael’s ADHD and how Deborah had the good sense to know early on that relief for her boy might come in the water. I read in a wonderful article by Karen Crouse in the NY Times this weekend that Deborah received a letter from one of Michael’s third grade teachers, someone who saw him struggle with concentration and focus before he found his way into a swimming pool — and the teacher’s words pierced my heart. She wondered in the letter if “perhaps, it had never been focus he lacked, but rather, a goal worthy of his focus.”
I will keep this article near me at all times to remind myself that if I was put on earth to do one thing (other than hopefully be good at PR), it’s to advocate for my child. To help him discover goals “worthy of his focus.” While navigating all the while minefields of harried educators and indifferent doctors who find it easier to slap on a label and prescribe a pill. Any other moms of pre-school boys out there have a teacher tell them to to have their kid evaluated because he wouldn’t sit still during Circle Time? Or have a developmental pediatrician who had spent all of 20 minutes with her son suggest he might have Aspergers because he didn’t maintain eye contact properly? And suggest — after the same 20 minutes — that perhaps medication would be an appropriate intervention?
Intervention for what, exactly? Being a pre-school boy?
I am forever inspired by Deborah Phelps and her son’s achievement. And ADHD or not, all the other parents out there who have the guts to trust their instincts and do what’s right for their children when the system labels them “problems.” I’d love to hear from anyone else out there who’s lived through something similar, and how they dealt with it.