The night before Sebastian’s birthday he said, “This is the last day of 16.” He was taking the time to be in the moment. He was saying goodbye and doing a fine job of making me stop to be in the moment with him – to appreciate his sentimentality, sensitivity, and gratitude for this life and this milestone.
To celebrate his 17th birthday, 25 of Sebastian’s cross country teammates came over for dinner. While Sebastian celebrated a new year, I stood in awe of his accomplishments. He recently received a driving permit. He also set a new personal record in cross country-a full minute and a half faster than last year. He’s convinced me to help him look at college programs with cross country teams. He invited his team over to celebrate his birthday, and they showed up!
It’s not that I’m surprised by this.
I appreciate it.
I appreciate that Sebastian has spent the majority of his education in specialized, self-contained, and to put it bluntly segregated classes. One of the things I admire about my son, is that he does not allow his educational needs to define who he is.
I appreciate his hard work, determination, and his truthful, kind heart. All of which allow him to seek out and find his own sense of belonging.
I appreciate that he is apart of a group of teens who are happy to frequently hang out together in the safety of a teammate’s home.
I also appreciate that he has coaches who believe in a “Everyone Is Welcome” mentality. Inclusion doesn’t just happen. It takes positive attitudes and acceptance. Coaches Blake and Jackson are incredible models of acceptance.
Acceptance, in my opinion, is not reflected in the many inspiration porn stories of the “special needs student scoring a touchdown,” for example.
Acceptance is seeing a person’s strengths over their challenges. Acceptance is giving a person room to develop into their best self, not creating artificial scenarios. Acceptance is seeing and treating a person with respect every day not just when it makes you look good.
Sure, on Sebastian’s birthday, acceptance looked like 25 teammates in my garage playing Ping Pong and NoK Hockey, but not because they showed up on that one day.
It’s acceptance because every day at practice teammates urge Sebastian to do his best. And he urges them. It’s acceptance because no teammate eats lunch alone. It’s acceptance when a teammate helps Sebastian set up his Snap Chat so he can communicate with the team.
Acceptance was reflected in a lengthy card a teammate wrote to him highlighting his positive qualities.
It’s acceptance when Sebastian took a fairly long pause before blowing out his birthday candles and all I saw was smiles. I might have prompted him to make his wish, I don’t remember. If I did, he didn’t rush. I’m glad he didn’t. It was a good moment to savor.
I’m glad he took the time to remind us.