Today my youngest son won the Most Valuable Player Award for his school’s basketball team. He was chosen by his coach to receive the most prestigious of all awards because he never missed a practice or a game, gave his best effort every time, demonstrated a positive attitude and never ever complained.
When Aaron’s name was announced, the crowd erupted in cheers. A young girl came rushing up to Aaron to give him a hug. (I spoke to her Educational Assistant afterwards and she said she and Aaron are great friends). I was in the audience and I’ll admit that I cried like a little baby.
“I am FAMOUS!” was Aaron’s initial enthusiastic response. Afterwards, when asked why he won the award, and he shrugged and said, “because I am good at basketball.”
Recently I wrote about the whole Mascot Thing and how Aaron was truly part of this team. I’m not going to analyze his award and think: Was this tokenistic? Did he get it because he has Down syndrome?
No. He is MVP because his coach decreed so. Period. Explaining it away because he has a disability is wrong. Why would I diminish this recognition for him?
I cried because I am proud of him. I cried because he’s my Most Valuable Player too. I cried because he experienced belonging as part of of a team. I cried because his coach gave him equal playing time at every game. I cried because someone believed in him. I cried because it hurts his knee when he runs, but he ran his fastest every game.
Yes, I also cried because sometimes my life is hard. I cried because of all the stares in the mall, the questions about prenatal testing, the lack of mom friends in the school yard, the fights to get funding, the forgotten birthday invitations. Did I selfishly cry because of all the struggle and society-induced pain? Maybe. But screw all that today.
Aaron’s victory is 100% his. Nobody gifted to him. He won it because his principal and coach gave him the opportunity to play. He earned it fair and square. He won it because he’s good at basketball. He won it because if you crawl out of bed early on Monday mornings to attend 8 am practices, carefully pick your water bottle and basketball shoes, pack your own gym bag, listen to your coach, show up to every game, work hard in spite of your limitations and fully pour your heart into your passion, one day you might be lucky enough to be recognized with an award.
To me this MVP award is a simple reminder that life is generous and sweet. Tonight, we celebrate Aaron. Hamburgers & fries all around!