Fucking gym class. Seriously. Stupid, fucking gym class.
I could sprint faster than any other girl–and most boys–in my elementary school, but anything requiring me to connect any type of ball with any type of implement? Not so much. Embarrassingly not so much. Only as an adult did I learn that my visual-motor integration was so weak it was laughable, but that came decades too late to save me from the horror that is middle school PE. Fucking gym class. Unless you’re the grand-slam hitting slugger or a budding Aaron Rodgers, you probably didn’t love gym class all the time. Even if it wasn’t wholesale awful, few adults reflect on that time with fondness. Ask your friends, I’ll wait.
Bombardment, anyone? Right? As if it were yesterday, I can picture my pudgy adolescent self stuffed into my late-seventies-too-short kelly green gym suit dashing up to that line, hoping against hope I’d snatch the ball from the line.
Nope. Never happened. I was hammered every time. Bombardment is Dodgeball, and Dodgeball is a tormentor’s dream come true. No one has friends on the Dodgeball court; not even your friends are your friends.
I’m relieved that my children’s physical education classes are less bully pulpit and more about team-building and lifetime activity, but still, gym class isn’t exactly a child with a neuromuscular disease’s fave, you can imagine. A few weeks back, the “lifetime activity” was climbing a cargo net. Quietly that evening during our commute to his volunteering gig, my big kid proclaimed his victory over the cargo net. His hands were blistered and even a little bit bloody, but he reached the summit. He’s not one for overstatement–OK, he’s not much for statement–but I could tell it mattered to him.
Last week’s class had the kids breaking into self-selected groups for some type of activity. I didn’t get a real good sense about what the activity was, because gym class that day for him was about being excluded. Kids are nice enough to my boy, but they’re not blind: he’s not the kid you would choose for your PE team. And he wasn’t. Chosen, that is. The cool kids immediately found each other, and the outliers shuffled around (this is how it looked in my head anyway) looking for the “best” of the leftovers. Yeah, “best” in BS fakey quotes. My kid was never in the running for his friends’ group, and then two other groups bounced him before he kinda gave up. I kinda stopped listening here because I was all about the tears near to overflowing. I faked my own urgent business to attend to in the kitchen, regrouped, then presented myself back at the dining room table. *sigh*
I met with his school’s Section 504 coordinator two weeks ago, saying I was worried about PE, among other things, as we look toward high school. I wondered about accommodations which might become necessary for him, but believed that those weren’t necessary quite yet. I wanted my kid to have the choice to participate or not–not to be fully excused from physical education necessarily, but to allow him the opportunity to choose to opt in or out. That evening’s dinner revelation felt like a prime moment to share that conversation with my son, and without a moment’s hesitation, he wanted out. Now. Now!
See, the outliers know already. You don’t have to torture them picking teams playground rules-style. They know.