My kid's school is finally sponsoring a Girls On The Run group. If you're not familiar with that, go here. It's one of my favorite after-school programs and I was stoked that we finally had one in our reach. Since my sweet Hannah struggles with the very issues they focus on in GOTR, I was insanely excited to get her on board. I met with Coach Kelly who is a teacher at the school that I've gotten to know quite well through my years in PTO and she offered me a chance at coaching with her since the turnout they've had has been tremendous. I had never considered coaching but was happy to help since I knew how much of a difference it could make for Hannah. The problem? The program is intended for girls in 3rd the 5th grade. My Hannah is in 2nd grade. The coach told me to bring her along, especially since I could only be there at one practice a week. Who would care, we both thought?
On Thursday, Hannah and I went to our first practice of Girls On The Run and can I just say, WOW. The lesson for the day was spot on for Hannah and I could visibly see her loosening up and feeling differently about herself. She raised her hand and joined in the conversation. She stood tall among the girls. And when it came time to run, my little sweetie and I pounded out 1.2 miles. She was overjoyed. Exuberant. So insanely proud of herself and on the way home, she said, "Mom, it doesn't matter than I feel too tall to do ballet anymore because I'm going to be a runner."
You see, my Hannah struggles. She struggles with being taller than every other person in her class, boys included. She struggles with feeling good about herself because all she can see is how different she is from her friends. She struggles with having the confidence in herself to try new things and will readily sit out of activities because she's afraid of making a mistake or drawing attention to herself. Hannah has a hard time being Hannah, and nothing is harder to see as her Mom. It feels like a gigantic failure on my part and all I want is for her to know how amazing she is. No, not just know it, but believe it.
And that's why Girls On The Run was a perfect match for her. That's why the focus of the curriculum seems designed specifically for her. That's why the high she felt on Thursday was heartbreaking because of the lows she felt on Friday.
Someone didn't like that Hannah got to go to that practice on Thursday and called the YMCA (who oversees the program) to complain. And this someone didn't call me first to find out the details of what was going on before they made sure she couldn't go to practice anymore. And someone jumped to conclusions without knowing the facts and Hannah got caught in the middle. I awoke Friday to an email from the director of the program saying how incredibly sorry she was but that because of the complaint, Hannah wouldn't be able to participate anymore. Even though I was going to be with her the entire time and would take full responsibility for her. Even though I was willing to give of my time by coaching in hopes that Hannah could begin to benefit from the program. Even though my daughter desperately needed the positive effects of this program and there wasn't anything else like it to meet her needs. Even though.
And I sobbed. Like huge, crocodile tears that I could not contain or keep in. It broke my heart to know that I had just found the very thing Hannah needed but couldn't give it to her. If I had been able to calm myself down, I never would have told Hannah what was happening before I sent her to school but because I was a mess and she wanted to know why, I told her. Her huge eyes filled with tears and she fell into me, hugging me tight. "Why do they care Mama? Why can't I do it anymore?"
And this is where I'm kind of stuck. Because I understand why someone got annoyed. I understand how it's not fair. I understand that to someone, it probably looked like I got preferential treatment because of my history with the school. But I also understand that it's important to fight for your kids. That if you know of some way to help your child, you should go for it. That volunteering to fill a position that no one else wants sometimes brings a few perks.
But mostly I'm just sad. Sad that one of my "friends" on Facebook would take it to the next level without talking to me first. Sad that my Hannah got knocked down just as she started to stand up tall. Sad that something that has the best of intentions created so much heartbreak at our house this weekend.
In the midst of all this yuck, and just when I was starting to doubt the goodness of people, some amazing things happened. Another mother of a girl on the team contacted me and told me she be happy to help me coach a younger girl's running group. A sister from my ward sent me a message, offering her thoughts and insights and giving me some suggestions on how to proceed. My ever-so-thoughtful sister-in-law Tiff send Hannah a beautiful boquet of flowers with a huge balloon and a card attached which read, "we think you're pretty special." And Coach Kelly? She offered to coach Hannah privately on her own time, recreating the lessons with her so that Hannah wouldn't lose the momentum of beginning to feel good about herself.
And I sobbed again.
I'm still heartbroken about it. I still ache for my Hannah to see herself as we all see her. But we'll keep working on it. We'll keep fighting for her and giving her what she needs. And next year, when she's in 3rd grade, we'll be part of an amazing Girls On The Run group.