I Cried the First Time I Watched My Son Wrestle



My middle son, Colt, told me not too long ago that he wanted to wrestle. We are a sports family, but wrestling has never been one of those sports. AND this child is on the spectrum . . . now, all that really means for him is that he's not going to pick up on any social hints you drop, he's incredibly literal, and he's finicky about sensations. Yes, the child who is finicky about sensations told me he wanted to wrestle - where people are constantly touching you and holding you down and forcing your body into positions you don't want it to be in. But I have always determined that I would not hold my children back by forcing artificial boundaries on them that they don't have for themselves - so if the boy wanted to wrestle, we were going to let him try it out.

A couple of weekends ago, we went to his first wrestling tournament. I was so naive. We were supposed to be there at 9 am, and, in all seriousness, I made plans for 11 am. I thought we would walk in, he would have his match, he would lose because he's brand new and we would be able to leave because he was out of the tournament. Any of you with any familiarity with wrestling are laughing at me because you know I couldn't have been further from the truth.

We arrived at 9. Coach arrived at 9:15. We sat in the stands. About 10:30 they announced they were going to start the matches. I think Colt's first match was #47 on Mat 2. That means there were going to be 46 matches before him and that ultimately meant he didn't wrestle for the first time until about 2 pm in the afternoon.

I had no idea what to expect. This momma is a proud sports mom who rings her cowbell until people around us are deaf, and can keep up with any dad when it comes to encouraging the players . . . correcting the players, and even sometimes the ref or the other team's coach. But in wrestling, there isn't so much yelling and there certainly aren't cowbells.

My son lined up across from his opponent, and Momma yelled and didn't care who heard her or what they thought. I wanted him to know someone had his back because he was taking a beating on the mat. His face was smashed. His arm was twisted. He was thrown around like a rag doll a couple of times. But that boy kept fighting, right up until time expired, and while he technically lost on points, he won by a long shot on heart, fight, and toughness.

But . . . I cried. I didn't cry because he lost. Remember, I thought he was going to lose from the beginning. I didn't cry because he was injured. He wasn't. I cried because I knew exactly what he felt like on that mat, even though I didn't know a thing about wrestling.

I know what it is like to find yourself facing something that feels really big and intimidating.

I know how hard it is to put on a brave face and stare it down like it's nothing.

I know what it's like when it kicks your tail just like you were afraid it would.

I also know what it's like to not give in . . . to keep fighting because you're tough as nails and you'll give every last ounce of strength you have before you let yourself get beat.

I saw the toughest days - the ones I don't share and won't even admit to myself most of the time - as he got all twisted up. Those emotions were so familiar - the frustration of not being able to make things happen the way you want, the anger that you're getting pushed around and everything is out of your control, the confusion about why nothing seems to go the way everyone said it was going to.

I knew.

I felt the lion inside him roar when he got sick of the pressure pushing down on him and tired of being stuck in an awkward position he hated and absolutely refused to give up and give in, even if that would make it all end quickly.

I recognized the desperation that drove him to literally explode off the ground and throw his opponent off his back.

I saw the confidence that came rushing in just before the next blow knocked him back to his face.

I identified with the emotions that poured into his face, mixing all together as he refused to bow to the repeated blows and the unyielding pressure but wasn't quite certain how long he could hold out.

The final buzzer sounded and he was exhausted, he was beat up, he was wrung dry emotionally . . . but I knew he was stronger in that moment than he had ever been before that wrestling match.

And this Momma cried.

Today, we got the results back from my scan. There are areas lighting up in my thyroid bed that shouldn't be. It looks like some lymph nodes are migrating over and are likely still contaminated. The next step is a sonogram, but my lymph nodes never "look suspicious" on a sonogram even though 11 of them had to be removed during my original surgery and one of them was large enough to be considered its own separate tumor. After the sonogram, they will biopsy if they think they should. I will probably push for that even if they think it's not necessary. I've been right more times than they have about the severity and significance of first my nodule, and then my biopsy results, and then the extent of surgery needed and even the outcome of this latest scan. Maybe God has been good to not let me be surprised.

I know what it feels like to step out on that mat and know this is going to be a tough match. I know how to look tough and be even tougher on the inside, all while a hurricane of emotions swirls around. I know where my child learned to be a roaring lion against seemingly unjust threats.

I also know how important it is to hear those voices yelling for you from the sidelines. I know how it can give you a surge of strength just when you think you have used every drop you have.

So, now, we fight on.

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