Incognito Autistic…at Sports Day

So, my daughter had Sports Day today. And it sparked many thoughts and feelings and memories.

I used to hate Sports Day. The mere thought of its approach filled me with dread. I hated the break in routine, the noise, the general chaos, and the other kids. And I hated the physicality of it. It hurt. My joints hurt, my sides hurt, my brain hurt.

I would try my very very best. But my efforts were always in vain. Invariably, I’d come last in every event. One year, I did manage to come second last in a race. I still remember it clearly. The effort nearly killed me.

In secondary school, I once hid in the changing room. The male PE teacher went in and chased me out. Yes, very inappropriate. But the guy didn’t like me as I clearly hated PE. After that, I used to go hide out in the nurse’s office, faking a migraine. Though often the migraine was real, brought on by the stress of it all.

I thought, as an adult, my Sports Day days were behind me. No such luck.

The year I lived in Japan, I had to take part in the Sports Day of the junior high school I was teaching in. They take Sports Day very seriously there. An all-day event. In the height and heat of Summer. And the teachers have to take part. As in, physically. Which meant I had to go buy a tracksuit and runners for this one day. I managed to avoid most events, but got snared into the 100m relay. And ended up the laughing stock of the school as I wasn’t versed in the correct way to pass the baton and so our team lost.

And now, I’m not a student, I’m not a teacher. But as a parent, I have a slightly different version of Sports Day. It consists of turning up in a local field. Alone. While the other moms somehow gather in groups of two or three. And I stand there, in the inevitable rain, cheering my kids on and taking photos. Cheering them up when they too come last in every event. Shooting wicked looks at the kids who giggle and tease them for it. Hoping the teacher will do her job and sort them out, but unable to approach her to make sure. Counting the minutes till I can go home and sit down. Wincing at the loudspeaker announcing the next event. Grateful the school doesn’t give out medals. And though the kids seem to enjoy themselves, and never protest about it, grateful that my GP suggested pulling a sickie if they didn’t want to attend. Wish I’d been allowed to do that!

So, today I survived another Sports Day. Because the school is quite large, they do it over two days, so I’ll have to endure it again tomorrow. So I just need to grin and bear it, and be thankful I don’t need to run in any relays!

[image of two rows of children, in a field, taking part in a race, holding hula hoops. There are two red cones in the foreground.  The image contains a ‘Canva’ watermark including diamond hatching, indicating this is a stock photo and not a photo of my actual children.]

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