​Real Stories of a Disabled Mom: Forgotten Sports Skills Step Up to The Plate

Posted by Kieran O'Brien Kern in Life After Paralysis on May 10, 2022 # Lifestyle

SoftballI have a lot of identities wife, mom, CP diva, writer, theatre & book nerd, motivator, public speaker, we could drill down farther, but I only have 600-ish words here! One of the identities I haven’t associated with myself is in the realm of competitive sports. My corner of suburbia wasn’t exactly a cornucopia of crip-friendly athletic opportunities in the 80s and 90s. The first time I was referred to as an athlete was when I participated in Adaptive Crossfit, and I will say I loved it. But before my neurodivergence takes me down a tangent back to the subject!

My oldest started softball this spring. She was excited to get active with her friends, and I was excited to have her play on a team. But, she had never experienced it before the pandemic.

For what it’s worth, I didn’t think I would bring much to the table other than cheering from the stands and the ability to make a killer brownie for the team. My misspent youth in Pep club with the other misanthropes could be tapped into yet again for planning. I’m much more apt to drape crepe paper than swing a bat.

But what I almost forgot is that a lifetime ago, in a pine forest far, far, away at my first college (sidebar don’t attend a college sight unseen because it says it’s accessible), I lived with softball and baseball players. As the lone wheelchair user in a sea of super-athletic individuals, they made an effort to make me feel like a part of the team. As such, I kept score for the softball home games. Let me clear up until this point; I knew zero about sports. I knew that they needed to hit the ball and run, but that was the summation of my knowledge. I was given the basic rules, a pad and pencil and was told not to get hit just outside second base. This led to practicing fielding in the dorm hallways and picking up an understanding that I didn’t even know was internalized until more than two decades later.

After taking my daughter to purchase her batting helmet, she asked us, “How do you play softball?” My husband is an IT guy, and obviously, dear reader, I am a writer. But I kid you not, it was like a Google search went off in my brain, and the hits kept coming! “Well, the key difference between softball and baseball, is that softball is pitched underhanded with a larger ball.” My husband may have been wondering who the heck he married because I was wondering who the heck I was! Word girl had definitely found a new untapped font of words and knowledge to draw from.

We talked about the strategy for when your team is up at bat and how sometimes you want to get a hit to run all the bases and sometimes to get on base or load the bases to run when the ball is in play and, above all avoid getting tagged by the ball. Then we addressed pitching and fielding and the objective of striking out the batter, catching the ball in the field, throwing it to your fellow fielders, and tagging out the batter and the runners on base (with the ball). The really funny thing is my daughter was totally unsurprised that her mom just pulled sports knowledge out of the air. Wheelchair user or not, I’m a mom and therefore, I’m a total wellspring of useful information. I’m always her number one fan, but I’m looking forward to adding this new dimension to bonding with her.

I’m Kieran Bridget O’Brien Kern. Power is literally my middle name. When my husband and I became engaged, we agreed that parenthood was a two-person job. I am the primary caregiver to our children, but we all work as a team. From infancy onward, we have adapted and grown together. Every day there is a new challenge. Every new challenge is an opportunity to learn more about them and myself.

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