Personal Best

Today’s personal best.

Today began on a celebratory note. My 10½-year-old son rode his new bike to the bus stop. Without training wheels. This is a milestone event in every child (and parent’s) life, worthy of hugs, high-fives and emailed snapshots. When your child has a developmental disability marked by struggles with gross motor coordination, this moment is especially sweet. After fearfully asking me to be nearby, he took off like a rocket around the corner toward the cul-de-sac. It was our personal version of the Tour de France leader circling the Arc de Triomphe.

The confidence in his eyes and strength in his voice as he announced to neighbors, “This is my first time riding without training wheels!” blotted out those dejected strike outs in baseball or after-school tears about not getting picked for a kickball team. We have been told more than once to view raising a child on the autism spectrum as a marathon, the advice being to pace ourselves and take care of ourselves along the way; expect milestones to come later, but to come nevertheless. Given the day or moment, that frame can be very exhausting, especially if we compare ourselves to neuro-typical families. Framed as a series of 5Ks against ourselves though, it opens up the possibility to wildly celebrating a series of personal bests over the long haul.

This has been a week of contemplating personal bests amidst an event showcasing someone’s personal worst as our nation reels from the explosions at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. Especially striking has been the loss of an 8-year-old boy who was cheering from the sidelines. He was there simply to inspire and be inspired by so many who bring their bests to this seminal event. Stories abound of underdogs who have overcome so many obstacles to even compete in or complete it. This tragedy sadly mirrors the death of a 9-year-old girl in the shootings in Tucson, who attended Rep. Gabrielle Gifford’s political event simply to learn more about government.

I wish I had words of solace for the families and friends of those lost to and injured by these acts. What I do hope will continue is our witness to the undaunted personal bests of so many who are running toward rather than away from these events. Let us celebrate the first responders, strangers opening their homes to displaced travelers, the skill and fortitude of event organizers and hospital personnel and, of course, the courage of those whose lives were forever changed on Monday.

May the worst of any terrorist, foreign or domestic, never let us fear striving for our best.

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