Our oldest son almost didn’t make it to earth alive. Ian was born two months premature, breech, with the umbilical cord strangling his neck. He was blue, but quickly revived after an emergency C-section.
Four months after his birth, we learned Ian was bilaterally profoundly deaf.
Following doctors’ advice five years later, Boys Town Research Hospital in Nebraska completed a genetic evaluation. Genetic scientists were learning a defective hearing loss gene could mean, adjacent ones, like the kidney gene, might also be. Testing helps patients proactively respond.
The results showed Ian had damage to his central processing functions, probably related to his difficult birth. The physician explained that with the brain damage Ian would never be the “star football player”. The evaluation team encouraged us to optimize Ian’s abilities.
The feedback was not a complete surprise. Upon entering 1st grade Ian carried with him the social challenge of being unable to catch a ball. He dodged some bullies, but not all. Several years of occupational therapy reprogrammed Ian’s brain to master basic physical skills.
Upon discharge, the occupational therapist encouraged Ian to play sports to progress. I started Ian as early as possible in different sports to help make up for his physical deficiencies, first with regular tennis lessons. Tennis was a good fit for Ian. By being steady he developed great fundamentals.
Ian liked the lessons, but was phobic about competitive play. I strong-armed Ian to compete in his first tennis tournament last summer. Convinced he would not win a match, he almost won his first game against a classmate who hung with the group of early bullies. Ian won his second match and actually finished 3rd in the tournament, ahead of his classmate.
A year away from entering high school, the tennis coach cornered Ian into doing team tennis. Kids partner up and participation in five matches at various tennis clubs. Reluctantly, Ian agreed.
Last weekend, a buildup of fear-of-success and inadequacy rose and dissipated from Ian as he and his doubles partner won their first team tennis match. In his second singles match, Ian came from a 5-1 game deficit to win the match in the tie breaker.
Ian’s wins created a disconnect with his his self-perception as an athletic failure. The new successful self-image was now cracking through years of negative self-talk and painful experiences.