Well, this story really starts about three weeks ago. So let's start there.
My husband Jeff’s birthday was coming, on August 25th, and I knew the one thing he wanted: Football Tickets. And not just any ticket – no – he wanted to see the Kansas City Chiefs when they came to play at Quest Field against the Seattle Seahawks for the first time in nearly a decade. And by ‘tickets’ I mean tickets close enough to the field that Jeff can yell at the players and feel truly involved in the game. Last time we went, long before kids, he was yelling at the Chief's bench (I am sure they loved him for this…) and as a player named Snoop Minnis came off the field, Jeff yelled, “HEY SNOOP! You’re under-rated in Madden!” Which apparently Snoop appreciated and agreed with, because Jeff got a giant grin and a wave from him. Making every penny we’d spent on the tickets, well worth it.
Yes, these kind of tickets aren’t cheap. Nope. Not cheap. Close to $200 a piece. Which means, this is not a family event. It is a Mommy-Daddy event.
Which broke Nick’s heart.
You see, Nick loves football. LOVES football the way little boys love their dad. And since this little boy has a dad that loves football they spend their Sundays perched in front of the TV AND on the football field where Jeff has coached Nick’s flag football team for the last 4 seasons. Nick knows Jeff loves football – and it is something they have always shared. So, naturally, this little boy wanted to share that game with his dad. And he couldn’t.
Which broke Jeff’s heart. And mine.
But the reality is that we don’t always get what we want. I don’t have $1000 to spend just for tickets to take all of my kids to a professional football game. Plain and simple. Add to that Gabriel and Matt would NOT FOR THE LIFE OF THEM be able to sit through that much chaos and noise, let alone sustain interest in the actual game, it didn’t make sense to buy tickets for the kids. We talked about just buying Nick one, but really felt like we couldn’t justify taking JUST Nick to a game. Gabe would have his feelings hurt. Matt probably wouldn’t care, but Gabe, he would know.
So when the tickets came in the mail for Jeff’s birthday, Nick burst into tears and lay in his bed while I consoled him. I told him that I didn’t attend my first professional football game until I was 21 years old. And even then, my friend’s dad paid for the tickets. It was hard, but Nick handled it well until a few days later when Jeff opened his present.
Then tears and heartbreak again.
So last Saturday, when I sat down with my cold can of Diet Pepsi, and started reading the emails from the listservs that I follow, one from FEAT of Washington’s listserv was like a flashing NEON sign:
Families for Effective Autism Treatment (FEAT) of Washington is proud to offer:
2 SEAHAWKS Football tickets, 2 meal vouchers and a Parking pass to a family touched by autism for the next home game against the 49ers on Sept. 12th. If you have a child with autism or a sibling who is a SEAHAWKS fan, please contact me at your earliest convenience with a brief description of your family's unique circumstances.
I quickly wrote down all of the amazingly-great things Nick does for his brothers and entered him in the contest. Siblings of children with special needs often take on much larger roles in their families than average children, and at a much earlier age. This is true for Nick. Often Nick is left to ‘parent’ Matthew while I tend to Gabriel in times of crisis (which this year has given us more than average), he is expected to understand Gabriel’s needs, the amount of time and attention he receives, the amount of money we spend on therapy and private school, and he is expected to be mature enough to accept these things without question. And he is 6.
So, I sent the email off with high hopes, a full heart, and tears running down my face. I WANTED this for Nick. I WANTED this for him so badly…
And not two hours later, I got an email letting me know he’d been awarded the tickets.
You should’ve seen Nick’s face! He was beside himself with excitement and so was Jeff. But truthfully, I think I was more excited than both of them combined.
So on Sunday Jeff and Nick left our house with grins stretched wide across their faces, in cool fall weather, dressed from head to toe in Seahawks gear, and excited to share this amazing experience with one another: Nick’s first football game.
And a heartfelt THANK YOU to John and Traci Schneider for giving my son Nick the opportunity to do something that kids like him never take for granted: The opportunity to make memories alone with his dad. If you are reading this, I'd love to thank you in person. Maybe I will see you at the Chief's game -- I'll be in section 111, Row E, seats 5&6. Just look for the guy in the Chief's jersey yelling video-game-themed comments at the bench.
If you are moved to leave a comment for the Schneiders please do so below. I would love to show them how parents like us view those who are able to see how Autism affects our entire family.