When my son Joey was born, his feet were twisted
upward with the bottoms resting on his tummy. As a first-time mother, I
thought this looked odd, but I didn't really know what it meant. It meant
that Joey had been born with club feet. The doctors assured us that with
treatment he would be able to walk normally, but would probably never run very
well. The first three years of his life, Joey spent in surgery, casts and
braces. His legs were massaged, worked and exercised and, yes, by the time
he was seven or eight you wouldn't even know he'd had a problem if you watched
If he walked great distances, like at the amusement parks or on a visit to the zoo, he complained that his legs were tired and that they hurt. We would stop walking, take a break with a soda or ice cream cone and talk about what we had seen and what we had to see. We didn't tell him why his legs hurt and why they were weak. We didn't tell him this was expected due to his deformity at birth. We didn't tell him, so he didn't know.
The children in our neighborhood ran around as most children do during play. Joey would watch them play and, of course, would jump right in and run and play too. We never told him that he probably wouldn't be able to run as well as the other children. We didn't tell him he was different. We didn't tell him. So he didn't know.
In seventh grade he decided to go out for the cross-country team. Every day he trained with the team. He seemed to work harder and run more than any of the others. Perhaps he sensed that the abilities that seemed to come naturally to so many others did not come naturally to him. We didn't tell him that although he could run, he probably would always remain in the back of the pack. We didn't tell him that he shouldn't expect to make the "team." The team runners are the top seven runners of the school. Although the entire team runs, it is only these seven who will have potential to score points for the school. We didn't tell him he probably would never make the "team," so he didn't know.
He continued to run four to five miles a day, every day. I'll never forget the time he had a 103-degree fever. He couldn't stay home because he had cross-country practice. I worried about him all day. I expected to get a call from the school asking me to come get him and take him home. No one called.
I went out to the cross-country training area after school, thinking that if I were there, he might decide to skip practice that evening. When I got to the school, he was running along the side of a long tree-lined street, all alone. I pulled up alongside of him and drove slowly to keep pace with him as he ran. I asked how he felt. "Okay," he said. He only had two more miles to go. As the sweat rolled down his face, his eyes were glassy from his fever. Yet he looked straight ahead and kept running. We never told him he couldn't run four miles with a 103-degree fever. We never told him. So he didn't know.
Two weeks later, the day before the second to last race of the season, the names of the "team" runners were called. Joey was number 6 on the list. Joey had made the "team." He was in seventh grade. The other six team members were all eight-graders. We never told him he probably shouldn't expect to make the "team." We never told him he couldn't do it. We never told him he couldn't do it...so he didn't know. He just did it.