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Sports day

I laughed out aloud as my daughter dropped the egg from her spoon and dashed after it…


As she was picking it up she looked up and saw her mother and I watching proudly, She gave a little wave and smiled at us. In so doing wasting valuable time in the race. More laughter, Meri was more interested in playing to the crowd than competing.

I was sports day, indeed, her first ever sports day and I was having a ball. It was a gloriously sunny morning and my little darling along with 29 others was running around the playground watched by a large gaggle of fifty or so happy, beaming parents. The attendance and enthusiasm from parents was infectious and the children were having a great time too.

However, a small cloud passed over my sunny sky – whilst I would not have missed sports day at my daughter’s school for the world, I have never attended one at my son’s school.

Instead of cheering parents, there is tumbleweed. Very few, if any turn up Those that are, are outnumbered by staff. Arun attends a special needs school and unless you live in this world you are very unlikely to understand why this is.

There are many reasons. Firstly, special needs schools are never just round the corner from where you live – they are often miles away. Many children face an hour long commute to get into school simply because, given the special nature of the education they provide, the incidence of eligible children is much rarer and they draw upon a much wider catchment area. Secondly, the evidence shows that special needs families are significantly poorer than their mainstream counterparts. The cost of raising a special needs child is very much greater and the extra care required means that it is rare for both (and sometimes even one) parent to be working. Thirdly, many special needs children have parents with special needs themselves.

However, none of these reasons explains why I have never been to one of Arun’s sports days. The simple reason that I don’t go is because I’m not sure Arun would like me to attend. Seeing me in the school environment is often upsetting for Arun – he associates me with home and can’t understand why I’m at school and more importantly, why I’m not taking him home. Sadly, and I am very sad about it, this means that I have never been to one of his sports days.

I was jolted out of my malaise by the teacher calling for volunteers for the parent’s race. I was one of the first to step up and slowly a gaggle of another dozen or so people stepped up. In the hubbub I was looking to catch Meri’s eye when the teacher said, before I realised it, “Go!”

The younger, fitter parents zoomed off leaving me standing on the start line. I looked around, looked a little sheepish and set off at my fastest canter. As I came in last, I raised my hands in triumph at my giggling daughter. Playing to the gallery. I wonder where Meri gets it from?


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