Saturday, February 21, 2009

Softball Moms (& Dads)

As I sit here in my pajamas at 10:30 on Saturday morning, after enjoying a breakfast of scrambled eggs and Valentine's Day candy with my 2.75 year old, my husband is with the 5.5 year old for the opening ceremonies/picture day of her new softball season.

5-year-olds playing softball? Whaaa? No, seriously, they do. In fact, I was told by a pink-velour-sweatsuit-wearing mom at the last practice (5:30-7 pm on Monday), some girls--like her daughter--start at age 4. I was just trying to make small talk, be less introverted, etc., and had asked her if this was her daughter's first year, too. I was trying not to judge her by the sweatsuit (hey, I've done my share of public-wearing-of-exercise-clothes-without-actual-exercise, too) and hoping maybe for a little snarky-isn't-this-all-a-little-much banter. With someone I'd never met before, sure, why not? Turns out she was more the type to stand at the fence and yell at her daughter to be "Softball ready!" Turns out I'm more the type to slump on the bench and be bored/impatient because I haven't eaten since my inadequate packed lunch at 12 something and I'm still wearing my painful work-shoes.

I'll have to back up a little. My husband signed her up for this. With two seasons of YMCA soccer and one of basketball (he was the coach) under her small belt, he thought this program seemed to have more structure and maybe, just maybe, softball would be her thing. She's enjoyed all the other sports and seasons, but let's just say, she wasn't demonstrating any particular affinity for them.

I didn't play any sports as a kid, despite my dad's rabid sportsfan nature. He now says he wishes he had encouraged us (twin and I) more, but admits he didn't really think, as girls, that we would want or need it. Part of it was not having a lot of money, although when my brother was four or five (seven years later), he played t-ball. And soccer. And basketball. Probably not all in the same year, but still. It's not a major point for me, although I think it would have helped me socially and, you know, coordination-wise. I remember some culture shock when I went to my private college and realized all middle class children were supposed to have had ten years of piano and at least one sport. Oops.

As previously mentioned, we've done soccer and basketball already. The 5 year old has also done two seasons of dance and a couple of years of gymnastics--all at the Y. (And the 2-year-old is finishing up her third 12-week-session of gymnastics.) So, we've entered the acceptable middle-class child realm of organized activities and overscheduling already, but with this latest program it feels like we've entered a new level. (I'm thinking levels of hell here--Dante style--forgive me) .

I took her to her first practice, on a Saturday. Thinking we were good parents, we went out earlier in the week and had her pick out a helmet, bat, ball, and glove. Dad even bought a tee, so he could practice with her. Oh, and new sneakers. Arriving at the field, though, also with my 2ish year old in tow, I surveyed the row of mostly pink carry-bags, pink bats, pink helmets (many with names imprinted on them, not with marker, but all Pottery Barnish child font labeled), I thought, Hmm, not-so-good parent. At Dad's presumably more informed advice, we'd only brought her bat and glove. You can tell me, fellow children of the 70's and 80's, when you played softball/baseball, did you bring your own helmet to the practice (or the game for that matter)? Or did everyone just use the same few brought by the coaches? I'm remembering my brother's games. My husband recalls his even more solidly middle class suburban team sharing team helmets.

Being proactive, I decided to ask, as unsnarkily as possible, if my daughter needed to bring her helmet to practice (although obviously, everyone else had). The coach, a mom of a player, said, "I would" (and she had) and brought up lice. Lice. Yep. The bane of middle class existence, apparently. I have more lice stories, but I'm going to hold off in the interest of actually finishing this story before noon. Later in the practice, when the time came for the girls to wear their helmets for batting practice, she asked me permission for my daughter to use her daughter's helmet ("Is it okay if . . . ?") and again mentioned lice, in the context that her daughter didn't have it. (I just scratched my head.) I have to admit, as ridiculous as all this was, I felt kind of crappy at this point, as if I was one of those parents who may or may not send their child to school wearing underpants or socks.

Don't forget water bottles! Also, I hadn't brought any water, recalling (correctly) that the field came equipped with water fountains in the centrally located restroom area. The other girls had water bottles. Not the environment-destroying disposable Zephyrhills kind, the (pink) labeled reusable kind. Which I generally approve of, by the way, being a responsible liberal modern person, but it was another piece of evidence against me that I hadn't come prepared. That I'd thought city water through public water fountain would be sufficient for my daughter's rehydration needs. No, they need to bring water bottles. This was specifically mentioned, I can only assume, for my benefit.

It's possible E is the only first-timer on the team. The other girls seem slightly taller and their parents seemed to know what was expected of them. Maybe they at least have older daughters or sons who have gone through the drill before. I don't really think anyone was judging us. If they were, I'm trying really hard not to care. We wrote E's name on her (pink) bat and glove and (not pink) helmet with permanent marker, bought her a (red) water bottle, a (green) carry case and caribeener (sp?) hook so she could hang it on the fence next to all the pink ones.

One thing I'm sure of, if my daughter chooses (as she did at practice this week) to carefully pick tiny rocks out of the red clay and place them one-by-one in her glove when she's supposed to be playing catcher and retrieving the coach-lobbed balls which whiz past the unskilled batters, I'm going to let the coaches correct her. I am not going to stand at the fence and yell at her. I'm taking a stand, even while I'm sitting on the bench squirming at the thought that she's the worst on her team. As you might be able to tell from the preceding paragraphs, I've spent a lot of my life comparing myself to other people, usually with the aim/result of seeing where I've fallen short. I don't want to do that to her. I don't want to keep doing that to myself.

On an unrelated note, a few weeks ago, I sent an email to Dr. Stacey at Every Woman Has an Eating Disorder which included part of my post about the experience at student health. She made it into a post on her site. Very cool. And it got a lot of comments which seem to indicate, unfortunately, that this happens a lot. Not as cool.