Spring is upon us which means it’s time for softball! If you remember, a couple months back you asked me if you could play softball this year despite asking last year to play and frantically begging me to not play at the last second. This year, you begged and pleaded to play and promised me this year you really really wanted to play. I still remain skeptical because of all the times I played catch with Miles, you rarely showed an interest in wanting to join us. Deep down I know softball isn’t really for you but I also know you’re trying to feel included with your friends so I decided to let you give it a go.
Leading up to your first practice, you seemed very excited and eager to get the season underway. Almost daily you would ask me how many days were left until your first practice and for a brief moment I thought maybe this year would actually be different. Maybe, just maybe, you’ll prove me wrong and fully embrace softball. The day of your first practice came and you seemed abnormally quiet. Suddenly you were riddled with questions: would you be the only girl who hasn’t played before, will there be boys on the team, will it hurt if you get hit in the face with a ball? I’m your mother–at this point, I know you better than you know yourself so I can immediately tell if you’re becoming anxious. I also know because you take a thousand shits leading up to whatever it is that’s causing you distress. This particular evening also just happened to be the evening of your first sleepover but we’ll circle back to that. A lot of firsts are happening at once and for someone like you who is easily stressed, I can see you beginning to crack as everything is coming to fruition.
As you’re standing at the bottom of the stairs in full softball uniform with a bat in one hand and a sleeping bag under the other arm, I see an expression on your face that is both excited and terrified and in this moment I just want to squeeze you and tell you that everything is going to be ok. I want to tell you this and make you truly believe in it because these are moments that you’ll look back upon and think, why was I so scared? I’ll admit that seeing you distressed was causing me to be nervous for you. Despite your big beautiful eyes filled with tears, you told me you were ready to go and my heart truly ached for you in that moment. I want you to know right here and right now that all of us have a memory of feeling this way at some point. I, for sure, remember a childhood rich in anxiety-filled experiences and the feeling that I couldn’t get enough air in my body. You didn’t beg me to stay home or decide then and there that you didn’t want to do it. You went for it despite feeling uncomfortable and I’m so very proud of you.
Upon arriving at practice, with tears still welling in your eyes, you slowly walked to the field with a trove of all your softball necessities slung over your shoulder and gripped in your hands. You walked over to your team, set your things down and proceeded to practice without looking back. No parent wants to see their child in pain or discomfort, whether it be physical or emotional and especially you don’t want to see this when it comes to sports. Sports should be fun and if anything, stress-free. You want to do this and I can see you at battle with yourself trying to push through what ever it is you’re feeling. Get familiar with this feeling because I predict you will feel this way throughout your life.
I left practice briefly to pick your dad up from BART and when I returned, you were still very much engaged with practice. I approached the field to take some photos and arrived just as you were being paired up again with a partner and when another girl approached you, you had the biggest smile on your face. I watched you for a few minutes and I started to cry a bit because deep down, all you want is to feel included and to make friends. You’re not interested in becoming the next softball superstar or learning everything there is to know about softball. No, you just want to figure out where you belong. Compared to your brother who is social and carries little worry about most things, you’re the exact opposite and this journey of self-exploration will be a difficult journey for you. I will forever worry about you because of your fragile sensitive state and I’m prepared to take out anyone who breaks your heart. Believe me.
You experienced a brief glimmer of excitement with softball when practice was over and it was time for you and your teammates to decide on a team name. In your league, each team is allowed to name their team whatever their little hearts desire. Your coach threw out a couple ideas like The Tigers or The Bobcats and someone shouts out, GOLDEN DOLPHINS! Your coach, trying to be reasonable explains that Golden Dolphins doesn’t make a lot of sense because your team color is blue. He again tries to steer you girls in another direction–a direction that exemplifies strong fierce competitors. Another girl then shouts out, DAZZLING DOLPHINS!! Your entire team, ecstatic upon hearing this, starts chanting the name over and over again. At this point your coach has lost the good fight and agrees on the name. You and your teammates erupt in cheers and begin to jump up and down in a hurdle chanting, DAZZLING DOLPHINS, DAZZLING DOLPHINS! I have a strong suspicion that these are very much your kind of people.
After softball practice, we departed for your very first sleepover. You’ve been asking to sleep at a friend’s house for years. I remember when you were five years old in preschool asking me if you could have a sleepover and without little thought, I threw out the age seven as the golden age when suddenly sleepovers are allowed. I’ve since learned that when playing that game, always choose a number much higher because these years are short and what I thought was ample time to dismiss the sleepover conversations, suddenly is right here in front of me and damn it if you think I’ll forget. You can’t remember to get dressed before school but you can remember specifics about a sleepover discussed two years ago.
I’ll be honest, I was nervous how the first sleepover would play out since memory of my first sleepovers aren’t positive. Usually my sleepovers ended before the morning even came–usually calling my parents to pick me up after I realized that sleeping in another person’s house was more terrifying than exciting. We dropped you off and you immediately ran up to your friend’s room without a sliver of stress or fear. I guess softball squeezed all of that out of you. We left you and I went to bed later that night comforted that you were happy and having a wonderful time. I was sleeping soundly, relieved that for once that you were adapting to a new experience well. That is until I received a text at 1:00am that you had spiked a fever. A FEVER! You were fine all day!! Well, with the exception of the softball hour of doom. Were you really sick or had you caused your body so much distress from softball that you had made yourself sick?! My friend was wonderful and offered to give you Tylenol and just let you sleep it off. Of course I felt awful because suddenly visions of you projectile vomiting in a friend’s house danced in my head. For the rest of the night, I slept with one eye open and focused on my phone for the heavily anticipated call that the barfs were happening. I awoke the next morning with a wicked kink in my neck and surprised to learn that I received no new texts from your host. Apparently, despite the brief fever, you were fine and awoke bright and early the next morning, ready to play with your friend. Despite that one hiccup, I’ll go right on ahead and put a tally in the success column.
It was a month of firsts for you and if it were Miles, this wouldn’t be a huge event because he actively looks for new experiences and he engages with new people and new things with ease that it’s almost mundane. You on the other hand are one experience away from basketcase status so I’m always more nervous for you when these events arise. I’m so very proud of you for at least trying. It’s very easy to find a routine and to get comfortable but you’ll quickly learn that comfortable doesn’t always teach us anything. Sometimes we have to step outside of ourselves and do something we wouldn’t otherwise do to truly learn. I’m still learning this and I still surprise myself by how many things I find enjoyment from despite them causing me initial fear or stress. I wish I could step in and say, nope, don’t do softball. I already know you’re not going to like it and save you from all of this unnecessary stress. As a parent, I want to eliminate anything that causes pain or causes an obscene amount of stress poops but I can’t do that because how else will you learn? How else will you discover yourself? Sometimes the hardest part about being a parent is the observing. Sitting back and watching is proving to be one of the hardest things I’ve experienced as a parent and I predict, with you, it won’t get any easier as you get older. Looks like I’m the one with the nervous poops now. Yay, parenting!