Friday, July 5, 2013

Mama Grows Through Baseball

Here's a mortifying story of my youth:
It was the last week of school my 6th grade year. We were playing softball for the first time in gym class.  For me, it was the first time I had played softball ever.  The infinitely stupid gym teacher decided to make it one pitch per batter, in order to cycle through as many kids as possible.  In other words, there were no balls, no strikes, no fouls. You hit it well or you were out. 

(Note to gym teachers: this is bad for children's self esteem. Wait, gym teachers don't care about self-esteem, or they wouldn't have invented dodgeball, which I actually RULED at. Never mind.)

I was up to bat.  The asshole gym teacher pitched. It was coming straight down the plate.  I could visualize my bat striking that ball with a resounding THWACK!  I was pretty good in gym, probably in the top 50% of the girls.  Not the top 5% or anything, but slightly better than average.  I had nothing to fear from softball.

I swung the bat.  Not only did I miss the ball, but I comically swung around in a circle and everyone laughed.   Better still, I was the final out for my team.  Way to go. I was more embarrassed about swinging around in a circle than missing the ball, and I never recovered my gym class mojo again.   By the next year I had firmly established my place as one of the last picked, where I would remain for all of Jr. High. 

My kids know my traumatic softball story. Big Pants and I were watching Tiny Pants play T-ball, and we saw a little kid do the exact same swing around in a circle thing, and I won't lie, behind my sunglasses I got a little teared up for the little guy. When he finally hit one I cheered so loud for him Big Pants stared at me - possibly because the kid was on the other team.  I told him my story, and about how it changed my view of sports forever. I told him we had to clap hard for the little guy because he was probably embarrassed, but he kept trying anyway until he did it.

I know, you think that's the end of the story- blah blah blah, traumatic gym class bah blah blah, life lesson for child. Nope. It gets better.

 In spite of my personal hatred of all things softball/baseball I play it regularly with the kids.  It's ok - I am way bigger than they are and this makes me look competent on the field. 

I play catch so much that I bought myself a (used) mitt. For some reason, I actually really like my mitt.  I'm a southpaw, so actually having a mitt that goes on my correct hand is exciting.  It smells beautifully of leather. Occasionally, I am able to actually catch with it which fills me with child-like glee and a sense of accomplishment way out of proportion than what it should be.

I let them pitch to me, too, and I hit the ball 9 times out of 10.  Let me tell you, in the under-eight-years-old baseball chart, I am an all-star, even though I am lazy and refuse to run for the ball most of the time. 

Last week Big Pants and I were playing catch and I had an epiphany: I have gained the skills to play in a pick up softball game without embarrassing myself.  All of this mothering a baseball player has changed me from someone scarred for life by gym class to someone who is now capable of holding her own on the baseball field. I don't have to carry the shame of my twelve year old self around anymore; I have grown up. 

We had the following interchange while playing catch:

MAMA: Hey, do you remember my softball playing story, where I missed the ball and swung around in a circle and never played again?


MAMA: I think playing with you has raised my skill level to the point that I could actually play with grownups if I wanted to. You have taught me to be decent at baseball. 

BIG PANTS: Mama, that would be so cool. And I could give you tips and help you learn to bat if you had problems. I could totally help you get better.

And that was my moment. Kids change you into a person you don't necessarily want to become, and they surprise you with their earnest sweetness.  Sometimes you lead, and sometime you follow, and the more I step back and see where they are leading, the most amazed I am by the journey I am taking beside them.

(But that does not mean I am signing up for baseball.)

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