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Keep Your Eye on the Ball

Oh, Little League. I remember you from the first time around.

I am a huge sports fan but I am not much of an athlete. I played t-ball and soccer in elementary school. I enjoyed them at first, but once I got to about 4th grade I was bored of spending all of that time focusing on something I was so bad at. My favorite part of soccer was when I got to sit out for a while and the the older sisters of the boys on my team would braid my hair.

I am not particularly proud of that, but it is the truth. Sometimes I think that if I had been given the option to play football I would have enjoyed being a defensive tackle. I like to imagine that I would have gotten a lot out of knocking people down. More likely I would have gotten hurt once and begged my mom to let me quit. I am kind of a wuss when it comes to pain.

But this isn’t about my lack of athletic prowess. This is about my kids and little league.

My husband and I didn’t pass down a lot of coordination, agility or speed to our children. We are musicians. We are readers. He is a fantastic chef and an artist and an engineer. I am a writer and I’m good with numbers. We have a lot of things going for us. None of them translate to the baseball diamond.

Our twins are seven and this is their first season playing baseball instead of t-ball. Where we live the step after t-ball is machine pitch baseball.

Machine pitch baseball is hell and gone from t-ball. Last year they were playing with five year olds. This year they are playing with nine year olds and they are struggling.

Yesterday was rough. They both got up three times and neither of them got a hit. Neither of them even got a piece of the ball. I don’t care if they don’t get a hit. I’m not one of those crazy parents cursing on the sidelines (yet, I’ll save that for when they play football or basketball), but after my son had the third out for the second inning in a row he told me that he was a failure and it broke my heart.

Of course I told him that he wasn’t a failure. That somebody has to get the third out every time and it was a coincidence, that he was the cleanup batter, that it was no big deal.

But I remember what it feels like to get the third out. I remember what it feels like to be the one person that struck out.

Isn’t little league supposed to bolster one’s confidence?

This I know – if you could make the bat contact with a ball by the sheer will of the mother wishing it so my kids would have knocked the ball out of the park.

Sadly, I am neither agile nor telekinetic.

So we come home and practice. I would buy them a pitching machine to practice with, but those bitches are like $200 for the cheapest one, and the season is over in two weeks.

I know that this is a normal right of passage. I know that your first season at anything is hard. I know my kids are smart and healthy and kind and that they have great senses of humor. They live in a free country and we have the means to educate them and they will end up with good jobs. I never expected either one of them to grow up and play major league baseball. It is just so frustrating to watch your kids struggle at anything no matter how minor and insignificant.

I don’t know if they will want to play ball again in the fall. Maybe we will try soccer or basketball. I do think that playing team sports are important for development and socialization. I guess it is hard to balance setting your children up for success and teaching them that it is okay to lose. It is okay to not be good at everything. It is okay to do something you aren’t great at just for the fun of doing it.

I am just afraid I am forcing them into situations that aren’t fun.

I thought that signing a kid of for little league would be one of the easy parts of parenting. I thought that the hard part would be the entry fees or the filed cleanup day or juggling practices and remembering when to take who to which park at what time.

I was so wrong.

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