Monday, February 20, 2012

It's more important to you than it is to them

Sometimes I get really caught up in something with the kids - like going somewhere. Maybe I'll want to go to the pool, partly because I want to go and partly because I want us to all go. All the kids together with me. Then one will say he doesn't want to go. Then one will whine that he doesn't want to go. Then one will completely ignore me when I say it's time to get ready to go. One will refuse to put on his swim trunks. No one is interested except me. And in times like these, my husband gently reminds me: "It's more important to you than it is to them." I guess it's his way of telling me I'm in a losing battle.

When I hear him say that it makes me step back and look at the situation. If none of them want to go to the pool, why am I making them do it? I'm forcing an unhappy situation. They don't want to give in and I don't want to give in. Sometimes it IS more important to me and once I realize that I'm able to let go of it and not create an environment where I've got a lot of unhappy people, myself included, to deal with.

This past week something happened that was pretty tough for me. Might sound silly to other parents, but it has been REALLY hard for me. It was the week of baseball sign-ups and the boys were resisting signing up. I can't remember the last year I didn't have a son playing baseball. For most of the recent years I've had at least one playing. One year I had four playing -- all in different leagues and would have days where there were actually four games scheduled all in different places at the same time.

Although the driving and the lugging equipment and the concession stand dinners and the juggling practice schedules and the packing the Gatorade and bringing snacks and freezing our tails off during early season games or late season fall ball games has been annoying and hectic, I've honestly enjoyed it. Sure, I know I was quick to complain when I was bundled up in winter gear at 9:30 on a school night and I could see my breath. Or when I had to shuffle from ball field to ball field across town on a Saturday. Or when a make-up game was scheduled on Mother's Day. But, when the season would come to an end, I would honestly miss all the commotion. I'd miss seeing the joy on their faces when they got a hit. Or the fun they'd have goofing around with buddies in the dugout. Or chatting with the other moms in the stands. Or the taste the popcorn on a warm summer day as the sun beats down.

Last year I had two boys playing. I originally signed up three. My oldest had aged out of the league and my then 11-year-old had decided baseball wasn't for him after 3 years of playing. My middle son, who was then nine, had been playing since t-ball. He's not the kind of kid who complains much, so when he does, I really listen. Except this time. When I mentioned sign-ups, he said he wasn't interested in playing baseball again. He'd be moving up from the Pee Wee field to playing with an older bunch of 9 to 12 year olds. He just wasn't that into it, he told me. I didn't listen and I signed him up anyway, telling him that he might end up on a team with his friends. After he was signed up and it was time to go for try-outs, again he told me that he really didn't want to play. Finally, my husband reminded me - "It's more important to you than it is to him." I contacted the league to let them know he wouldn't be playing.

My two youngest (then ages 6 and 7) played last year. One was in the PeeWee League and my youngest played his first year of T-ball. My 7-year-old had played a year of T-ball, then played soccer the next year instead of baseball. Really, soccer seemed to suit him better. He's active and not the type to sit still. Running back and forth on a soccer field seems to be a better fit. But, we went back to baseball. He was excited at the start of the season since his good friend was on his team. His enthusiasm quickly tailed off and it was a miserable few weeks of tears and frustration trying to get him out the door to practices and games that he didn't want to go to. My youngest had a blast at T-ball. He was always eager to get to practice. He had an incredible coach. I got emotional on his final game day. After having five sons play baseball, it was my last time being at a game on the t-ball field. I was sad. I knew I would miss it. But I couldn't wait to see him play the next year on the real field.

A few weeks ago, my youngest came across his bat bag in the garage. He talked so excitedly about baseball. He told me his bag was packed and all he needed was Gatorade to put in it for his next game. I got excited, too.

Then, as it came time for little league sign-ups, I talked it up to all the kids. Zero interest. I knew it was over for the three oldest. And I figured it was probably done for son #4. Either that or it would be another season of enthusiasm the first couples weeks followed by several tortuous weeks of dragging him to practices and games. My youngest, I figured would be the only one who would be all gung-ho about it. Then he told me he didn't want to play baseball at all this year. I just couldn't believe it. I tried to encourage him. I tried to talk him into it. When I thought about it, I realized it was probably more for me than for him that I wanted him to play. I actually even told a white lie one night and said that I had already signed him up because I thought he wanted to play. I figured he'd go along with it and I'd be able to get him signed up without any resistance, but he fought back. He told me, in no uncertain terms, that he didn't want to play.

I was heartbroken. I really was. And that's when I knew it was more important to me than it was to him. I really wanted him to play. I think team sports are a good experience for kids. Or at least they can be. In my own experience, as a child who sucked at all sports, team sports in gym class were miserable. I wanted my kids to have a good experience with it. And baseball is a huge thing for me. I'm from a family of baseball fans. My brothers. My dad. My sister. My nephews. I've grown up as a die-hard Cubs fan. Baseball is a bonding thing. It's been a bonding thing with my oldest son, the only one of my five boys who really LOVES the game like I do and who really wanted to play it. He begged me to sign him up for little league each year. I've had so much fun with him over the years going to Cubs games...or to Sox or Brewers home games...or minor league games...or independent league games...or shopping for baseball cards at the hobby shop...or going to baseball conventions or events...or watching games with him at home on television...and watching him play t-ball, then little league, then Babe Ruth League. I was so sad for him when he didn't make the high school baseball team. I knew he was crushed. The game of baseball was a huge part of is life, like it was for me.

So, here I am with a full season ahead and no boys playing in it. And I'm having a hard time with it. I know there will be benefits. No revolving our family vacations and other activities around baseball schedules. No early morning weekend games. No late night school night games. No practice schedules. No uniforms to wash. No snack schedule. I know there will be lots of other stuff to fill the time. Things that are more important to them than they are to me.

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