striking out

by ck on November 8, 2012

ONE decided that she wanted to give softball a shot this fall. We’re not an especially athletic family, but she loves playing wiffle ball in the front yard, so we thought it might be fun for her. After I signed her up it occured to me that all we’d ever did was hit the ball around. As in, I’d pitch, she’d hit the ball (she always hit the ball–she’s really good), claim it was a homerun, and then she’d make up bases to run. Our baseball diamond looked more like an olive. Not her fault, though. I never put out bases, or commented on which way she should run, or put together games that included more kids. Or rules.

In fact, I should probably note here that by “not an especially athletic family,” I really mean, “I’m not an especially athletic mother. At all.” My husband was a star baseball player growing up, but I excelled only in quitting. So if I’d ever taken the time to feign interest in a sport, I probably would’ve retired my number before they had a chance to iron it onto the back of a t-shirt.

I hate sports so much that after one stint (of just sitting in the field) with soccer in Kindergarten I promised myself no more sports. And my girls seemed fine with that. They’re artsy and musical and we found other things to do. But something changed over the summer. Both girls just got, for lack of a better description, antsy. Hyper. Filled with excess energy that sitting at a piano did nothing to deplete.

So when fall softball rolled around this fall, ONE was quick to beg to play. Of course in true bad mommy fashion I signed her up on the last day of registration and then tried to cram in “rules” of baseball for two days before the first practice. Not anything too taxing, just the stuff she should probably know before taking the field. Like how to wear a glove. How to catch. How to throw. Which direction to run. Not that I was really qualified to share that information.

During the first batting practice she not only hit every ball pitched to her, she hit them so hard that I wound up having to field them. (Which was a lot more fun than I would’ve thought.) The coach turned to me, eyebrows raised, and asked how much time we spent practicing on a daily basis. Not wanting to lie in front of my kid–especially since she loves calling me out in public–I told him, “Umm…like three times this summer?”

The games went kind of like that. They taught her how to run the bases and she hit that ball, collecting RBIs and points for her team. It was crazy to sit in the stands and here people comment, “If she makes contact with that ball, it’s gone…” and cheering with excitement when she got back up to plate. People who had no clue who she was.

As the season went on, they let the kids start pitching. Which for the most part meant a really long game with both kids and coaches pitching. But by the last two games the kid pitchers were actually pretty good, and were striking batters out. And I think it threw her off a bit to suddenly not connect with the ball. The second to last game she got on base twice and struck out twice and was really thrown off. We tried explaining that it was still really impressive to bat a .500, that the best hitters in history strike out, but it didn’t matter. It was like all she could see was that she wasn’t playing the way she wanted to. The way she played before.

She woke up on the day of her last game not feeling well. She curled up on the couch, not moving, not wanting to play. We talked about nerves and she went back and forth between thinking she was nervous, to thinking she might actually throw up because she felt sick. I was so torn it was ridiculous. The serial quitter in me thought it was fine to let her sit it out, besides it was like 40 and windy outside. But the other part of me, the part that wanted her to finish what she started, didn’t believe she was sick.

At first I thought she might be, but five minutes after I told her she could sit it out, she jumped up, claimed she was ready to eat, and wished she could’ve said good-bye to her coaches. So that’s where we went, and I figured that once we got there, her nerves would turn into adrenaline when she saw her friends. And then she’d want to play. But that didn’t happen. The coaches said good-bye, praised her batting, and said they hoped she’d play again in the spring. She shook her head, unsure.

I was so surprised. Until that morning all she could talk about was playing again. Is serial quitting in the blood? Was she already a perfectionist? Because as a fellow perfectionist I got her unease. When she felt like she was the best on the team she was confident. As it became a bit of a struggle, she was unnerved. How do you teach a child not to get their validation from performance when you never meant to teach them that in the first place? How do you detox a praise junkie? (When you are still one yourself?) How do you keep it to yourself so it doesn’t leak out all over your kid, and what is the line between what you say and what you don’t? (And why isn’t Gibby blogging anymore to tell me what to do about this?)


So we packed everyone back up and went home. She snuggled up on the couch and I took TWO to a birthday party. Thirty minutes later I got a text that ONE was throwing up. I was so relieved I almost felt guilty. It’s crazy how easily I can make things about myself, and then get trapped in my head until I’m yanked out by the constant cleaning of vomit. Because I have a talent at tracing things back to what I’ve perceived to have done wrong. Or seeing the negative as a reflection of something I’ve taught. Or something I am. And I guess that’s the case sometimes. But most of the time I’m being ridiculous and I know it. Because sometimes? Sometimes they’re just sick.




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