Sunday, April 10, 2011

I'm the one that's too little for Little League

There he is, on the field, number 10.  My baby.  No, wait, that is not correct, he is not a baby anymore.  He is 8 years old.  But he is still my baby.  Will always be my baby.  But I should not treat him like a baby, and he does not want to be treated like a baby.  Well, that is except for all those times when he wants all the baby-ing I can give, such as being wrapped in my arms, snuggling in bed, cuddling with his teddy bear and his blankie, with hot cocoa.

So you can see my confusion.

Little League.  A league of littles.  And yet I'm supposed to be okay with hardballs flying by my firstborn's skull.  Being in "real" baseball now means that they are playing with "real" baseballs.  Hard baseballs.  The only players wearing helmets are the batters.  And I am supposed to be okay with this.  I am supposed to hear on the tv news about the boys who have been hit in the head, sometimes fatal injuries, and then after hearing this news, I am supposed to sit happily and calmly on the bleachers, and watch same such balls fly by my own child's skull.

I am working on it.  Overall, in my life as a mother, I am working on not being too overprotective.  I don't want to smother my children, or make them nervous to try new things, or inhibit their freedom and independence by my warning about every jungle gym and sharp stick.  But it is a work in progress.  When they are perched up high, I am not worried about a broken arm, my mind goes to fall, snap neck, life over.  When they are dueling with pointy sticks in the yard, I am not worried about a scratch, I am envisioning an eyeball on the end, like a skewered campfire marshmallow.  But I also know that most times there are no broken necks or poked out eyeballs, so I try and balance my worry with their need to play and explore.

And now there are sports.  The first time I saw a full size basketball flying towards my son's head, I yelled out a warning.  This was at basketball practice in a gym, with a bunch of 8 year old boys.  Not the coolest mom action.

There are also the emotions.  Up until now, I am used to being able to fix most every emotion with a kiss, a cuddle or a tiny bandaid.  But part of allowing the independence is also allowing the emotions to be dealt with by the child themself.  So far in baseball, my 8 year old son cried the first time he struck out at the plate, he was hit by a ball in the arm while batting, and hit in the back by a bat.  This is hard for a mother, for a mother's heart. 

I deep sigh.  A lot.  I am guessing that, as I've seen with other new experiences for me as a parent, I will be surprised in the future how hard it was for me in the beginning.

But when it comes to safety, is there such a thing as too careful?  Too cautious?  Of course I know the answer is yes, that being too worried would prevent my children from experiencing the world.  The problem is that keeping my children safe from harm is one of the most essential jobs for me as a parent.  And if something were to happen, I don't believe I would hear anyone saying to me "Well, the most important thing is that you were not too overprotective."  This comes up in my life as a parent in many different areas, cautious about abduction, cautious around water for children who have not yet learned to swim, cautious about a dog that seems unsafe.  And many people voice their opinions, often in dissent.  Family, friends, even strangers on the playground, all seem very vocal in their opinions.

We all know that, ultimately, every parent must make their own decisions, their own choices, their own rules.  And they also have to live with the results of them.

So, I take a deep breath, and march forward.  I still cringe when my child gets banged or bumped during a sport, and I must let him deal with it himself.  But I know that he is learning, moving forward, toward autonomy and independence.  He is not too little for Little League.

No book, or kitchen, but thankfully girlfriends

I'm supposed to be writing.  I want to be writing.  But I fear that it will be messy and unmanageable.  Because my life and brain and my thoughts all seem to be very messy and unmanageable these days?

So here I am.  Writing.  About the messiness.  And the unmanageability.

Shouldn't there be a book?  Not a lot of books, plural, as there are now.  One book. THE book.  The book where all of it is written down.  Every important and helpful detail.  So that the wheel does not have to be reinvented, by all of us, every freakin step of the way.

Which subject? Parenting.  I want a big huge encyclopedia of knowledge.  I'm thinking that ginormous dictionary in the college library, the one you can't lift, except this one would be way bigger, like cartoon big.  And in it would be everything that every parent has gone through before, experienced, survived, learned from, and then all that wisdom is passed down to me, to us, we current parents, on this journey.

Oh, that's right, it's called Grandmas and Aunts and all the other female folk stirring the pot around the cave fire, or village fire, or kitchen stove.  But I ain't got those.  I have no grandmothers.  I have a mother and a mother-in-law, and they share what they remember and what they think, but their parenting years were many moons ago, and our conversations are via telephone, not in the same kitchen.  Zero sisters, no aunts, no cousins.

So, I have girlfriends.  Wonderful, irreplaceable, sharing, caring, laughing along the journey girlfriends.

And from them, I learn.  We learn from each other. We compose our own book of knowledge. Together.

And from each of them I learn many things I didn't know.  And they tell me I've told them things they didn't know.  Hence me wanting the all-encompassing book.

Just this week, I found out, all on my own, that yes, age 8 is the age when boys become snarky.  Not in a year ending with -teen, as I had incorrectly assumed.  I learned that working moms wish they were able to go on field trips with their children, and that stay-at-home moms sometimes have children who do not want their moms anywhere near the field trips.  I learned that a mom can think she is on her way to see her son play his first ever Little League game, when in reality she is on her way to Urgent Care regarding her daughter's ear infection.

And side-by-side, I learned that girlfriends are with me on this journey.  They respond to texts with support and humor, they make me laugh when I thought I was about to cry, they share the stories of their week, complete with self-deprecating humor, and overall their message is always a version of "Keep on truckin'."

Without the book, and without a kitchen full of female relatives, I'm keepin' on truckin' on this parenting journey, with my girlfriends along for the ride.

Monday, January 24, 2011

birthday parties, past and present

Aren't I supposed to be happy in the party store?! 

When I saw Ray Romano's character on his new show Men of a Certain Age, and that he owned a party store, I automatically thought "Gee, that must be a solely strictly completely happy place to work! How could anyone NOT be happy amongst all those balloons and decorations and symbols of celebration and glee?!" 

And yet, there I was.


In a party store.

First I walked past the light pink "Baby's 1st" section. The exact same ones that I used for my baby girl's First Birthday party.  Which was yesterday.  Oh.  I mean 5 years ago.

Then I arrived at the section for my son's 8th birthday, which will happen next week.  I was okay.... and right next to it were the exact same little firehats that I had at same son's 2nd birthday party.  Which was yesterday.  Oh.  I mean 6 years ago.

And then the tears spring to my eyes.

"Can I help you with anything?" the saleslady asked.  Listen, lady, can't you see I'm trying to cry privately, yet in public, here?!  "No, thank you, just getting all my Hot Wheels party supplies."  (that's me, Chatty Cathy, I chat with everyone.  In detail.)

Yes, Hot Wheels.  As I left that aisle, I found myself walking gratefully past the camoflage party goods section.  Oh, you didn't know they had a camoflage party goods section?  Why, yes, because nothing says happy birthday, my precious child, like symbols of war.  Yes, the candles for the cake of that theme included..... tanks.

I am female.  I understand that I do not understand everything male.  But it sometimes still amazes me how little I do understand, about those men from Mars, me being from Venus, and all.

So, what do I do when faced with emotions in a party store?  Of course.  I text my girlfriends.  Complete with pictures.  And requisite follow-up phone calls of a therapy and venting and support nature.

I can do this.  I can have this person who is now taller than my bustline keep growing up.  And out. 

Wait, what?!  What did I just say?  Ahhh, yes, there is the crux of the problem.  Out.  They are out in the world now, my babies.  Ages 7 and 6.  And, on a day when the newscasters are practically shouting at me that with the current windchill a person can get frostbite within five minutes, I am supposed to drop off their little selves, and allow them to go into that big ol' building, by themselves, for six hours.  Without me.

And yet, for months and years now, they keep coming out the other end, just fine, all in one piece, and having gained knowledge and experience, six hours later.  Like a conveyor belt.  Of life.

Deep sigh.  I do a lot of deep sigh'ing these days.  I am all at once full of happiness that they are growing up, while simultaneously full of heartbreak.

I think I'll go cry now.  Oh.  No, I won't.  Because in a few minutes I will pick them up at the end of the conveyor belt.  And I will keep on giving them the things that they can get only from me.  I am still part of the process.  Only now there are more people on my team.