Thursday, May 08, 2008

My New Favorite Pastime (Turns out America was right all along!)

Last night I took Noah to his baseball practice. The field is only half a mile from our house, but is across a busy street with no sidewalks. Noah is not very astute at noticing cars when crossing the street yet, so we don't let him ride his bike there. Usually, I drop him off and come back later, because I'm not that into baseball (I know, I'm not being considered for mother of the year any time soon anyway) and practice is forever long- 5:30 to 8pm. Also, on any given evening all our kids have practice at three different places, and I am usually irritated by the interruption they have on our nice spring to summer evenings. What's that? By "they" do I mean the practices or the kids?



Now before you think I'm the worst mom in Little League history, allow me to explain.
In previous years my experience with the little league coaches were that they seemed a bit obsessive and would say that practice ended at 7:30, but keep them hitting or running til dark.

The last year the boys were in Little League I was pregnant with Anna. And here is the tale of how I became infamous among coaches, and a legend among Little League parents.

It all started when I would show up at the time practice was supposed to end, and patiently try to wait until the coach was ready to end it.

I would be hungry since practice started at 5, and ended at 7:30, therefore we hadn't had dinner yet. Now I admit, that this, combined with my ever growing obvious prenatal state, had me behaving with somewhat less patience and grace then I normally bestow on such activities. I would very politely, pointedly ask the coach to release Tanner. This was, of course, crossing a time honored Coach's and parent's tradition, which had Rick gently questioning my motives more than once. Though toward the end even Rick was becoming annoyed at this particular Coach's lack of respecting our parental rights to our children well after practice was to have ended. But, with some patience and careful training, in time, this Coach came to see my waddling up from the parking lot as his cue to check his watch and wrap things up.

Then the games began and all claims of pregnancy induced etiquette were off.

I have found some coach's wives to be equally over zealous, and that coach's wife in particular. On the last practice I was told to be back at 7:30, which I clarified about 5 times before leaving. It was at this same field about five minutes from my house, so if they wanted him later it would be fine, but I didn't want to keep driving back and forth.

Have I mentioned I was in my second trimester?

So I pulled up in the van and could tell they were not going to be finishing up anytime soon. This was the last practice, the night before they started tournaments. This team barely won any games. They played on all corners of my very large county, and I would drive all over only to see my son sit out all but two innings of the game, in the hot sun with his red-headed self frying away.

So this last practice...after checking and triple/quadruple checking when it would be done, I left my air conditioned van, waddled up, at seven forty-five, and was met by Coach's wife, who I didn't know was such, but apparently knew who I such.

"They are playing a scrimmage, "she announced to me. I irritatedly responded with, "Well...I sure wish someone would have told me that when I dropped him off. I was told to be back no later than 7:30."

Her next, rather offensive response caused me to realize I wasn't dealing with just any parent (especially the way the other parents were regarding me with a super hero pregnant mom status, sent to fight the powers of evil, egotistical little league coaches and their wives for them.)

Coach's wife proclaimed,

"We didn't know that when you dropped him off. The other team was nice enough to offer. This is the last practice and they need it if they have any chance of winning the tournament!"

Well, a Coach and his wife can dream I suppose.

Carefully, I assessed mine enemy, and realized she wasn't worth my blood pressure going up. Nope, I was going to wait to get my digs in, to the man who sent his woman to attempt to avoid me one last time. I stood there in the hot June sun, no supper, very pregnant, waiting. Watching. Biding my time waiting for the right opportunity.

(Insert the music from the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly here.)

At 8:15 the scrimmage ends. Tanner's team loses the scrimmage. (Is anyone else sensing a pattern here?) Oh and have I mentioned that the Coach is fond of having them run laps after the other team leaves when they lose (or win!)?

So at 8:15, a full 45 minutes after I was told my son would be finished....

The coach decided they should have a pep talk. After they run laps of course. They have been here since FIVE O'clock. There is a collective sigh of discontent among the parents.

Then a voice rings out from the crowd. It's mine. Quiet, pleasant, inquiring.

"Hey coach?"
He turns and I can almost see him flinch at the site of me, pregnant....sweaty....HUNGRY....

And knowing my probable cause he pleads, "Can I just have him a few extra minutes?"
I say, "You've had him forty-five extra minutes already."
The other parents are smirking, enjoying, silently cheering me.

Except coach's wife who simply humphs! again.

Needless to say, there's no winning for the coach when faced with such a super hero pregnant mom. He knows he's finished. He my awesome prenatal prowess.

Tanner is embarrassed. He pleads in the van that I never do it again.
I promise him I won't if...

he lets me sign him up for YMCA ball the next year. I heard a rumor that it's a positive, non-competitive experience, and said experience meets, practices, and plays at the same field, only two times a week, for one hour timed games. That in said experience all kids play every inning, all kids are cheered on, by all parents and coaches (and their wives if they show up) of both teams. Sounds lovely.

He doesn't answer.

The next spring Tanner says he would like to try Y ball instead.

His dad says, " I don't think Y ball is very good."
I say, "But they only play at the fields five minutes away instead of all over town."
His dad says, "Y ball isn't competitive."
I say, "Well then. Perhaps in addition to not driving forty minutes to games we will actually get to see Tanner PLAY in them."
His dad says, "I really would like him to stay in Little League."
I say, "Ok...then can you take him all the time? Because I spent last year miserably pregnant driving all over the county only to see him warm the bench."
His dad says, "He can try Y ball."

But Noah was set on Little League, and his dad agreed to take him all over the county to do it. We said fine. That we would gladly pay for and cover Y ball.

Rick offered to coach and the coach was thrilled. Then, since Noah was done with Little League in time, he got to join the team as well. AND, Ken (Tanner's dad) offered to coach too, that is if Rick was ok with that. (We are an awesome blended family, don't you think?) And Rick responded, "Of course...they're YOUR sons."

And that's the year that my sons had their DADS both coach. I have pictures to prove it. Now Y ball was pretty sad. The coaches pitched. To 10-12 year olds. Some kids didn't even know to run to the bases when they accidentally made contact with the ball. sons helped their Dads coach the other kids. For once both Tanner and Noah were the BEST players on the team. They had such a good time they opted to ONLY play Y ball the next year. And Rick and Ken opted to be the coaches from the start. Together. Adrienne even joined the team.

During practices their teammates found the situation curious. Once a girl asked Rick, "Are you Noah's dad?"
Rick said, "No. I'm Noah's Stepdad."
The girl then inquired, "Well then who's that other guy over there?"
Rick answered, "Noah's Dad."
The girl gave a very strange, puzzled expression and stated, "THAT'S weird!"

Surely it is. But it's our weird and we're sticking to it.

So this year we leave Y ball behind. Noah is back in Little league and the coach, as I said, practices WAY long. But...he usually finishes within ten minutes of the scheduled end. Tanner has opted for a church team, complete with learning versus. We just tell him not to mention what church mom heads to every week and he should do just fine.

I have been running them to practice and dancing the complicated how to pick them up at the same time at two different fields dance, BUT they ONLY play at those fields! Whooopeee!

And then last night I had an epiphany. I don't know why it didn't happen sooner.

I discovered the joy of baseball.
For mom's anyway.

The weather was horrible, blowing, raining, looking like thunder (whatever that looks like since thunder is a sound!) So I brought a good book and read it while my youngest son got drenched practicing while the heavens opened upon him. After the rain ended the coach called them into the covered dugout (interesting choice of order there) for a pep talk after the previous night's loss. I sat there thinking, "Why doesn't this irritate me? This practicing through terrible weather, only to seek coverage After it stops, never considering calling it due to weather.

Then it hit me.

I was enjoying my time reading in the car!

And once I get my new little laptop...I could spend practices writing in the car.

No WONDER my mom drove us to rehearsals non-stop and classes every Sat at the Guild. She either did some volunteering there herself, went to the store alone, or read. Alone.

When you have four kids...alone time is reverent.
Soulful solitude.

Now....Now I get it. What was I thinking before?

My kids are allowed to go to any practices for any sport they like. I will gladly transport to all. But I'm not leaving my car!!!!.


tiggysmum70 said...

Ah the joys of parenthood that I will have to look forward too. ROFL!!

Now, I won't have to really be "bored" at practices. Thanks for the advice!!!

Design Goddess said...

I can't believe it took you this long to realize this! You should have asked me. I would have told you what all the other parents did when I played ball. And those are mighty long practices! We had practices for about 2 hours a few times a week and it worked pretty well for us.

Thanks for the great visuals though! I could vividly see you waddling up to the field wanting to get your child back! :D

state of grace said... just wait. Those little league coaches (and many of the team parents) have too much free time. They LIVE for little league.

DG- I'm sure you still have that very visual indeed, since you were witness to much of my waddling! And WHY didn't you recommend me taking a good book or laptop before! I felt bad enough when pregnant with Anna and watching the games from our air conditioned, portable loge box on wheels (otherwise known as the family assault vehicle (that's mini-van to you civillians ;)