Family / Kids / Parenting

Swing Batter Batter

IMG_2442When we arrived home from school today, my daughter took her lunch box to the kitchen and then wandered into the living room and asked me for a hug. I gave her a big squeeze and rubbed her back and she said, “I needed that after what happened at school.”

I hate any references to “what happened at school” because it has meant various things over the years including, but not limited to, trips to the principal’s office, refusals to compromise with other children, playground arguments and once – a bead in the ear.

I must have exhaled dramatically as I prepared myself for the newest transgression when she said, “It wasn’t something I did. It was something that happened to me in gym.”

She then recounted her tale of horror. In a game of tee ball, she had been unable to hit the ball despite several attempts. She was the only kid who didn’t get a hit.

Personally,  was relieved. I was worried that she had set fire to the climbing rope or something. Who cares about tee ball?

Apparently, she cares about tee ball. This became apparent to me quickly as she began to sob. I held her and  said all the right parental things, “You just have to try your best!” and “It doesn’t matter! You are good at many other things!” and “We’ll practice!” and “Who the hell can’t hit the ball off of a tee?!” Okay…I did not say that last thing because I know better (though it did cross my mind).

She continued crying and I wanted to make the crying stop so I did what I often do when I can’t fix things – I told a story.

“I have a story about tee ball!” I said excitedly. The tears stopped and Zeca started to sniffle, “You do?” I nodded and my son came into the room because he loves stories and, even more than that, he loves sports.

So gather round all ye blog readers and let me tell you my tee ball tale…

I was 7 and my mother decided that I was going to play tee ball. I was not a sporty child which I’m sure comes as a shock to no one. Even at that age, I spent most of my time in my room reading, writing and playing school. I told my mom that I had no interest in tee ball and she ignored me and signed up to coach a tee ball team – my new tee ball team. Please keep in mind that my mother had never played softball, baseball, tee ball or any kind of ball. Though I was but a wee lass, it did occur to me that this would not go well for either of us. On the first day of practice, my mother told me to stand behind the batter because I would be playing catcher. I did as I was told and squatted behind the batter, pounding my brand new glove with my hand. The very first batter swung the bat violently backward and hit me in the side of the head and knocked me to the ground. Always the doting mother, mom said, “Jes-us Christ, Vikki! You can’t be that close to the batter!” I stumbled to my feet and she tipped my head up to the side, looked at the lump forming on the side of my head and said, “You’ll be fine. Go play in the outfield.”

By the time I finished, both kids were laughing because what’s not funny about a story in which your mother sustains a head injury? As their laughter died out, however, I realized they were waiting for me to tie that story in to Zeca’s current tee ball issue and, well, I hadn’t thought that far ahead in the process. I had only wanted to make the crying stop.

I quickly considered the possible morals: 1) Tee ball sucks 2) You are lucky that you never played tee ball with Nana and 3) Jes-us Christ! Don’t stand so close to the batter! But none of those seemed relevant.

And then it came to me.

I said, “The point of the story is that you do not come from tee ball people. Your brother played for a season and all he did was wander around the outfield wearing his glove like a hat. We are not tee ball people.”

This was not my best story or moral or anything really but Zeca was no longer crying so I counted it as a success. Then, Miguel said, “Come on Zeca. Let’s go outside and I’ll teach you how to hit.” His sweet offer reminded me that I don’t have to be everything to my kids. They can be there for each other and, thankfully, there are many other people in their lives who can help them along the way.

I was so relieved…and then I heard the softball hit the house. Hard. I ran to the back door to make sure that it hadn’t hit a window and I saw Zeca standing there with the bat and Miguel said, “Mom! She’s doing great!” and I thought, “At least they didn’t hit a window…and nobody got hit in the head.”

Small victories…small victories.

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  1. Thank you, thank you for this. Beautiful story.

    Your title strikes a primal chord in so many of us (taunt/goad/gauntlet, all kosher because it’s inside the script of a game). I appreciate your kids’ senses of humor, and am also very thankful they *didn’t* play tee ball with Nana!

  2. I’m loving this post.

    Some day I’ll get to tell n about the day I was made to sit out of gym because we were playing softball, and I’d jammed my finger. Said jammed finger was therefore in a splint, and stuck out when I went up to bat.

    Said jammed finger was also my middle finger.

    My family is definitely tee ball people (and soccer people and etc etc etc) and my wife’s is not. This will be an interesting road to navigate for sure…

  3. I don’t think I’ve heard anything better all day. Great parenting and thanks for sharing!

  4. I’m sorry I never met your mom. I might have hit her in the head with a bat.

    No, of course I wouldn’t have. Her tough love made for fantastic stories. Tell us another one, Vikki!

  5. I am so glad I did not choose to read this at work. I would hate to have had to explain the laughter to a culture that does not understand baseball.

  6. I am not tee-ball people either.I feel for you all.

  7. So funny. We are tee ball people in my house. But we are not Tank Top People.

  8. Ok, THANK YOU. This made me giggle. Even my attempts at putting a freaking jaunty bow in my hair today (I swear to God, I have a bow in my hair) didn’t pull me out of my mood quite like the idea of you using that anecdote as a way to soothe your daughter’s heart.

    Awesome.

  9. Ah ha ha! I love this piece and I LOVED playing school. I had an imaginary teacher, Sally LaBreck. Maybe I said too much…. Anyway, I am moved especially because I once was the only kid who did not make contact with the kickball in gym, I still turned out ok. Glad to know and I am impressed that your children confide in you. What a gift.

  10. Totally tearing up here. I have had the same kinds of conversations with my kids, (the “you don’t come from T-ball people,” ones, not the “T-ball is clearly only a path toward head injury” ones. 🙂 ) I love what you said about not needing to be everything to our children. I find one of the hardest things to remind myself of as a Mom is that though our children struggle, they will be okay. I want my kids to just always feel confident and good about everything they do, or even try, but of course that is unrealistic. Probably not even healthy. In fact, it is quite beautiful to know that *when* they struggle, my kids have so many people in their lives to lean on, especially each other.

  11. I finally read this and laughed and laughed. You made the crying stop!!

  12. We are not tee ball people either. Can we make shirts saying this?

  13. I laughed all the way through this. You may be be tee-ball people, but you sure are funny people, Vikki.

  14. I’m not sports people
    but my kids are sports people.
    I just clap along.

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