With Nana and Papa

With Nana and Papa
Family Times at Flathead Lake

Monday, June 29, 2015

A Brief Fling

My love affair with baseball is over - killed by injury and defeat. The Creek team lost in the semifinals on Saturday afternoon in a 3:00 game that vividly recalled Jim McKay's voiceover prelude to ABC's "Wide World of Sports":  "We'll see the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat."  If last week's games illustrated the thrill of victory, this one dealt the agony of defeat. I pictured that hapless skier crashing into the boards in pinwheel fashion on the ABC montage, especially when William charged full speed at first base to beat the throw, stepped on the bag wrong with his left foot and went sprawling hard into the dust.

After a breathless moment or two on the part of my son and myself, he stood up and hobbled with the coaches' help back to the dugout. I doctored his arm with neosporin and bandaids while one of the coaches who is a physical therapist helped to ice and elevate the ankle. William tried to go back in to bat in the third inning on a swelling limb that was duct-taped over his sock, but no dice. He struck out, the boys' momentum slowed to a crawl, and we lost 13 - 4. 
 
William promptly came down with a fever and ear infection, as well, and the poor kid is laid up on the couch alternating with ice baths for the ankle and blankets for the chill. I feel jilted and betrayed by the game of baseball, which lifted us so high last week and sent us packing - dusty and sore - two days ago. To add insult to injury, the kids' swim season is almost over, and it looks like William will miss his last week of practice in recovery. Since swimming was my first (and always will be my strongest) sporting love, I will have to kick baseball to the curb, at least until next year.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

A Baseball Mom

I've heard it said that if left up to moms, baseball would die. The statement seemed plausible a few weeks ago, but no longer. A tournament weekend full of valleys and implausible peaks converted me to a tender new love of the sport. Between our two boys we had seven games, in hot dry weather that gave kids bloody noses and sunburns. Daniel's team fought hard but lost two games and exited their double-elimination tournament, while William's team won one and lost one on Saturday, which sent them to the loser's bracket on Sunday - games at 11:00, 1;00 AND 5:00 if they kept winning. The heat reached 95 degrees, the team was down three boys and had one injured kiddo who could not, would not leave the game and strand them with eight players.Families gathered in the shade with coolers of gatorade and ice cream bars and prepared to wait it out.

Our baseball team has been together four years, and our coaches and families are committed and passionate while trying to keep wins and umpire calls in perspective. The three boys who were absent sent extended family at the game to spectate and cheer along with us, yelling phrases like "that's a good cut, Tom," or "good eye, Jack" when a batter swung and missed, or held off and watched a ball sail by.  Normally baseball is too slow for me, an excuse to chat with friends and zone out in the heat of the afternoon rather than be drawn into the game. But this weekend the action seemed fast and furious, the first game close, the second game a blowout in our favor, and the third game an intensely even affair that came down to the wire before our side struck out a final batter and erupted in cheers of joy and disbelief.

Sometimes baseball cuts cruelly, the spotlight falling on a struggling pitcher, a batter who strikes out at the crucial junctures or a fielder who gets a bad bounce and fails to stop a line drive. The boys breathe deep to get the butterflies out before they are pinned by the excited gazes of fifty spectators, and nervous parents pace behind the dugout while their kids pitch, bat, or lunge for the ball. Some games, like the one-run loss on Saturday night, stick in our craw, and remind us to teach our sons that we cannot control life, only our efforts, But some games reward players and fans alike, with three-up, three-down innings by our pitchers, home runs off our bats, safe slides across home, and jubilation at the final out. What hooked me was the huge grin on my son's face as he entered the dugout after a home run, yelling "did you see that, Mom?" and his exuberant leap into the arms of a coach after he pitched a great inning.

We're back to the tournament on Saturday, with a brave bunch of boys and a renewed zeal for the game. The families will be out in force, our numbers back to the full team, and the weatherman promises a hot day. Nothing better on a summer afternoon.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

How to Say I Can't

We've always told the children not to say "I can't" since saying the phrase out loud commonly makes it true. We encourage sayings like "I can but I will need your help,"  or "I can but I have not practiced enough yet," diplomatic ways of identifying challenges and how to overcome them.  Yet my words of wisdom are now coming back to bite me.  In the past six weeks we have been deluged with 15 inches of rain, canceled and rescheduled baseball games, swim practices and meets, and multiple demands from each child to get summer books, summer clothes, summer entertainment.  In the hurricane of requests, I had to periodically tell my children "I can't do that right now. I can do it in a week."  Or simply, "I can't."  My oldest child objected strongly to such statements, accusing me of weakness, procrastination and self-pity.

These accusations chip away at me like a workout session with a punching bag. You don't feel much at first but after repeated attacks the muscles quiver and you need to sit down.  I agree that I should not say "I can't" - it makes me a hypocrite and a bad example.  But what to say instead?  It's good for children to recognize that their parents have limits and that the kids cannot have everything they want right at the time they want it.  My mom, who was visiting, praised Rob and me for not giving in to every whim and encouraging delayed gratification, but I don't know that we do, really.  The children most often get what they request fairly soon after they express their desire.  They may pay for what they want themselves, but the ride to a store and the time it takes to shop come from us.

I guess that a parent's inability to be everywhere and do everything gives rise to the need for a driver's license at a child's 16th birthday.  Though some young adults may be too young to drive, the family's need combined with the young person's intense desire to be with friends and do what those friends are doing RIGHT NOW makes that little piece of plastic a necessity.  I don't know how to navigate the two and a half years before that piece of plastic comes home with Aden, but I'd better stop saying those two bad words.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Watching SYTYCD

One of my harmless vices is watching So You Think You Can Dance (link) .  I enjoy people with great bodies flinging themselves around to good music, I thrill to the passionate intensity that hallmarks a nervous parent in the audience, and I empathize when tears meet either the joy of success or the pain of defeat.  Last week's episode highlighted a young female tap dancer who first auditioned in Dallas. At that audition she received a "no" response from all three judges, who also provided her with a helpful critique on her song choice, her tempo, and her steps.  The girl took all their advice to heart, flew to Detroit to audition again the very next week with a new song, a new routine and a new determination. She made it to the next phase (Las Vegas!) with a unanimous vote and the compliments of the judges on her ability to take criticism and use it to her advantage.

I was surprised and inspired by her performance. (I was also impressed by the deep pockets that allow her to fly around the country for repeat auditions, and the mysterious ability to work her way into a second audition in as many weeks). No one likes failure, but it's the best if not only way to really learn.

This message resonated with me again this morning as I took Aden and Daniel to SwimLabs to work on their strokes and to practice using the video software. They both did a great job in applying my suggestions, though Daniel still tends to take critique personally and react with growing frustration. I could see huge growth in Aden as she calmly listened and watched and worked to incorporate changes that felt strange and new. She used to take such comments personally but has grown to realize that adults only take the time to critique when they believe the student has potential to be better, to be excellent.

As it turns out, my video was a bit too long for the connection to upload quickly, and my upload took twenty minutes (about 12 minutes too long) as the next class moved into the water and could not use the TV.  I felt guilty and unpracticed, and got into the car with my own angst. I asked Aden, "What would I say to you if this happened under your watch?" and she calmly replied, "You didn't hurt anyone, you didn't do anything wrong, and everything will be OK."  I don't know who's raising who, but so glad to have some expertise in the family. I fall down just as much as the kids and can use their help in getting back on my feet - though I'll never be the country's best dancer!


Friday, June 5, 2015

Use It or Lose It

If you know me well, you must suspect that this post is about exercise. It's not. Though it's a well-known fact that we must continue to use our body or lose some of its functions, in this post I am referring to creativity. I recently read (in an article that I clipped for reference and then lost at the hairdresser's) that creativity stops developing in the brain at about the age of twelve. If we don't continue to exercise that mental muscle, we are frozen at a twelve-year-old's capacity.

Children do have great imaginations, and it's not awful to have a tween's inventiveness, but what a loss if we do not take our creativity beyond that point, if we can't develop our interests in art or music or writing past a seventh grade perspective. When I read the article I felt a zing of its truth. I have blogged before that my own creative ambitions towards poetry and writing stopped by the beginning of high school, when recognition and rewards went to the best essay, research paper, or grammar exercises. My creative juices have been frozen for several decades; I put them in deep freeze while I raced from task to task on my agenda. Maybe it's time to thaw them out - and then drink that kool-aid.

Time to rewrite the script. I'm assigning myself the job of writing and research, and clearing my plate for the next year so that I can develop those muscles. If I died tomorrow, that's the one big regret I would have - that I stopped pursuing the creative dreams at age twelve. I hope my readers find time to do the same for their own creative endeavors. The world needs all our points of view, our cumulative flights of fancy and colorful aspirations.  Cheers to seeing what creativity looks like from the age of forty and beyond!