About a month ago, I took G in for his annual well-child visit at the pediatrician. For the most part, things checked out okay. All ten fingers and toes are still intact. He grew taller, but could stand to gain more weight. He’s happy and healthy, developing socially and academically.
Dr. B. ran down the usual list of questions. What do you wear on your head when you ride your bike? (A helmet). Are you eating your vegetables? (Yes… under duress.) Drinking your milk? (Yes.) Do you have playdates? (Thankfully, blessedly, yes.) Do you have any activities that you do after school?
Drat, drat and double drat. I thought I had all my bases covered. I mean my sensory-sensitive kid is eating his vegetables and drinking his milk. My socially challenged kid has playdates. During the course of the week he gets speech and language therapy, behavior therapy, and social skills instruction. What more do you want from me?!?
And then I took a breath. And I thought about G’s week from a new perspective. G spends about four hours a week in various therapies. He spends another four hours getting carted around to his sister’s activities. What about activities for G?
I almost lost it right there in the exam room. My sweet, sweet G. My daughter looks out into the world, sees every possibility under the sun, and wants to try it all. And so it is that she is doing gymnastics, learning piano, attending Hebrew School, and participating in Girl Scouts. And somehow in the shlepping and the scheduling and the balancing… G had gotten lost in the shuffle. I made a promise to myself to rectify the situation.
But when I got home and tried to wrap my head around finding an activity for G, I felt the familiar feelings of anxiety and depression wash over me. Between G’s therapies and S’s extra-curriculars, our time to add something new was pretty limited. The process of finding an appropriate activity, that was either ongoing or starting in the near future, that would fit into our already overpacked schedule seemed as likely as finding a needle in a haystack.
Then a friend told me about T-Ball. T-Ball is the most junior division of Little League. T-Ball players are four to six years old. There are no practices– just one or two games a week. During the game, there are no outs and nobody wins or loses. Everybody bats. Everybody fields. The emphasis is on learning the rules of the game and on learning good sportsmanship. Nobody cares if you run the wrong way, drop the ball, or require ten tries to make contact with the ball.
With each detail my friend shared, it became clearer and clearer that this was the right activity for G. In almost every aspect of my life, indecision plays a major role. But not in this case. An hour after our conversation, G was a registered member of Little League.
In the days leading up to the first T-Ball game we practiced in the driveway. It seemed like such a good idea when I signed G up… but once our practices were underway, I wasn’t so sure. Something I hadn’t really considered before: Baseball has A LOT of rules. But, we broke it down. Practiced each one individually. Made sure it was mastered before we moved on to the next. Hit the ball. Hit the ball, then drop the bat. Hit the ball, then drop the bat, then run to first. Hit the ball, drop the bat, run to first, then look to the coach to see if you should run or stay. Step, by step, by step.
The day of the first game arrived. We showed up a little early to receive G’s bright orange hat and shirt. Once he donned the uniform, he was a boy transformed. What happened to my jumpy, flappy little guy? The kid standing out in center field looks like a BASEBALL PLAYER.
We’re now three weeks in to the season. Some lucky star was shining down on us during the team assignments, because the coach of G’s team is incredibly patient, but fun and enthusiastic at the same time. G loves him and responds excitedly to his coach’s instructions. (The other day we were playing in the back yard, and I overheard G giving batting lessons to S. He said to his sister repeatedly, “Coach C says ‘bend your knees so you’re really strong’!” and then “Good job! Now, hustle, hustle!”)
And the best part? G loves T-ball!! He talks about it every day at school. He’s got a special place in his room where he keeps his shirt and hat between games. We’ve amended our bedtime blessing to include the phrase, “Thank you God for inventing T-ball!” What started out for me as a grudging attempt to meet the expectations of G’s pediatrician has developed into something much, much more. I signed G up for T-ball with my fingers crossed that the experience wouldn’t be a miserable, humiliating failure. The fact that it’s turning into something he enjoys and feels excited about? That is just way beyond anything I hoped for.
Last night, the spot near home plate where I usually sit was taken, so I set up camp directly in front of third base. I thought I was going to miss out on the action… but it turned out I was in exactly the right spot. Nothing could compare with the flash of G’s smile as he came running down the baseline from second to third.
As a parent of a child on the spectrum, I know what it’s like to watch your child struggle. It’s heartbreaking to see the amount of effort it requires to do something that comes easily to other kids. But that’s what makes moments like these even sweeter.
Of all the roles I pictured for myself upon becoming a parent, “sports mom” was never really up there. But if you come to a game, it won’t be hard to find me. I’ll be the one camped out in front of third base, cheering on my son and his team at the top of my lungs.