Let me start with an apology. I haven’t posted anything in a long time. It was a conscious decision. It was summer, and while both my kids were enrolled in camp programs for the month of July… they were “uncamped” for the majority of August. In order to be present for my family, I purposely put the writing on hold. That being said, I’m sorry if you, my loyal readers (all ten of you!) were wondering where I was.
I had all good intentions of returning to my writing with a burst of positive energy. I wanted to tell you about what a smooth transition it’s been back to school this fall (it’s been beyond awesome!). I’ve also been wanting to tell you about the lovely developments I’ve seen in my children’s relationship with one another (and how S is the most awesome big sister ever). In addition, I’ve been so excited to share news about my latest projects. I’m helping a group from G’s preschool kick off a fundraising campaign for an accessible-for-all playground at the school. I’m working with a team from Gateways (Boston’s central agency for Jewish special education) to create an innovative new program for preschoolers with special needs. I’m chairing a first-ever Special Needs Advisory committee at my synagogue– and it’s off to a great start.
I look forward to writing about all of those things. But today, I need to write about something else.
G had such a great experience in T-Ball… that when it came time to sign up for some activities in the fall… it seemed like a no-brainer. While spring is the big season for Little League, they do offer a small, six-week season in the fall. G said he wanted to play again, so it seemed like a done-deal.
However, when I went to enroll him, the website informed me that he was ineligible for T-Ball. T-Ball was for pre-K and K. G had graduated to the “Farm League”. I read the description of Farm League. According to the description, Farm League was an instructional league with a focus on skill development. I was disappointed the site wouldn’t allow me to register G for T-Ball, but it seemed like Farm League wouldn’t be too much of a stretch.
Fast forward to the first day. I was at a meeting in the morning, and David brought G to the game. When I arrived, G was on the field with his team. It took me a moment to find him, but there he was, way out in left field, with his back to the batter, and his eyes gazing up to the sky.
It was terrible. G had been the oldest kid on his T-ball team. Among his peers, he often stands out because of his silly behaviors. However, among a group of 3-6 year olds, he looked pretty good.
The opposite was true in Farm League. Now G is among the youngest. There were a couple of kids on the team who zoned in and out… but for the most part, the kids on that team looked like they were really there to play ball. A batter from the opposing team stepped up to the plate. The ball zoomed towards the batter. Contact was made with a loud crack. Whizz… the ball flew to midfield where it was snagged by an outfielder who snapped it to first base, completing the double play. And G continued to watch the clouds.
One of the coaches was really nice. He spoke to G with a kind voice, called him “buddy”, and kept a smile on his face the whole time. The other coach was gruff. He spoke to all the kids with a sharp tone, but seemed to be particularly impatient with G.
The kids seemed to be indifferent to one another. It was a huge team (fourteen players!), and the first time they were meeting each other was on game day. It was also very hot– high eighties on the 7th of September, which led to some lethargy. For the most part, the kids were focused on the game, but not paying too much attention to their teammates. The same was true among the parents. Attention to the game, but not much socializing going on.
The game continued. G went up to bat three times. The first two times, he missed several pitches, so they moved him to the T. He made solid base hits, and continued to score a run. The third time, they started him directly on the T. He hit a solid base hit, and ran to first. The next batter popped it almost directly to the first baseman, who caught it easily, then tagged G out.
I expected G to lose it. There were no outs in T-Ball. But, fortunately, one of the coaches (the nice one) was right there by his side, explaining with a smile that it was really unlucky that the hit went right to first base… and that G did a great job trying to outrun the baseman. G responded to the coach’s warmth, and spoke about the unlucky hit for the rest of the day with a smile on his face.
When the game was finally over (90 minutes, compared to T Ball’s one hour games), we said good-bye to the coaches and left. G seemed satisfied with the experience, but I felt deeply, deeply sad for the rest of the afternoon and well into the evening.
It was a hard thing to watch.
It was hard to watch the other kids focus on the game, while G was looking up at the clouds.
It was hard to watch the team leave the field, while G was still standing out there, and none of the players or the coaches noticed.
It was hard to watch G’s confusion when he got tagged out.
It was hard to watch G hit from the T, while most of the others were hitting the pitches.
It was hard to watch the frustration on the coach’s face, knowing that at some point, G’s teammates will pick up on it.
I felt the powerful weight of responsibility on my shoulders. Did I make a mistake signing him up? Should I have called the league manager and asked questions about Farm? Should I have tried to override the system to keep him in T-Ball? Should I have practiced with G over the summer to try to maintain his skills?
I don’t want to hold G back. I want him to try things and have new experiences. If he’s unsuccessful, I want him to learn from his mistakes. I don’t want to be overprotective. However, I don’t want to throw him in the deep end before he can swim. I don’t want him to fail at something he might like if he had the right support. It is a constant, constant balancing act. And days like yesterday make me feel like I’m up on the tight rope without a net. I make a million decisions about G every day. One day, I’m going to screw up and put him in a situation that undermines his confidence completely.
I soldier on. I fundraise for playgrounds. I create new inclusive preschool programs. I chair Special Needs committees. I create awareness. And I hope, fervently and with every fiber of my being, that we will continue to find the nice coach, the understanding neighbor, the patient teacher. So that if I screw up, there’s a net there to catch G.