Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Dear Little League, thank you for ending.

This post will likely eliminate me from Father of the Year nominations for 2011, but I'm usually out of the running for a far worse offense by June anyway. Our 8-year-old plays little league baseball. In theory, this makes me very happy. We're a family of baseball lovers, and I never got to play little league as a kid so I'm glad he can. In practice, however, baseball ruins our family life. The effects creep up slowly, but about four weeks into the season when the house is surprisingly messy and we've eaten one square dinner as a family in the last ten days and Paige and I find ourselves getting short with the kids while simultaneously (silently) considering marriage counseling, we realize that it's happened again. Baseball season has shaken our tenuous equilibrium to its foundation.

Multiple reasons contribute to produce this insanity. First, our already-tight family schedule can't easily accommodate six hours per week of any additional activity. His games were mostly on Thursday evenings and Saturday mornings this year. It's really hard to give up a leisurely family Saturday morning for 8-10 weeks in a row. There's no time in our week like that, and when baseball takes it away, we really miss it. The Thursdays were especially fun because Charlie also had trumpet lessons after school. The drill was:
-Pack the trumpet and baseball bag in the car in the morning.
-Send Charlie to school with a note that he was not to get on the bus.
-Drive from downtown to the East End of town to pick him up at 3:52 on the steps of the school
-Drive the 12-18-minute drive to the lessons location; lessons were meant to start at 4:00, but I couldn't get the boy until 3:52, so...the attendance postcards mostly said "Student had lesson; student was late."
-Kill time during the lesson. Thank the Good Lord for the library next door to the lesson location.
-Bring the baseball bag in to meet Charlie at the end of lesson time and help him get changed in the men's room.
-Buy and eat pizza on the way from trumpet to pick up Teddy at childcare.
-Drop Charlie at the field.
-Take Teddy up to the bagel place and get a bagel and cream cheese (part of this non-nutritious dinner!).
-Go back to the field and nag Teddy to eat while distracted by all the wonders of the ballfield/playground. Keeping ants off the cream cheese earns bonus points.
-Drag home at dark and get the boys into bed.

(As I write this out and complain about it, I think about all that I have to be thankful for in the opportunity to safely provide my physically and mentally healthy child with music instruction and baseball instruction/competition in a free country with a viable economy and a dependable food system. Now, without further ado, back to the whining.)

Second, he plays in the spring when his school and a board that I serve on cram in lots of events between winter's chill and summer vacations. Third, although we're lucky-smart in that we can walk from our house to one of the fields his league uses, most of the games are at the field we have to drive to. That extra transit adds to the stress. Fourth, there are the rainouts. A few times, we got all ramped up to go and got the rainout call just in the nick of time. At least once, we got all the way to the field before finding out the game had been delayed two hours to let the field dry out. Great! I'd set aside this three hours in my weekend
; now you want those three hours later today?

When our routine is not being upset by time at and getting to and from the field, there's the added burden of laundry. Grade schoolers in white pants in a rainy spring make for a whole lot of elbow grease and Oxi-clean.
During a game played in the rain, I joked that the coaches and ump should have to wash the uniforms afterward for not calling the game. Charlie's butt was one brown smear from his two innings as catcher in a very soupy backstop. I've ragged on this before in this space, and I come around to it again because it adds a serious burden to have to stain-treat and soak and attempt to bleach in the sun a single garment when the entire family's laundry still needs to get clean. In future, we may adopt the strategy of Roy and Melinda, wily vet parents of brothers on Charlie's team who now only purchase black baseball pants.

Little League is the only organized sport Charlie has played. Although we have had him play in the fall season (in addition to the standard spring), which is always kind of a bust, we're not psycho about having our kids play like crazy. When I talk to parents whose kids play mutliple sports throughout the year or at the same time, I just can't fathom it. Ten weeks at a stretch takes us right to the brink. How can these families possibly maintain any equilibrium? The coaches - to whom we are all indebted - have a little bit of crazy in them. They tend to be a head coach on one of their kids' teams plus an assistant on another of their kids' teams. I don't know how they do it.

My standard joke about sports parenting is that we want to marry someone else. It doesn't matter if it's a man or a woman as long as he/she has a car and can do the driving and the waiting and the picking up. Society permits all kinds of things these days; why not sports-parent-driven polygamy?

In the end, Charlie's team - the Rangers -won their league's World Series. There's a video of the celebration below. That was cool, and I know that Charlie may never play on another championship team of any form ever again. He'll get a trophy at the league picnic. For now, our family's reward is getting our Thursday evenings and Saturday mornings back. Whew. Sweet success!


Amy said...

Wow, congrats to Charlie, and to you all for surviving the season. We're all glad you stayed married. It makes me even less anxious to even *start* organized anything with the boys! Enjoy your much-deserved extra time.

Lauren Jackson said...

I've always wondered how those baseball parents do it. How about select teams? Traveling teams? Yikes. Charlie sure loves it, though, so you're doing the right thing.

Karen Gorss said...

OK I have a question. Is there no possibility of carpooling to Saturday morning games? Probably not, or you would have done it, but as one who only recently became a parent of two, I am curious why it wouldn't work. If you and another family took turns doing the driving and the waiting, at least you'd get every other Saturday morning sort of off.

I figure it's some combination of the following:
-you are loving parents who don't want to miss a game
-your city is a lot larger than mine and the driving distances are prohibitive
-some other reality of your life that I haven't thought of

And yeah, all that work to get the trousers sparkling, when you *know* that next game they're going to get filthy again...ugh.

JFo said...

Actually, Karen, it probably would be possible to carpool to Saturday morning games in theory. In practice, although the fields are no more than 2 miles from our house, the other kids on the team come from a surprising number of far-flung neighborhoods. I can think of families for whom our house would be on the way to the field but whose own houses are way out of the way for us. Thus breaks down the reciprocity that greases all car-pooling arrangements. There's also the unspoken parental pressure to be there and involved. Yes, we love Charlie and want to support him in baseball. If, however, the other parents weren't pretty uniformly representing at every game, we might make different choices. One of Charlie's teammates had a baseline of both parents and his maternal grandparents present at every game. More family members showed for the big games. Sheesh. That's a high standard to live up to.

JFo said...
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Azure said...

My daughter played soccer for two seasons. As a person who doesn't like to watch sports, I only made it to two games and no practices.

We divide the labor. Hubby did soccer and swimming. I do piano and ice skating. Her afterschool program takes her to choir.

It's still a lot of work, even if you split it up. I think I'm giving up on group sports.