By Gwen Rockwood
A few months ago I signed up our two boys, ages 6 and 4, for their first taste of team sports. They chose soccer and t-ball. I imagined us occasionally going to the ball fields and watching the boys kick a ball, hit a ball, run a bit and then come home and resume life as usual. In hindsight, I had no idea what I was doing. I was a total rookie, and, boy, have I learned a few things since then.
My first lesson came shortly after I registered the boys with their teams. We received a detailed spreadsheet of practice times and ball games as well as a list of equipment they’d need. Most of the time, the boys had practices on different days, at different times, on different fields in different parts of town. Sometimes a soccer game conflicted with a baseball practice. Sometimes the boys had the same practice time at completely separate parks, so Tom and I had to split up to get each one where he needed to go. I carried around that Excel spreadsheet to try to keep track of who was going where at what time with what equipment, and suddenly I felt more like an air traffic controller than just a mom going to some ball games.
My second lesson came during our first round of games. There I was, camera in hand and baby on hip, smiling as if I was completely prepared. Then I looked around at the other, more seasoned parents. In addition to cameras, they brought folding chairs, a blanket spread on the ground for their toddlers, snacks, sun visors and miniature ice chests. They had special sports duffel bags to help them haul around all their kids’ equipment. It was clear they’d done this before. I, on the other hand, was pacing around the edge of the field wondering why there were no bleachers or snack bars. I made a mental note to come better equipped for the second game.
The following week I was back. This time, I brought folding chairs, sunglasses, snacks and baby stroller, and I was in a much better position to enjoy the next few games. And I did enjoy them, particularly the soccer games because they kept things moving with constant action. The first few baseball games were nice, too. However, I have to confess – and some will find this next statement downright un-American – I’m a tad bit bored.
Of course I want to be there to watch my kids and root for the home team and give the congratulatory high-five after the game. But 4-year-old and 6-year-old baseball games don’t move too quickly. There are only so many photos you need of your kid standing in the outfield looking straight ahead. Lately, I’ve been wondering if the other mothers will scorn me if I bring a book and read during the not-so-exciting parts.
Apparently, I’m not the only one who’s a little anxious to get things moving. At the last game, my 4-year-old sat down in the outfield, took off his shoe and filled it up with dirt just to entertain himself. Of course, if the game was more about running the bases and less about waiting for a ball to roll your direction, we’d both be a little more engaged, but we’re not quite there yet.
The whole point of this was to expose the boys to team sports, keep them physically active and let them begin to decide which activities they enjoy most. Instead, I’ve learned that I’m the one who must decide how much is too much. Multiple kids in multiple sports means you have to find a way to factor in enough hours per week to cover equipment shopping time, drive time, practice times and game times. It’s moms and dads who must figure out a way to cover the cost of registration fees, uniforms, gloves, bats, balls, cleats and team photos – not to mention the gas money to get everybody where they’re going and back home again. Next spring the house rule will be one kid in one sport at one time. Each family is different, but, for mine, having enough down time to just “be” is just as important as time to “go and do.”
The good news is that we’re in the ninth inning of spring sports season and the games will soon be over. We’ll take the summer at a more leisurely pace. Instead of running the bases, we’ll run through sprinklers and let days float by at the community pool. We’ll slow down, catch our breath and stick close to home base.