Sunday, April 06, 2008

T-Ball Induced Panic Disorder, part II

OK, so how do you know when to say, "Hey, buddy, give it another try...c'mon, you can do it!" and when to say, "OK, we're pulling out. Let's see if they want their jersey and hat back,"?

When I asked A. what sport he'd most like to play, he said firmly, "Baseball." So I signed him up for t-ball (months late - how do parents know to sign their kids up in September for spring t-ball? Are there any other secrets anyone would like to let me in on?). G. bought him a little glove and started practicing catch. We would have gotten him a little fishing pole and practiced casting if he'd said, "Fishing."

An space came open on a team (we found out they had to kick a kid out because he was so disruptive). Unfortunately, this team had been together for about 3 weeks already and had had a few games and had the rhythm down. A.'s coming into this fresh and new, and he doesn't like it.

On the way to the game Saturday, in the cutest little Giants uniform you ever saw, he decided he'd sit in the stands and just watch. He wouldn't join the warm-ups. He wouldn't sit with his team. We watched the game and pointed out every kid who dropped the ball and swung and missed. See? They're just learning, too. Just like you.

The coach managed (I'm not sure how, he's pretty good at it though) to talk him into batting during the second round. He got him up there first, let him start with the tee (usually they get pitched to 4 times, and if they don't hit it, they can try the tee). A. hit it, lots of cheers went up, and he ran to first base. When he got there, he immediately walked off the field and towards us.

"No, no! Stay there!" we all yelled. He burst into tears and pulled away from the coaches. They let him walk back, where he melted into my arms and cried that batting had hurt a tiny scratch he'd already had on his hand.

They couldn't talk him into batting again, or joining the team for the ending cheer. G. picked him up and tried to carry him down there, but he got that look on his face I know so well - he gets all red, his eyes bulge, his cheeks puff out and it looks like his head is about to explode. That didn't go well - he started yelling, crying and twisting out of G's grip.

Frankly, it really made us, as parents, look bad. We're never the parents of the screaming, tantruming one in public. A. is usually very reasonable and rule-oriented. If you tell him he has to do something, he does it. He's pretty adaptable and flexible, but if that line is crossed and he gets overwhelmed, ain't nothin' going to work except time and leaving him alone.

So it was a bit humbling to see all the other parents watch him fuss and make their assumptions. I know I would have. He probably looked coddled and maybe spoiled. Or maybe we looked like we were forcing him to do something he didn't want to do (since that's pretty much what we were doing).

Meanwhile, Team Mother (who looks all of 22 years old) had me signed up for snacks for two weeks, manning the "snack bar" on a day we don't even have to be there, and selling 48 Pepperoni Sticks in 2 weeks.

BTW, anyone want a pepperoni stick? Only $1! I'm sure they'll last until Christmas! They make great stocking stuffers!

I looked at her and said, "I'm not sure we'll be back, you know?" casting a side-long glance at my non-participating son. "Oh, all the kids were shy at first but now they're all doing really well," she scoffed.

Really? They all cried and refused to play? Must have been a hell of a first game.

I keep going back and forth - I'm totally ready to give up. I'm not going to force the kid. He doesn't want to do t-ball, no problem. Especially after I saw all the stuff I have to do, no problem, really. I'm quite happy to give them back their pepperoni sticks. (Naw, we'd probably end up buying them).

But the coach kept saying gently to A., "Hey, next time, right? Next time you're gonna hit for me, right?" And A. wouldn't exactly agree, but he would say, "Maybe."

He finally told me that it wasn't that he didn't know how to play that bothered him - it was that he felt shy with all the other kids. They all knew each other, and he didn't know any of them. I gave my best "you might not know them now, but you will get to know them," speech and he just kept saying, "I'm nervous. I'm too nervous." He's never had trouble making friends and he's not particularly shy, but yeah, I can see where that would be intimidating. When I look back on my childhood, I totally would have balked, and my mom would have been glad to get out of another chauffeuring requirement. But would it have been better for me if I'd been pushed a little more?

It sure seemed to take a long time for me to realize I could actually join groups and people might want to be my friends.

So it's hard for me to gauge how much he really wants to play and just needs encouragement, or if he needs us to say, "That's cool. Maybe next year, or maybe something else entirely." I don't want to teach him to give up because something's hard, but I also don't want to force him.

Bet no other parents have ever been in this dilemma, huh?

In other news: A. and Ben were actually playing cooperatively this morning, decorating their cardboard "Toboggen" together.

A: Ben, I wish we were twins.

Me: ::::melt::::::

A: Because then we'd both color nicely.

Ba dum dum.


Anonymous said...

The rule I had growing up is the same rule we have for our kids: If you choose to do it, you stick with it through the end of the season/year. We don't let them give up halfway through because we wanted to teach that you are part of a team, and they depend on all of the teammates to do their part.

It's tough when they really don't like something, or they think they don't like it. I'd encourage him to stick with it for the season, and let him know if he chooses not to play next year it is fine. But this year, he chose to play baseball and his team needs him to play. Just my 2 cents.

Lunasea said...

I think that's a good rule for the future. The only reason I wouldn't invoke it now is because he really had no idea what he was getting into when he said he'd like to play baseball. He thought it would be like soccer lessons - 1/2 an hour once a week, small class and just fun.

And, to be fair, once I said I was signing him up for t-ball, he said, "Never mind." I was the one who pushed at least trying it.

G will take him to practice today and see how it goes.

Anonymous said...

Sounds completely reasonable.

Anonymous said...

Every parent has had some level of this struggle. I am very amused if you think all those other parents there haven't or won't have these issues to face at some time or another.
A stone hard rule makes a great guideline. If you let children quit everything then they learn no committment. If you make them stay in a situtation where they are going to foster hateful memories then that isn't the answer either.
Parenting is always a balancing act. You've got a record of making good decisions and you'll find the right answer for YOUR child.

Lunasea said...

Thanks for the vote of confidence, KnotMom. I was being completely sarcastic when I suggested no other parent had dealt with this. I know that it's a pretty common dilemma. But that never answers what to do for YOUR kid, y'know?

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