Monday, February 23, 2015

Softball skills day

This past Saturday, it was a very cold morning, and Julianna and I bundled up and headed to our local recreation center's baseball fields to see what awaited us there. I had been dreading this day for over a month now, and it was here. Joel was gone at a campout, but our wonderful respite worker, Lisa, saved the day again and stayed home with Blake and Nathan so I could have a little time with Julianna. I sure needed it because my nerves were intense.

Before we left, Julianna and I said a prayer together, that we would both be guided to know if signing up for softball was the right thing to do for her. I told her that if she felt like she didn't want to play after all, that it would be okay. I had called the center a few days prior and spoke with the person over the girls' softball, letting him know my situation. I have a daughter who is 11, but was held back a year, so she is in 4th grade. She wants to play softball, and has never played any team sport before, ever. She wants to play with two girls from her class, but they are 10 years old. Will she be able to have them on her team? Does she have to do the draft like the other girls? He couldn't even answer all my questions over the phone, so just told me to come on Saturday morning and he would work everything out.

So we got there, and started waiting in a line, and after a few minutes of no movement in said line, I went to another table and asked to speak with the guy in charge. They told me to wait until he was available. So we waited, in the cold, surrounded by girls ages 10-14, flaunting all their softball gear, playing catch with friends, running bases, trying to look at the top of their game. After all, every single coach was there, watching, looking to create their star team. And as I stood there waiting for the guy who was supposed to solve all my problems, I began to feel scared again. Confused. Wondering why I was even here with my daughter who has never played softball. How could she even play with girls like this? Why would I even want her to play when it's no doubt going to be competitive and the coaches putting the pressure on each girl to win? What was I doing here? I felt like I wanted to leave, right then. I felt out of place with my daughter. I didn't like that feeling. I held back the tears.

As we were waiting, one of the girls from Julianna's class came over to say hi. She was nice and said that she put Julianna's name on her form so they could be on the same team. I told her we weren't sure if that was going to be possible, but we would try. She then ran off with another friend to play catch, leaving me with Julianna. And we kept waiting. Finally this guy comes over, and I remind him who I am, and of the situation. He replies, "Well, I'm really sorry. I understand your problem, but we really cannot allow her to play with girls younger than her. Other coaches see this as unfair. I would need to talk to my supervisor and get back to you on Monday."

I am not happy with this answer at all. Here's where all those years of fighting for my daughter kicks in, despite how I am feeling inside. It's amazing how it just comes out, even when I am scared out of my mind. "I spoke to you a few days ago. You said you would fix everything for me if I came to skills day. I am here. I don't want to come back Monday. Isn't there someone you can talk to right now? I want this resolved today."

Suddenly his response changed. I guess he remembered that there was someone he could talk to. He told me to wait a little longer and he would talk to someone on the board for softball.

So we waited some more. And by this time, all the 10 year olds were lined up on one of the fields, each with numbers pinned to their shirts, glove on hand, ready to show what they've got. The older girls were on the next field. I started to ask Julianna if she wanted to go out there with her friend and do what the coaches asked. She began to get very nervous and started saying she didn't want to play softball anymore. She was speaking very quietly, so I had to get close to her. I think she didn't want me to be upset, but then she said, "You said I could tell if you if I didn't want to play. And I don't want to."

Hmm...was this my way out of the whole thing? I started to think that maybe I should just go with Julianna. She's entitled to her own choices. If she doesn't want to play, then she doesn't have to. Fine with me; in fact, it's perfect. Now I won't have to face all of the unknowns of her playing in a team sport. I was beginning to feel relieved. And then around this time, the guy came back, and said that it was fine for her to play on the younger division, and she could also have the two girls on her team, even though it was supposed to be a draft pick.

Great news, but now what was I supposed to do? So we got back in the long line to register, and the whole time, Julianna is telling me she wants to go home. She changed her mind. And I'm thinking, we just got these people to bend the rules for her, majorly. As much as I would have liked to throw in the towel, I knew that wasn't the right decision. And this is when I have to be really clever with Julianna. She has quite the one-track mind, so talking her into something isn't easy. So I began reasoning with her. "Julianna, I know you are scared, but I know you can be brave. Your friends would be so sad if you didn't play with them. And your teacher wants to come watch you play, too. Sometimes we have to do things that are new, and might be scary, but I know it will be fun. Can you be brave for me?" Julianna looks out at the girls on the field, now starting to catch grounders from the batter and throwing the ball to first base. "Julianna, what if we sign up today, but we don't make you go out there where those other girls are? You don't have to do that today." She's thinking about it, and finally says softly, "Okay." So we got her signed up, and they even did it for free, just in case she changes her mind.

Before we left, we went closer to the field where the girls were catching the ball, and I asked her again if she wanted to do it. She very quickly said no. So we left. And on the way home we made a quick stop for donuts and hot chocolate.

I am so glad that I didn't give in to that little feeling, that escape that would have been so easy. I really came close to leaving it all behind. But I think this softball experience is just what Julianna needs to grow in even more ways that she has before. It's going to force her to stay very focused, to learn a series of rules to follow, to understand how a somewhat complicated game is played, and to make new friends. I plan to coach right along side her until I feel she is ready to go out on her own, and with the help of her friends. We plan on practicing as much as we can so she feels more confident. And so far, she's been able to catch the ball in her glove a few times! Her throw is getting stronger at a close range. Each time we practice, she gets better.

And I also think I need this for me, too. I have been avoiding doing something like this for her for too long now. As much as I hate to admit it, I think I shelter her a little too much, mostly because I worry how people will react or treat her. But I can't let that stop me from sharing this beautiful girl with the world. She is here for a reason, and if I hide her too much, only her family will see that reason. It's time for me to allow her to spread her wings in a new way.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

One of my biggest fears

So earlier today, my husband and I were talking, and the subject caused me to erupt into tears yet again. I don't think I even realized how much of a fear it was, until we actually discussed it in more detail, and even just thinking about it made me cry. And now that I know it's a fear of mine, I know the only way to conquer it is to face it. But man, I don't know how I will survive it.

Blake has been playing basketball now for a couple weeks, on a team through our local recreation center. He's played a few other sports in the past, and we've always enjoyed the experience. Yes, it's stressful running around all the time to practices and games, but it's always something that helps Blake grow and learn and make new friends, and face his own fears as well. So of course I would never keep him from playing sports, as long as he wants to.

So why do I not do the same for Julianna? Simple. I'm scared out of my mind. It's my biggest fear for her yet.

I was talking to someone at church today about Julianna, and I had a big realization when it comes to being her mom. I want her to progress socially, and am happy to provide opportunities to do so, as long as I'm not there. I love that she can go to her church Primary class all by herself, and her church activity days group, and that others will help her and keep her involved and include her, but I don't want to be there to see it. I'd rather hear from others how well she is doing. Of course I want to see her do well, but what I don't want to see is how others might make fun of her, or look at her differently, or stare at her, or exclude her. I don't want to hear anyone laughing at her, or ignoring her. I just want to pretend that that never happens, and the way I do that is by not being there for most of the social settings she is involved in. I would love to be able to help her in those situations, because I know I could, but at the same time, I don't want to, because it's too hard to see those things that might happen. I know, I'm a big wimp.

So why on earth would I ever consider letting her play for a team sport with most likely all typical 11-year-olds? Same rules apply. I don't want to see the bad. I don't want to hear the questions or see the stares from parents. I don't want her to feel confused or scared, or get hurt physically because she doesn't know how to play the game. I don't want to see her left out of a group or yelled at too harshly by a coach or teammate.

But by not allowing her to do it, I am robbing myself of the moments that I probably will see. Maybe she will totally surprise me and do really well following instructions and playing the game. Maybe she will walk up to those groups of kids and play and talk with them just like a normal kid. Maybe the other kids won't leave her behind. Maybe they will teach her and show her love and friendship. Maybe she will love it and I will love watching her. Why would I ever deny her those wonderful opportunities to grow? It is very selfish of me.

I think being a mom is being willing to see the good and the bad that happens to our kids. We can't always shelter them from their feelings getting hurt, or from being excluded, or from fitting in with the other kids. I certainly don't like seeing it, because it hurts me even more than it hurts them. With Blake, I have no problem watching him go through those challenging times as a kid, because I know he is strong enough to get through them. But with Julianna, I don't have that same faith because of her challenges. Every single child is unique and has different talents and abilities. I already know that Julianna is not the most athletic or coordinated. But that doesn't stop her from writing this on her piece of paper a few weeks ago when we made New Years' Resolutions as a family:

I want to play softball and learn how to be good at softball.

Since then, we've been talking about how we could make this happen for her. It's going to take a lot of support, the right coach, some very compassionate girls, and a lot of prayer to accomplish this. I might even step in and help coach if that's what it takes. But if this is what Julianna wants, it's time to really go for it. As much as I worry and fear that horrible things will happen to her, I have to trust that even more good will come as a result. No matter what, she will grow socially, and learn teamwork.

And I will learn to face the not-so-good things that will inevitably happen to her during her lifetime, along with the good. It's time to conquer this fear of mine. If Julianna's not afraid, then I won't be either. At least I have a few months to prepare myself.