Yesterday I had some errands to run because as moms of all school aged children know, May tries to kill us every year. There's a rush of "end-of" madness - everything and everybody is in a full-sprint to finish strong. We fly through the days of May, checking off lists, making balanced breakfasts for those annoying standardized test days, buying teachers and coaches gifts, volunteering for end of the school year parties, searching for the dress shoes for the Spring Concert and then promptly realizing we have to find new ones because that darn kid's feet keep growing. For baseball moms, the month is particularly insane as we are smack dab in the heart of the season and inching our way toward the all important play-offs and weekend travel tournaments.
To be honest, though, as my kids are aging out of a lot of the activities attributed to May Madness, I'm finding that 2018's May is a kinder, gentler month in comparison to year's past. Of my three baseball boys, only one remains a player. It's astonishing really. One is in college now and one is a full time basketball player, so this season it's only the youngest who ties up his cleats and flings his bat bag into the car. As I started out on my errands yesterday, I realized that I wasn't as rushed or harried and my list was manageable. It was rather serene and calm, until . . .
Roll . . .thwack . . . roll . . . thwack . . . roll . . . thwack.
As I took my first turn, a baseball rolled across the trunk of my SUV. Over and over again, as I turned my steering wheel that darn baseball rolled and smacked into the side of the car. It was driving me insane at first and you would have thought that I'd just calmly pull over and launch that thing into a ditch some where. But as I drove on throughout my day, every time I heard it, I laughed and my heart filled with an enormous amount of gratitude for that annoying sphere of leather-covered cork and yarn. With every roll . . .thwack, a different memory popped up of a different little ball player - hands stained rust-red with baseball dirt, mouth stained blue with Gatorade, and cleats swinging to and fro, unable to touch the floorboard beneath them.
Here's the thing, tired, harried Baseball Mamas: For about eight years in a row, I had three baseball players who most often were playing for two teams during the spring season, and none of those jokers were legally able to operate a motorized vehicle for the majority of those years. I'm not good at math, but that seems to work out to six schedules to write on the calendar and about a trillion miles on the odometer. That's a lot of bat bags to stuff in the car, a lot of smelly cleats stinking up the place, a heckuva lot of oxiclean and a whole lot of crazytown.
There were many years of crouching down to double knot cleats and of searching for the smallest pair of baseball pants I could find while still having to add holes to the belt so that it would fit around a tiny tee-baller's waist. There were countless times they forgot their water bottles or their hats or their cups - not the drinking kind, but the kind that help ensure our chances for grandchildren. There were numerous admonishments that "I'm telling you, kid, this is is the last time I'm going back for your stuff. The. Last. Time." These warnings never held true. I went back every darn time.
There were years of hitting streaks and years when they were lucky to get in the line up at all. There were seasons when no one would get a haircut because "not while we're still winning!" and seasons when we thought we might hit a record for consecutive losses. There was the watching of one kid on the Game Changer app while watching the other one live.
There was the moment after my middle son decided to focus solely on basketball that I understood that I had seen him take the field with his friends for a final game without even knowing it at the time. And soon after there was the moment when I've never been more proud of a kid than I was of him for following his own heart for basketball because he worked his tail off with a passion I hadn't seen in a long while.
There was the heartbreaking end of the senior high school season for my oldest and the equal excitement in that moment that a new world would open up for him in college. There was the moment he got to "call" his first college game as a broadcaster in his freshman year and the moment that he realized a new passion.
There was the thrill of the youngest being the first of the Skinner boys to hit one out of the park and the sweet sound of an older brother congratulating him with earnest pride and love.
The thing is sweet, exhausted, running-around-with-your hair-on-fire mama. I'm not going to tell you that you should "live in the moment". I'm not going to tell you to appreciate the sunflower seeds that you find stuck in the dryer vent. I'm not going to tell you that you'll miss every minute of it. I'm not going to tell you that it flies by in an instant. I am in the unique position to have seen the very last baseball season for a boy while still holding tight to seasons to come for another. All of those cliches about not wishing away seasons of your life are true, but it doesn't mean that these days aren't often maddeningly difficult to navigate and it also doesn't mean that once they end, there aren't amazing moments to come for you and your kiddo.
The thing I would say to you today is what I likely needed to hear most when I was in the thick of it.
Hey, Mom. I see you. I see you doing the laundry at 10 pm the night before the game. I see you schlepping a case of Costco waters into your car with your 40ish year old biceps. I see you squeezing your hands tight in pleading prayer while wearing an "No big deal. It's just a game." face when your player comes up to bat. I see you patting him on the rear end and putting an extra scoop of ice cream in his bowl when he made a bone-headed error. I see you biting your lip when that crazy woman on the other team is acting a fool and getting on your last nerve. I see you when you realize that, actually, you might just be that lady. I see you falling exhausted into bed with a flip flop sunburn on your tired feet.
Of course, I would advise you not to wish these manic seasons away, but know that when they do end, every lesson your player learned in all of these seasons will follow them and serve them well in every aspect of their life going forward. I know that there are days when you question all this madness and sometimes it is too much. You will have to check in each season to see how much is too much for your own individual family. But I will tell you that I don't regret a minute of the madness. There was and is great value in committing to this sport and I can promise you that it is not just your kid's coaches, peers and hitting instructors that are pouring those lessons into your boy.
It is you, Mom. You're the real MVP. Every lesson you wanted your kid to learn from athletic competition when you first registered him for t-ball, he is seeing in you. You're teaching persistence and loyalty and showing up when you set up that bleacher seat in the stands even when you don't feel like. You're modeling keeping your head up and trying again and learning from your mistakes when you showed up at the wrong field for practice. You are teaching your kid what it is to understand your role and be a part of a team because you are his first and best teammate.
Happy Mother's Day, Baseball Mama. I see you, Friend.
Now go check your trunk before you take off in a rush today. That dumb ball rolling around is going make your head explode. Just toss it. You know they've got thirty more where that came from.
Jennifer P. Skinner