Over the weekend Matty had his first tee-ball game. This is our first go at ‘organized’ sports and Matty is definitely not the first kid I think of when someone says ‘athletic’ so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. All in all it was pretty good but I definitely realized how painful it’s going to be to sit on the sideline and watch other people coach my kids, let alone their own.
Seth and I have had an ongoing debate since Matty was born as to what kind of ‘fan mom’ I’d be when this day came. He’s always worried I’d be that crazy mom in the bleachers yelling at the refs and dropping expletives like they’re not offensive (which, to be fair, is how I watch Iowa football games so I get why he’d think that) but I could never see myself being that way with my own kids – or any other kids. I was never really sure what type of fan mom I’d be until I saw Aly Raiseman’s parents in the stands at the Olympics. I felt like I could relate. This was the type of fan mom I imagined I’d be – awkward, nervous, trying real hard to will a perfect performance while biting my tongue, staring intently at the court/field/mat and wriggling uncomfortably in my seat, sweating profusely until it was over.
Saturday proved that I might be a bit of both. It got off to a bit of a rocky start. Our coach was 10 minutes late and the first thing she said after sprinting up to our team of misfits was ‘I’m coach Amanda. I’m a mom of three under seven, so I’m usually at least 5 minutes late.’
No one said anything.
If a whole-body eye roll was a thing, that’s how I would describe the way I felt. I mean, on one hand, I totally got it – our game was scheduled for 8:30 on a Saturday morning and I know what it’s like trying to get out of the house with two under five, let alone three under seven. But on the other hand, I was surrounded by a group of women who’d been waiting as long, if not longer, than us, 98% of whom were there alone, several of whom were grandmothers playing the role of mom and dad, and so many of them – like us – had multiple little kids in tow. These were women who’d been optimistically speculating our coach’s whereabouts for twenty minutes (since we were all told to be there 10 – 15 minutes early) and that’s the first thing Coach Amanda was going to lead with? Um, yeah. This is why it is so important to know your audience (so you don’t come off as total butthole within the first 60 seconds of meeting someone – or a group of someones).
We all sat quietly while the she frantically called roll. Seth helped pass out shirts and hats and then each of the children was told to pair up with an adult. Seth and Matty paired up while Abbott and I took a seat on the sideline. All of the kids took the field with their adult partners; Seth was one of two men on the field. The other man looked like he was about our age and was manning first base. He had a loud voice that carried as he hollered stern directions at his son and impatiently directed the other kids to throw him the ball whenever they made a play. It didn’t take long to realize he was Coach Amanda’s husband.
The first time Matty scooped up a ball, I beamed with happiness. Seth encouraged him to run to first base, as he ran toward first base, the man started hollering for him to throw it.
“Throw it! Throw it! Thow. the. ball!”
Listen, I’m not genius but I do know one thing, my kid can’t throw a ball twenty feet. Lay the fuck off. But I said nothing. When Matty got close enough, he threw the ball. I cheered and continued to beam with happiness.
As the game went on it became abundantly clear that this man was, in the very least, not having a great day. Here and there, I’d catch him hollering instructions at other kids in relation to the plays and I’d get that whole body eye roll sensation and whenever I’d hear him interacting with his own kids and I’d wonder if he was in fact having a bad day or just a raging jerk all the time. ‘If you don’t use your words, you’re going to get hurt! Knock it off.’ I watched him in shock behind the comfort and safety of my sunglasses and wondered if he realized he’d basically just threatened pain to his son, who was much smaller than the rest of the kids, in front of an entire crowd of people. I know parenting is trying and difficult – and again, they had three under seven – so I tried not to judge but this man was making it very hard.
The innings went on and the kids migrated back and forth from in field to off field like a flock of flamingos while their adult partners followed behind.
At the end of the game, Abbott, who’d been wearing one of the batting helmets during the opposite team’s last inning at bat, was standing a handful of feet in front of me minding his own business, when the coach’s husband came up behind him and snatched the batting helmet off of his head. It happened so quickly I only saw Abbott’s head pull back and then his eyes immediately widen. Then, out of shock, he ran full speed into my arms before he started screaming and sobbing. I knew it must have hurt because I had tried multiple times earlier in the morning to remove the same helmet from his head without success. It took some finesse and maneuvering to ensure I didn’t rip his ears off with the helmet. I later learned from Seth you’re supposed to pull the sides out rather then slide it back and over slowly, because they’re designed to be snug (and safe).
I sat on the ground, Bot curled up into a ball on my lap, screaming and crying into my thigh, rocking him back and forth. I was fuming. I wanted to say something to the man but I bit my tongue. I didn’t know what was right. On one hand, this was a game, this man and his wife were my son’s coaches and Abbott was wearing the Y’s property. I also didn’t want to cause a scene and embarrass Seth or Matty, especially on the first day. But on the other hand, this was my son, I don’t treat him like that, I would never dream of treating another person’s child like that and I would NEVER in a million years expect another parent to tolerate behavior like that simply because it was the doing of a person in a ‘power’ position, such as coach. I was torn.
In my mind, I ran through all of the alternatives. Why didn’t he just ask Abbott for the helmet? Why didn’t he at least warn him he was going to yank the fucking thing off of his head? Why, as a parent, would he think that’s acceptable behavior?
I sat and glared at the man while Abbott continued to cry and scream. He then had the audacity to walk by and laugh at him.
“Did I ruin his morning?”
“I don’t think he was expecting to have the helmet ripped off his head.”
I said it dryly and left it at that even though I wanted to say much more, laced with colorful expletives and a quick lesson on how to interact with children. The man chuckled and went on his way completely unphased.
I thought about what I had heard him angrily tell his son earlier. ‘If you don’t use your words, you’re going to get hurt.’ Our kids are more like us than we’d like to admit and his were no different. Teetering the line between ‘fan’ and ‘mom’ is going to be much more challenging than I predicted and while I’d like to say it’s never too early to start learning, a preschooler’s tee-ball game at 8:30 on a Saturday is WAY too fucking early.
Can’t we just let our kids have fun and fall in love with a sport before we go and fucking ruin it with all of our adult bullshit?