The family that plays together, stays together.
That was my theory and the inspiration behind my idea to pack up my family of four and head to the local ball diamond for a friendly game of softball on a Sunday night. The only caveat? I wanted to play and they had to let me.
To suggest I am not an athlete might well be the understatement of the century.
The minute I got up to bat, all the emotional scars from elementary school gym class came flying at me like the dodge balls that knocked my toothpick legs out from under me more times than I care to admit, or the volleyballs that hit me squarely on the nose, knocking my bottle-thick eyeglasses off my soon-to-be-bleeding nose every time the schoolyard bully spiked the ball in my direction.
For me, gym class was a hellish experience. Baseball was a particular nightmare, because there is nothing quite like the humiliation of having long stringy arms like Sesame Street’s Grover (one of my more flattering nicknames in school), and swinging in the air but never actually making contact with the ball. Not to sound conceited, but I believe I am the inspiration for the phrase “you throw like a girl.” Noted. Whatever.
I got wise though. I learned how to continuously move to the back of the line as we approached batting practice. Failing that, I would fake a cramp. It was the only time in life female health issues were a blessing.
Very little has changed since those days apparently, because with or without the glasses, I still have the worst hand-eye coordination, very little desire to run and even less enthusiasm to catch a ball that is coming at me like a heat-seeking missile. I’m a spectator, not an athlete.
Genetically, the skills of my little family have been evenly divided between my son and the Carpenter, who get competitive the minute they put the ball glove on or get to bat. The girl child and myself, who make much better dancers than shortstops, would rather pick up flowers than fly balls. Hey, don’t judge. Everyone has a place in this world.
But something happens when you play together as a family. The impromptu moments are where memories begin. The dynamics shift. My son became the coach, and he’s good at it. The Carpenter showed the kids he can still hustle to make a play. And I actually got some pretty sweet hits at bat, which earned me some respect.
We didn’t keep score. We didn’t count time. We didn’t check our phones. And despite some trash-talk and friendly banter, we all worked together to make plays, which isn’t easy with only four people, one of whom (by right of her teenage attitude) flat-out refused to play any longer but still cheered us on.
My family spends a lot of time absorbed in our individual lives and the older the kids get, the more that is true. It’s easy to lose your connection to one another. But we’re wrong if we think our kids don’t crave that connection too. Goofing around levels the playing field.
I don’t love baseball, but I love what a simple game did to remind us to live in the present – and all it cost us was time.