Before I had kids, I could make decisions for myself. I could come and go as I pleased. I had freedom of choice. Once the kids came along, every decision got harder, every choice had a larger implication, every move caused ripples that had long lasting implications. One bad decision, one false move, and I could ruin these kids for life (please excuse my hyperbole). So, you sit and you ponder and you perseverate and you fret and you question yourself and then you do the best that you can.
It seemed that the “education question” was the big one. I planned my whole life around that “academic golden ring”. I stressed myself out, and drove around in circles, and worked day and night chasing it. And, then our situation changed. Just like that. All the planning went up in smoke and I had to start again from scratch.
In order to give X the “best” education, he attended the school system where I worked. Four miles away, and 30 minutes away (on a good day). Through the park, and over the bridge, and around the pond and then back again. Every day. When it came time to play sports, we thought that it would be best for X to play for our neighborhood teams. So, we were always running, back and forth, here and there, to school and then to practice, and then back again. Somehow, in all the circling, I never realized that we weren’t really stopping anywhere.
X was never given the time to sit, to hang out, to grow roots. The kids in school all played sports together and hung out on weekends and ran into each other at the pizza shop. The kids on the team, went to school together and carpooled and ran into each other at the ice cream shop. And X, he was running back in forth trying to be everywhere at once, and not ever really being anywhere for long.
So, when X transferred to the neighborhood school this winter, things seemed to come together. When we walked home from school, kids would call his name from across the street. And, at the soccer field, we’d run into friends who he knew from school. And, some of the older kids at school were on his Little League team. Yet, still, when I’d pick up X from school, he’d grab my hand and leave immediately, oblivious to the fact that all of his friends hung around the playground long after school was over. And, when I’d drop him off at baseball a little early, he’d stand close to the coach until practice started. X didn’t know how to belong, with all the things he learned, I never thought to teach him how to be part of a community.
Little League was hard. When he started to complain about being the smallest kid on the baseball team, and when he said that all the kids played together last year, I felt bad. When he didn’t want to go to his late games because it infringed upon his play time with his brother, I felt bad. When it was intimidating to swing the bat and run after the ball, I felt bad. How was he ever going to fit in with this tight knit team when he didn’t know how to be a part of a whole.
Then the team started to win. They beat last year’s champs. They won a double header. They worked as a unit. The coaches, the dear, sweet, patient coaches, gave X the game ball for being such a good sport and a great cheerleader. They made it to the playoffs, and they continued to win. And X contributed, not in big ways, but he walked in a run, he made a play to first base.
Last game of the championship. Game 3 of a three game series. The pennant on the line. They won. The Cardinals were the Savin Hill Little League Minors Champions 2013. As tradition dictates, the champion Cardinals ran across the field with all their parents and fans in tow and jumped into the ocean.
Except X. He stood close to me, looking at me for guidance. He didn’t know what to do. He didn’t know how to belong. And then, after a bit cajoling he put his feet in the water. And then, the parents all started cheering him on, telling him to get on in there. And then the coach ran after him, chasing him down the beach, picked him up and threw him in with the rest of the team. It was hard for him, but every time he tried to leave, one of the bigger kids picked him back up and threw him back in. And he played, with a big smile on his face, in Boston harbor, with the rest of his team.