“Alexa. Tell me what the weather will be like today. Will I always dread spring sports?”
“It’s currently 47 degrees under sunny skies. Expect a high of 93 with intermittent rain showers, lightning strikes, and tornado like winds. Rain will quickly change to snow when temperatures drop 50 degrees in the span of 20 minutes. Ice will make driving conditions hazardous and could cause power outages. Let go of all dread. It’s a perfect spring day for the 17 Little League games you will attend.”
I know. It’s super creepy how a computer knows how many baseball games my kids have on any given day. But fuck if she isn’t on point with the forecast.
I am not new to sports; athletics were a pivotal and vital part of my childhood and continued to be a place of comfort and friendship into adulthood. I love being part of a team and that was born from youth sports.
But as a kid, I just showed up. I am positive my mother did not help me prepare for game day or practices the way I do now for my own kids. I remember being cold during the early track and field practices because I didn’t bring enough layers. I remember dealing with wet shoes as I ran out to left field during April Little League games, but I survived. Why do spring sports feel so drastic now and like so much work in comparison to my youthful days of eating Swedish Fish and Fun Dip for dinner? Where has the fun gone?
Maybe it’s because climate change has drastically changed weather patterns; maybe it’s because I was the only athlete in the house—all three of my kids are signed up for something sporty all year long—and it was easy to be sure I had what I needed; maybe organized sports has become too organized; or maybe I just do too much for my kids.
I don’t know how you do spring sports, but I seem to do it with a full wagon of snacks, blankets, and an emergency preparedness kit. Don’t worry I also carry a lot of anxiety, resentment, and low key anger as well.
Because Jesus Christ, if it’s not the unpredictable weather, it’s the amount of time spent at the ball field. Practice is sure to start an hour before dinner if not RIGHT at dinnertime and lasts until about three minutes before my kids’ have hit their walls. They say goodbye to coach, high five friends, and then melt down the second they get into the van. They are hungry. Of course they are. I spent an hour making sandwiches, cutting fruit and vegetables, and making sure I provided fun “treats” like juice boxes or yogurt tubes and they barely eat any of it because they are full from the gum and three crackers a friend gave to them.
They hardly noticed the blanket they sat on to not eat the meal I prepared because they were too fucking hyped up to get to the park’s teeter totter or jungle gym. That blanket is waterproof, kids, to protect your tiny behinds from dewy fields, but whatever. Next time I won’t run back into the house after forgetting it. Actually yes I will. Because the one time I forget it will be the one time my kids notice I do nice things for them. And I just can’t deal with any more big emotions. They aren’t just hungry, they are also exhausted.
We get home late several nights a week and bedtimes are pushed back because my kids need time to transition home, they need another snack because the van snack from the field to home was just a snack appetizer. They have homework to do and need to unwind after running around for two hours with their buddies. These late nights bleed into morning crankiness and regret. The kids suddenly hate baseball, hate clothes, hate food, hate school, and I hate myself for thinking baseball was a good idea.
Then I remind them that it’s game day and they can wear their jerseys to school if they want. The energy shifts for the better, but it is far from balanced. The excitement is back and I recommit to packing picnic dinners that won’t be eaten while dinning under partly cloudy, sunny skies ready to snow or rain at any given moment.
And then they take the field. My mini athletes are so little and perfect and adorable in their uniforms and fluctuating confidence that I don’t think my heart can stand it. I and the other parents breathe a sigh of contentment and gush over the cuteness. We then bitch about all it took to get from home to the field but we also take a million pictures and know that as long as our kids are happy, we are too.
I loved being part of a team. I loved being an athlete. And I love that my kids are on this path too. Sports will expose them to diversity, teach them perseverance and cooperation, and force them to practice grace and dignity through wins and losses. Right now all they care about is the Double Bubble from the snack bar and social time with their friends, but I know what’s to come and I hope they stick with a sport long enough to appreciate these life skills.
Otherwise, fuck this noise. Spring sports are the worst.