Ahh, it’s summertime again. Memories flood back to a time not so long ago, when all of our children played ball.  We were living in Illinois and baseball is what you did with your children in the summer.  If they could lift a bat…they could play organized ball.

For several summers, all five children played t-ball, baseball, or softball. Mind you, none of them were on the same team. No sir. Five teams, five different practice schedules, and five games to sit through all day Saturday. Every Saturday. Luckily for us, this park boasted four fields, which formed a circle. We would take up residence somewhere in the middle and rotate all day long as the games commenced. More often than not, I felt like a piece of meat roasting on a spit, turning just before I got too burnt. 

The favorite part of baseball season for some of my kids was the cold, sugar-laden reward at the end of the game. Win or loose, they got to pick out a soda pop. For our oldest son however, baseball meant pure unadulterated competition and winning at all costs.  This usually translated into being chosen for the all-star team and what could only be described as the never-ending baseball season.  For me, it meant dragging, bribing, feeding, and entertaining four other kids while simultaneously “cheering him on.” I would sit there in a pool of my own sweat, with a mass of gnats and mosquitoes hovering over my head, secretly, wishing they would lose so it would all be over. Come on now, I know I wasn’t the only mom out there thinking that.

When the natives got restless, a diversion was in order, and that meant the playground.  I can recall one particular instance when our youngest daughter who was three at the time, had climbed to the top of this rather precarious piece of playground apparatus. She had observed her brothers and sisters do just this on many occasions. It was a relic from the carefree days when anything painted colorful enough could be called “playground equipment” and placed in an area for kids to climb on. I remember sitting there, relaxing on a splinter-filled bench surveying the scene before me. Maybe after five kids or more, one gets a little less sensitive, a bit more relaxed about these kinds of things, but I overheard this other mother flipping-out about “what kind of mother let’s her child… blah, blah, blah!” Seriously, my daughter was a monkey; there was nothing to worry about.  Was all the fuss really necessary? I think not. The fact that she had only one child well…enough said.

I mean no disrespect to anyone with a small family. All of us begin our parenting role as “cautious and overprotective”…at first. However, as the family grows, you begin to relax a bit and learn to conserve your energy for the bigger things you know are coming. With kids, it’s pretty much a scary roller coaster ride every day, and a seasoned mom quickly learns when to scream and when to close her eyes The word “teenager” comes to mind here.

One fall, my husband thought it would be really great if I signed up our little pumpkins for soccer. He had fond memories of running around the field in his youth and thought this would be a wonderful outlet for our highly energized kids. This descent into insanity lasted for a single season and my kids have never played again before the age of twenty. It pretty much boils down to this; I am a fair-weather kind of mom. I don’t do cold-related sport anything. If it is outside the realm of sunny and nice, mommy doesn’t sign up kids for it. Soccer, I found out the hard way, plays and practices in all kinds of weather. I discovered that unlike me, “soccer moms” are a special, rugged, really dedicated breed. I am a weather wimp, and so Midwest soccer and I did not compute.

Over the years, we have dutifully placed our children in a variety of sports to teach them discipline, the value of teamwork, and staying active. I have spent my share of hours hauling them to Timbuktu and back for games and practices. The proof is in the hundreds of team pictures and the boxes of trophies (I just recently gave away), shhhh! It has provided our children with their own fond memories, and the ability to never pass a concession stand without stopping for a soda pop and some “Airheads.” 

Personally, I am grateful for the wonderful friendships that were forged through bug bites, home runs, and bloody noses. Looking back it was a brief moment in time, observed through a chain link fence that made summertime all the sweeter.