It’s spring. Soccer and baseball and softball have already started up by us, and by mid-June they’ll be over. When I grew up – where I grew up? – these were truly summer sports and didn’t encroach so much on spring and the school year. I’ve been having the question for months already, especially since sign ups for some sports happen back in December, “So, are the wee ones playing (fill in the blank) this year?”
Well, no. They aren’t. It just doesn’t fit for them, unfortunately.
We tried t-ball for two years because everyone else we know plays, and it was miserable. Neither of the wee ones enjoyed playing, and they weren’t that good either. Not having good coaches meant that at the end of the second season, I was still working on teaching them the basic rules (No! When you run to first base, you run the other way!) rather than watching their skills progress to where they could start hitting coach pitch.
Last year, Little Miss played soccer. She liked that a little better, as she loves running around. In practice, she apparently was faster than anyone else and could steal the ball from anyone. Come game time, she hung back each and every time. Her first goal was an own goal. She didn’t love it though, and when I asked if she wanted to play again this past fall, she declined. It just wasn’t her thing. And Mister Man? I knew better than to let me easily overstimulated sensory-seeking Aspie kid out on a soccer field when he’s already not super regulated, not that he had any interest in playing to begin with.
Instead, the wee ones have focused on other sports. Mister Man has done tae kwon do for almost two years, and this is his great love. He goes two or three times each week, and he still tells me that his goal is to make it to black belt. I’ve seen how it helps his focus and his impulse control, although both still need improvement. They’re working now on his push ups, and he’s convinced that some day he’ll do pull ups, too.
Little Miss is my gymnastics girl. She was invited to the preteam this year, and she’s been doing three to four hours of gymnastics a week. Her skills progression has been awesome to watch – and she loves showing me new tricks like her pull overs or the hand stand to a forward roll or the back walkover she can do on her own (when she’s on a wedge mat). She’s proud and thrilled with what she can do, and she loves how strong it’s making her. Right now, she’s not doing a Monday night class I had her in to keep her occupied while Mister Man was in OT at the same facility, and every week she asks if she gets to go to gymnastics on Monday – disappointed when the answer is no.
I love that they’ve discovered sports they’re passionate about and that they’re the ones who discovered them and are truly the ones who love the time and energy they put into their respective sports. But their sports are a little off the beaten path. And the locations we’ve been going to aren’t the ones that their friends necessarily attend. In a way, that’s a little hard because it isn’t the same level of social interaction and bonding that so many other kids have talking about the teams they’re on together or the sports they do at the same place. I worry just a little bit that they’ll one day decide that what they’re doing just isn’t “cool” enough and want to quit because their friends aren’t there with them.
In fact, we changed the gym that Little Miss was at recently, partly for that reason. While Little Miss had been making progress, each time I saw the class (and I didn’t often, as my mom insists on taking her to class and spending time with her there) I was disappointed by how hands off the instructors were. I felt like she wasn’t getting the corrections she needed not just to get better today but to be safe tomorrow and later when she’s doing more difficult and potentially dangerous maneuvers. I discovered almost by accident that one of her classmates attends another gym (not the main one in town that everyone goes to – that one costs as much for one class as what I had been paying for two, ouch!) where the focus is on form and safety. And Little Miss would have a friend there, though the friend is two levels above her right now. We made the switch, and though the class is harder, Little Miss is thrilled – not that she has a friend who goes to the same place, but that she is being challenged and she’s rising to that challenge.
In the end, that’s what I want the wee ones to do. I want them to carve their own paths. I want them to find their passions and chase them, no matter what their friends are doing or what the popular thing to do is. I want them to find what makes them happy and stick with it. Somehow, I’m ok looking at my friends and acquaintances and telling them yet again, “No. We aren’t playing baseball this year. It’s just not our thing.” When they look at me sadly, my focus is on the smiles I see from the wee ones when they head into class, excited to see what the next hour will bring.
How have you or your children carved your own paths, or have you followed the traditional path and been happy with that?
In the interest of full disclosure, I received a copy of “Up: A Mother and Daughter’s Peakbagging Adventure” by Patricia Ellis Herr as part of the From Left to Write book club where we don’t write traditional book reviews but instead write posts inspired by the books we read. I was not compensated, and all opinions expressed remain my own.