Baby D walked when he was 10 months old—for 3 steps. Then he ran everywhere.
“Soccer,” I yelled to Andy as I chased Baby D around the yard with a cheese stick. “As soon as he’s old enough, he’s playing soccer. Maybe that will wear him out.”
Andy yelled back, “But, honey, he doesn’t care about balls.”
This was true. Baby D did not care about sports.
Baby D only liked imaginary games.
He wanted to pit his army of stuffed cats against my army of bears and of course his cats always had to win. (I considered it a win if I could nap while the cat army built tunnels on the bed). He built forts and ships for adventures. I arranged as many playdates as possible so other kids could enjoy these adventures while I spoke to other adults.
Invariably, a kid at the playdate would wander into the living room and ask something like, “What’s antivenin? Baby D says we need some!”
I gave D a shiny neon soccer ball. Instead of dribbling it, Baby D declared the ball a “jewel” and put his cat army to work guarding it, day and night.
Andy tried to teach Baby D to play catch. Baby D dubbed it the baseball “a bomb” and blew up my bear army.
A houseguest brought Baby D a little Nerf basketball and a small basketball hoop with suction cups from Georgetown University. Baby D turned the Hoyas basket into a jail for his ursine prisoners of war.
Of course our contrary child had no interest in sports. We lived next to a school with soccer fields, a baseball backstop, and tons of basketball courts. I spent years watching other children attend practices and games. I also spent years muttering about their inconsiderate parents blocking our driveway.
When Baby D was four, we came home one night to discover our driveway again blocked by a pickup truck. As I was taking down the license plate number and dialing parking enforcement, a mom from D’s preschool hailed me.
“Autumn! Is Baby D going to do T-ball, too?” she gushed. “That would be great, Jason would be so happy to have another kid he knows on the team!”
“No, I’m just trying to get into my garage! Is that what’s going on at the school tonight? T-ball?”
“Yes, it’s the parent meeting for the Pony League, where you meet the coach and get assigned volunteer jobs. Baby D isn’t going to play? You sure? Alex’s dad from preschool is coaching and Jared’s dad is the assistant coach.”
“Not a chance,” I scoffed. “The kid doesn’t care about baseball, or any kind of ball—”
Baby D yelled out the car window, “MOMMY! I WANT TO DO IT!”
“What? You don’t even know what a baseball is. You think it’s a bomb.”
“I want to be on the team! With Alex and Jared and Jason!”
I was an idiot. I should have been talking up “playing with friends” to my super-social child instead of “playing with balls.” And now that he actually wanted to be on a team, it was too late. “Sweetie, we didn’t sign up or do tryouts. I don’ think we can be on a team.”
Jason’s Mom said, “Maybe Alex’s dad needs some more kids on his team. Want me to check?”
“Sure,” I told her, but without any real hope. Which I told myself was for the best. The Pony League was filled with single-minded sports dads who’d been playing catch with their future superstars for years already. Competition to get a foot in the door, even for T-ball, was fierce. I wasn’t sure Baby D could throw a ball.
But just in case, I parked down the block and did not report the illegally parked truck.
Within two hours, Alex’s dad had emailed an invitation for Baby D to play on the Seattle Mariners T-ball team. (Mom Network and poorly placed driveway for the win!)
Baby D was thrilled. Even though he began as the worst player on the team, he loved practicing with friends. He loved game day—with friends. And he especially loved snacks—with friends.
I did not love baseball. Our team was okay, but other parents? The ones screaming at five-year-olds? Insane. Although their antics at least livened up the most boring sport in the world. Andy and I did a lot of yawning. Baby D and the other kids did a lot of standing. He hardly got any exercise.
When the season ended in June, I asked, “Hey, do you want to be on a soccer team this fall? Alex’s mom said she was signing him up for AYSO–”
“YES! And Nate says he wants me on his basketball team this summer and the kids on the block are making a kendama team so I want to do that, too!”
Turns out T-ball is a gateway drug to all the sports balls.
But what the hell is a kendama?