Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Open Calendar

Since Eli turned four years old, we have only skipped one baseball season (the fall that found us in the middle of a renovation and partly out of our house until Thanksgiving). And while we love baseball, and we do, it is taxing on our calendar.

Every season comes and we sign Eli up again though. He loves it; he seriously comes home from practices and games and asks us to pitch to him in the yard, or throw the ball with him. This is after a minimum of 90-minutes spent at the ball park. (Games are closer to 2 1/2 hours between pre-game practice and game time.) And we do, not because he has the potential to be a player in the MLB one day but because he absolutely loves the game. And we do too. Lehr and I both love watching baseball, and Maddux has grown up at the ball-park; she had just turned 2 when Eli started playing and I have chased her all around that place during games and practices. It's just part of who we are. Even though Eli is on the field, it is a family activity that we do together. He knows we are there supporting him, Maddux interacts with him through the fence, we get some individual time with Maddux, etc. Also, we love the confidence it gives Eli. He is not (nor will he likely ever be) the biggest, or the fastest, or the best. But he loves baseball and we see cool changes in his 'game' every season. And even though he knows he's not the star player, he has success on the field or at bat each and every game, and I know that helps him balance out being a small boy in a big-boy school and league.

Fast forward to this summer; we were busy. Having another baby will do that to you! Between the addition of Ruby and some behavior issues with Eli that started to pop up more often last spring, we started toying with the idea of a season away from baseball. I really didn't want to do it, but trying to imagine getting all three kids to the field (plus snacks or meals), half of the time on my own (during the week, Lehr has to meet us at the field) was stressing me out. Then I'd also have to feed Ruby at the field many times. And Eli's behavior stuff that we were struggling with definitely escalated when he was tired; weeknight baseball games start at 5:30 or 7:30. That means the earliest Eli is in bed is 8PM. Difficult for our sleep-needing boy.

So August came and we did not attend the baseball evaluation. The first few weeks of practices came and our friends all went to the fields and we did not. I definitely second guessed myself a few times; I already missed it even before the games started!

Then I started hearing the calendar adds of our friends, the two-practice, two-game weeks. The rescheduled-for-rain nights. At that point I felt a little better because I knew how hard it was some nights just to get dinner on the table for three kids and that was without that extra 'schedule conflict'. But that was just about me; I still had some reservations because I wasn't sure if taking ball away for the season was having a positive impact on Eli (and Maddux).
Then I started noticing something. We were playing more family games. We were having whiffle ball and badminton tournaments in the backyard. We were able to run last minute errands one-on-one with kids after dinner. The kids had books read to them at bedtime EVERY night. Eli and Maddux were spending time together willingly, and being creative with their time.
 We were doing some family workouts and therapy for Eli. The kids would disappear for 30 minutes here or there and come back with random kid art or a random project started. And (the biggest) Eli was having many less meltdowns. His anger was waaaay more self-managed. And when he did start to blow up, he was able to get it under control more quickly. I realize that does not mean Eli was the problem and taking away baseball 'fixed' him; it is very likely a combination of Lehr and I being less rushed and stressed AND Eli being less rushed and stressed.
As with many things in life, while we were in the middle of the season of no-ball, I didn't notice much difference. But once I looked back over the last week, the last month, the last few months, I realize how many weekend pockets of time we had together as a family. How many bonfires with friends we had in the backyard. How many crafts and holiday foods the kids and I got to make together. All small things, but all so big in the grand scheme of things.
So we will likely join back into baseball in the spring. And I'm excited for it - REALLY excited. But having a no-ball season was a really really great thing for our family. It created just enough margin for us to really stop and pay attention to each other, to play after school most days, to have NOTHING on the calendar some Saturdays.... Even though we knew we were busy with the baseball schedule in our life, I don't think we realized HOW busy until we took it away.

No comments: