My kids, in some combination of children, have played softball or baseball since the 2009 season. The oldest, now a junior in high school, started the trend, randomly declaring in fourth grade that she wanted to play softball. The others followed suit and started playing in the years following. We were lucky to find baseball and softball leagues that played in the same field complex. So, our son would play “up the hill” at the baseball fields and the girls would play “down the hill” at the softball fields. For the last few years, we had four kids playing bat and ball sports every spring into summer. It was glorious chaos!
The schedule we maintained was incredible. It was a solid three months of games or practices almost every night of the week. We’d buy a giant piece of foam-backed posterboard and make a color-coded schedule to keep in the living room. Each child would have a color with all their practices and games written in their color. The family would gather at the fields, some days with all the kids in uniforms because some days they’d all have games. We’d scrounge in our bags and in the car for change with which to buy concessions and fill our pockets with Double Bubble to get us through the day. Sometimes we’d work the concession stand or scoreboard. Nights were filled with bright lights and families in lawn chairs and as the kids got older the nights got later and more competitive, but never more competitive than they were fun.
Now, suddenly, the era has ended. Our son aged out of little league last year and is not interested in playing anymore. Our oldest is too busy with choir and working her first job. Our other two daughters are dancing competitively and can’t manage the schedule and so it is over, almost without warning. I sit here wondering, if I’d have known last year that it would be our last year, would I have done anything differently? I don’t think so. Because it was a favorite season, I always squeezed the marrow out of the experience, savoring every moment of it. Maybe I would’ve taken a few more pictures of all of them in their uniforms. But no, I’m mostly sad, not because of regret, but because I loved it so much and now it is over. I think if you have to be sad, that’s the best kind of sadness to have.
This is the first of many eras that will be ending in the next few years. When they were little and eras ended it wasn’t so painful because there were new and promising stages of childhood on the horizon. Now though, I think the eras that end hurt a little more because they will shortly start aging out of childhood. (The oldest will graduate high school next year with the rest following like dominoes every other year). Each era that ends now feels like one step closer to the end of this amazing journey of parenting children. So, I’m feeling the end of softball and baseball this year a little more than I have felt the end of other periods we have experienced.
Our youngest will finish her last year of elementary school in June and another giant phase of our life will be over. Time just keeps speeding by and it’s all I can do to try to take it all in before they are all grown. The beginning stages, when they were little and it was difficult, seemed to last forever, but now that things are grooving and life is filled with so many of these beautiful moments and much easier times it seems to be slipping away and I can’t make it stop or slow down. All I can do is live it, chasing them, chasing time, and not waste a moment except to catch my breath.