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Column: The Lessons of Way Too Many Practices and One Long Foul Ball

Deb Beaupre
 (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)

Deb Beaupre (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)

This essay is about practices, namely, attending them and being an active spectator.

We are not required to do this, people. Doing so sets a bad precedent and gives the kids certain expectations, namely, that we will:

∎ Always watch while digitally recording their every move;

∎ Cheer;

∎ Provide snacks and chilled beverages with electrolytes.

No, no, no, no, no!

I know all about this because I used to be one of those who went to practices in a big way. I used to pack a picnic supper with mini sandwiches, deviled eggs, cupcakes, carrots and dip and juice boxes pre-frozen. I brought a blanket, the lawn chairs, sweaters and toys for the younger siblings. I would plan to be there for the entire practice and a little longer afterward to also enjoy whatever the practice venue had to offer.

If I can help just one person by sharing my story, it will have been worth it to share.

I confess that I had the cameras, disposable and digital. (I was a scrapbooker as well and this helped feed my habit, but that is a story for another day.)

Some Little League fields have parks and playgrounds nearby; soccer fields are often at schools where there are tracks to walk on or ride bikes as a family. Do you realize how much effort, time and planning that involved? Almost as much as going camping. Then, when we were all done, I had to dismantle the whole thing and put everything away before getting everybody ready for bed ... and this was all on a weeknight.

I finally realized that this action must be halted. But how?

Because in eighth grade, my kid said to me:

HIM: (showing me a picture of cleats in a catalog) “Mom, can I have these $400 cleats?:

ME: “What?!”

HIM: “They’re light as air, and I really want them.”

ME: “Then you need to get a sponsor for them, kid.”

HIM: (dripping sarcasm) “Ha, ha, Mom. Seriously, can I have them?”

ME: “What the _____ do you need $400 cleats for?”

HIM: “Have you seen me play, Mom? I’m kinda good.”

He actually thought I was going to entertain the idea of buying those suckers for him. That was because I had been drinking the go-to-every-practice Kool Aid and cheered him on and all of the above I just told you all not to do until I smartened up.

After I came to my senses, I would bring a book and a comfy chair and read or throw the bike in the back and go for a ride around the Huntley Meadows area to smell the lilacs, anything to be doing something for myself — not just watching them have fun. We have to remember what this parenting thing is all about — we enable opportunities; we don’t live them.

I avoid parents near the field who have notebooks or clipboards — they have yet to learn the lesson. But maybe this is fun for them, who knows? Go for it.

I do cozy right up to anyone with a stack of magazines, newspapers and shopping catalogs — this person and I are on the same wavelength. We understand the concept that we drove the kid here only because the field is too far for them to walk and they are not yet old enough to drive themselves, but we will do that which we’d be doing were we at home anyway.

There is an exception to this mandate: T-ball.

When they were really little and playing T-ball, we went to practices. That was to get out of the doggone house, see people and help the poor guy who was the coach of 20 5-year-olds — like herding cats on a good day.

That was our only socializing, and I can honestly say nobody watched their kid do anything because we were all talking about night waking, breast feeding and how much intimate time we were or were not having. I had the chance to learn this lesson much sooner, when the $400 cleat kid was in third grade.

I was at a Lebanon Little League game, not a practice, at the baseball field out behind Route 10 in West Lebanon. The parking lot is on an incline, and I had just picked up our new car, which I parked in the farthest corner away from all the action.

The strongest kid on the team, who grew up to be a powerhouse hitter in high school, hit a foul ball that flew over all the other cars to come within four feet of mine. This amazed the crowd who fell silent with awe. Silent until I looked up and realized my brand new car was in jeopardy and screamed: “Holy (expletive), my new car!” in a sharp Boston accent.

Everyone turned to look at me. I cared not a whit. Luckily, the ball hit the dirt and my vehicle was spared.

The universe was telling me something then, but I wasn’t able to hear it. I was too relieved about my windshield.

It was saying: “See? See what you get for all your trouble? You almost lost your windshield, and what would your kid say when the game was over and you recounted the story to him with tears in your eyes? How would he respond?”

I know exactly how he would respond: “Mom, do you have any snacks?”

Deb Beaupre is the wife of Newport High School athletic director Doug Beaupre. Her column appears periodically in the VALLEY NEWS sports section.