This weekend I spent a lot of time on the other side of mothering, the side that isn’t gooey and sweet and special and touching. My weekend was spent in the trenches, in the nitty-gritty and the dirty part of being a mother.
This weekend I had to deal with heartbreak, disappointment and growing up. I had to look at a little girl and hide my own tears as I dried hers. I had to watch her hurt knowing that there was nothing I could do to fix it or to make it better. Like most moms, I had to juggle many tasks this weekend but none was as hard as trying to find the right words at the right time to make my daughter feel loved and worthy.
In the grand scheme of life her pain this weekend was miniscule but I try to remember that at 10 the grand scheme of life doesn’t have much meaning. Her world is very tiny and what rocks her world matters.
Softball is a game and winning and losing and both are just a part of life. You win some and you lose some. As a rationale adult I am okay with losing. Losing builds character, makes you work a bit harder then you thought you could the next time and brings some humility. Losing is okay. Until you watch your child lose with the weight of the loss landing solely on her shoulders. Then losing is not such an easy thing.
Friday night was the first night of a softball tournament. (A tournament that once upon a time Kinsley and her team won.) Mistakenly, in my attempts to fire up the competitive spirit in my girl, I put too much pressure on her. She was a bundle of nerves. Her entire team lost their smiles as they focused and pressed and tried too hard. They lost. Bigger then losing was the fact that the last play came down to a ball being thrown from the outfield to my girl who leapt up in her catcher’s gear to snag the ball out of the air only to drop it as she swooped down to tag the runner. Runner safe. Game over. Had my daughter gotten the out her team would have been allowed to bat one more time and would have had a chance to win the game. The weight of that loss was a heavy burden on 10 year olds shoulders. Memories of her sobs still break my heart. Her big brown eyes under her big white glasses were filled with pain. The tears left clean streaks on her dirty face as she buried her face in my shoulder hiccupping that s-s-s-h-h-h-e-e was the reason they l-l-l-o-o-o-s-s-s-t.
Skip to Saturday. Her little team won 3 games that we never expected them to win to advance to the semi-finals. It was a victorious marathon 5 hours of softball. They started at 9a and played, without a break, until 5ish. While they won, won, won my daughter struggled, struggled, struggled. She started the day at catcher. The day ended, in her mind, with her losing that spot and being banished to the outfield. She didn’t lose her spot as the coaches very fairly rotate girls in and out. HOWEVER, the girl that rotated into the catchers spot was good. She was very good. She was better then Kinsley and Kinsley knows it. I know she’ll play catcher again but the truth is that she will only play in that spot again because her coach has a big heart. Had this been a few years in the future she would not be moving back into that spot. I can’t tell her that she was better then her replacement. I can’t tell her that it is okay. I did tell her that I was proud of her cheering on her team and keeping them fired up from our outfield spot. That praise didn’t mean much.
Saturday also saw my girl strikeout…more then once. Her trips to the base were due to patience as she waited out the young pitchers to be walked. Though that matters and though getting on base and scoring helped her team wins that just doesn’t mean much. My girl didn’t hit and she knows she didn’t hit. While her team was winning, winning, winning she was losing her own battle.
It’s the last inning of the last game. We are losing against an ugly team. They play dirty. The entire game has been a mental bout of sucker punching our happy-girls in the stomachs with hard-core plays and unclassy maneuvers. We were going to lose the game. 2 outs, 1 batter left. If we don’t score the game is over due to the run rule. If we do score, we go one more inning. Who’s up to bat? My girl. I close my eyes and pray, pray, pray for her to hit the ball. I conjure up ever ounce of my energy to try and will the ball to hit her bat. She needs a personal victory. They won’t win against this bully of a team but I need, SHE NEEDS to not be the one that loses this game.
Were this a lifetime or a Disney movie she would hit a home run, run the bases and her team would come out and high-five her before carrying her off the field on their shoulders. It’s not a movie. Our day ended on a much less victorious note. She struck out. The crack I heard in my head as I clenched my eyes closed for that last pitch wasn’t the ball hitting her bat—it was her heart breaking in two. When I heard, “Stuhhhh-riiiiii-kkkkeeee,” I felt a physical pain that was every bit as painful as the labor pains I felt when she was born.
Her pain-filled eyes catching mine across the team huddle—that is the other side of being a mother. This side of mothering isn’t a verse on a Hallmark card or the subject of a Publix commercial. It’s real and it’s hard and it hurts. Her eyes begged me to fix it but there was nothing I could do but hug her and unbeknownst to her, cry with her.
This mothers day I celebrated the best thing that has ever happened to me…becoming a mother. But this year I didn’t dwell too long in the pink, flowered, candy-coated image of the day. My mothers day image was of a little face, caked in red dirt and black-out eye patches, with big alligator tears streaking both as they ran down her cheeks, looking at me…at me…and begging me to make things better. When she flung herself into my arms and buried her face into my shoulder I experienced an unexpected mother’s day emotion. It’s a feeling that I just can’t put into words. She came to me when she was hurting, she trusted me to help, to make it better. The fact that she sought my arms at the most pitiful of moments has a certain sweetness to it that I will never forget nor be able to explain. The nitty-gritty, dirty side of being a mother is just as sweet, just in a bitter sort of way.