For the second year in a row, Tiny Tot is enjoying the lovely outdoor sport known as tee ball. There’s a glove, there’s a ball, there’s a tee, there’re coaches, and then, of course, the tiny humans who are the basis behind the idea of tee ball. The little ones are present to learn the rudiments of what will one day be known as baseball. From what I can gather–as a parent who formerly had no knowledge, or desired knowledge, about either baseball or tee ball–it consists of a group of pint-sized munchkins (don’t ask me how many, but my guess is twelve to fifteen) garbed in baseball jerseys, cleats, pants, and caps, tossing balls with wild abandon and staring at the sun.
In his toddler tee ball phase, with Tiny Tot dressed as a miniature NBA player, his dad coached the team. The struggle came in getting Tiny to separate his father from his coach. It is very hard for a child who sees his dad on a limited, divorced parent schedule to suddenly be required to share Daddy with fifteen other tiny humans all seeking the coach’s approval. Because of my understanding of this, from my chronic need to think through every situation, I made sure Tiny gave Daddy space last year and always reminded him to focus on what the Coach was saying.
Not as his Daddy, but as his Coach.
Which, of course, led to massive amounts of epic Tiny meltdowns, and one tee ball parent constantly pulling a tiny human off the coach’s leg.
This year, however, Tiny is much more adjusted to the idea of his dad being one of the coaches. He gets four of them and he’s excited about being involved in the concept of tee ball. His big, Cheshire grin and desire to please the Head Coach speaks volumes. Tiny has morphed from toddler to preschooler, grown two inches, and is suddenly a twelve year-old who wants to be part of the team. Therefore, I get the chance to take a step back and be a sideline mom.
I sit in a chair, snap pictures, and holler out, “Focus, Tiny! The ball just landed at your feet! You’re supposed to pick it up and throw it! No, … no, … Honey, you need to put down the flower, first. Oh, it’s for me? Oh … you’re running toward me … with the flower … okay. Thanks, Baby. Now can you go grab the ball and throw it? Aw, I love you, too.”
Tee ball is so fun.
Back when my tiny person was too small to play tee ball, I had the opportunity to sit in the bleachers and watch my niece play. If you have never had the opportunity to go out and sit on a child’s tee ball field on a Saturday, do it. I promise, it is so worth the chuckle.
So worth it.
You see, there’s the ground. It’s fascinating. The ground has so many things to pick up. There’s leaves, bugs, grass, flowers, and rocks on the ground. Know what’s even better? You can THROW all those things!! Never mind that pesky red-laced softball the coach keeps drawing focus to … because some other kid is playing with that right now, and the ground is much more interesting.
Not to mention, on the ground there is the sand. It’s right next to all those bugs, grass, flowers, rocks, and leaves. And, by the way, fingers can draw in the sand. No, no, really, they can! They can draw Mommies, Daddies, sisters, brothers, flowers, dinosaurs, trucks, and rainbows.
Did you know that?
The best part isn’t the ground, though. It’s the sky. Clouds, birds, planes, trees, wind, sun, kites, and even more bugs–the ones that fly!
Wait, … is that the ball?
Oh, yeaaaaaah, tee ball! Better start paying attention now!
This right here is my greatest expectation of the great game of tee ball. I know for a fact that my child, and every other child on the team, is going to gain immediate and chronic ADHD for the entire game. Which means all of us sideline parents will sit and giggle our heads off for the better part of an hour, click thousands of pictures of our children drawing in the sand, and remember to holler for them to focus in order to possibly catch the ball.
But, we know that they won’t, and that’s okay.
Usually, if they catch the ball, it happens after the ball rolls between their legs. The tiny humans give a quizzical look, duck between their legs, see the ball, then do this stumbling turn to go catch said ball. They then fling their tiny bodies on top of this now unmoving ball like it’s a bucking bronco and stand up proudly clutching the ball to their chest. Next comes the hilarious part, as if that’s not funny enough!
Getting them to toss this ball to either first baseman, or the pitcher.
“What? What, Mommy? The ball? Throw the ball? Ooooh, this ball? Oooh. Okay!”
Dang, this game cracks me up.
I expect for all the children to have massive amounts of scatterbrained attention deficits, and for me, that’s okay. It makes the game so fun. Because, let’s face it: baseball is pretty boring.
Can I come back out yet?
I also know that our tiny humans are attuned to both parent and coach alike on the field. The second either of these makes a comment, our tiny people will jump to attention, remember to toss the ball, catch the ball, or hit it off the tee.
Which is also an expectation I hold for tee ball: the preschool munchkins are learning to follow instructions while becoming part of a team. Stick fifteen four year-olds together and call them a team. Will they immediately act that way? No. They do not yet know what it means to participate together, especially with so many new kiddos around. Yet, for that better part of an hour, they are learning to participate in a game with other children while listening to constant instruction, in an outdoor setting. It’s a relatively new concept for our tiny humans.
And so worth the effort, as long as the expectations are realized.
In preschool, if our children go outside, it’s free play. Well, there are the, “Don’t hit your friend!” disciplinary remarks. But, mostly, they’re running with abandon, throwing mulch, sliding, and being free spirits. Back the classroom, they sit side-by-side, constantly being told to keep their hands to themselves and stay in their personal bubble. During play time indoors, it’s creative play, sure, but it’s every man for himself. You play puppets, I’ll play blocks, but we are not playing together. Maybe sit beside me, but only if your block car can hold my puppet and take him to the store.
Now, suddenly, our tiny humans–who have no true concept of team spirit–are being asked to play in a formerly “free” setting, with careful guidelines, while being part of a group. If they can learn to do that during the course of tee ball as preschoolers, they have learned so much toward not only organized sports, but in growth during school, work, and society.
Just that ability in itself, to me, is simply amazing.
The kiddos are getting outside, they’re learning to focus their scatterbrained free-play desires into a team effort which will help them in growing their life skills, and for me, that is enough.
Will they learn to hit a ball? Sure. Possibly.
Will they learn to hit the ball with distinct precision? Lord, I hope not. Not at this age. But if they do, and hit it off the tee every time, that’s awesome!
Will they learn to catch a ball? Probably not. There’s an added element of a glove, a ball bigger than any of their hands, but they’re not allowed to catch this ball with two hands? Hmmm. Plus, most of us don’t throw softballs at our preschoolers expecting them to just deftly catch the ball single-handed. We might throw them a beach ball expecting them to will grab at that sucker with the lifeline precision of a drowning man. Grow adults don’t even respond well to, “Here, catch!”
Why, then, would the tiny ones?
Will they learn to throw a ball? Yes. This is the one skill they are already getting better at with age. Telling them to hold the ball at a ninety degree angle means absolutely nothing to them, though. But, telling them to take a step and toss the ball at their teammate does work. Occasionally.
Will the ball be thrown far? Probably not. Some kids have a natural knack, other kids throw a foot in front of them on a good day. Honestly, that shouldn’t even be an inkling in the parent’s head.
While we parents hold massive amounts of expectations of our children in sports, what I’m trying to relay is that at the end of the day, even if Tiny Tot picks flowers, he’s still learning to be part of something new. He’s in a sport; he’s part of a team. He’s learning, as tiny humans do, what the expectations are, so that the next year he can steadily, and progressively, move to the next level.
Perhaps next year I’ll expect Tiny Tot to finally catch a ground ball as it rolls toward his feet.
Though, he probably won’t.
And I’m okay with that.