When the big people roar
I say "apparently," because with more than half the schedule left to play there's a chance he'll return. A chance, but not much hope.
***In a way, Boots and baseball were doomed from the start. I knew when I saw the schedules, which had both guys playing at the same time for most of the season, that this was going to be a problem in our current one-parent household.
I'd have Boots, who's frequently described as a mamm'a boy, on one field while Big Guy, who's considerably more independent but still looks for me on the sidelines when he's playing any sport, occupied another.
We'd done the juggle before, when soccer games collided with karate class. I'd explain to the guy I was leaving behind exactly where I was going and that I'd be back. They were OK with it. That was a short-term deal, though, lasting only a week. The baseball shuffle would go on for nearly two months.
The one thing we had going for us: Boots' baseball team included three friends from his preschool class. I hoped their presence would make him feel more comfortable in his strange new world.
Through the first practice and most of the first game, it seemed to work. Boots loved his new gear - the helmet personalized with his name and a SpongeBob logo, his colorful jersey emblazoned with the cartoon mascot, his red and yellow bat that Big Guy coveted to the very depths of his soul. He enjoyed playing, too - particularly in the dirt in the infield.
The first game I ran from field to field, somehow miraculously not missing a guy at bat. Trouble started, though, as Boots' game ended.
"He's having issues," a parent reported tersely as I panted up the tiny incline from Big Guy's game. "He kept throwing water bottles and balls at teammates."
I glanced toward the players sitting around a picnic table, laughing and eating their snacks. If he'd instigated a bench-clearing brawl everyone seemed to have recovered quickly, I thought. Still, I talked with him about it.
The next practice featured the hugfest. The next game, Boots had the vapors because another kid kept taking his helmet.
Despite the minor hoo-has, he seemed OK. Until last Friday's practice, that is. That's when I made another of my King Solomon decisions that I've regretted at least daily since.
***Big Guy wanted me to play catch with him that day, and since he's always begging and I too often say no, I agreed. We positioned ourselves at the edge of the infield grass on the field where Boots' team was practicing, so I could cheer him on as Big Guy and I tossed the ball.
I saw Boots, the last hitter of the evening, reach home plate. The players huddled up, shouted "Gooooooooooo, team!" and practice was over.
Big Guy begged for one last toss, and I gave in, craning my neck all the while to keep an eye on Boots. Big Guy overthrew, and I had to track down the ball far behind me.
In that split second, Boots decided I had left without him and took off down the hill. Across a busy street. Into a hectic parking lot.
I got the ball, stood up and looked around. I called his name. No response.
I went to the dugout, where his equipment bag remained but not his bat or helmet. "Big Guy, go look over there for your brother while I gather this up," I said.
Nothing. "I'm an only child now! I'm an only child now! Yip-eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!" Big Guy cheered when he returned. I glared.
Other parents joined the search, looking in ditches and across fields. I climbed under a small bridge where the kids like to play to make sure he wasn't hiding so he could enjoy the tumult.
"Boots, if you're under there you better get out right now," terse parent growled.
"He's not. I checked myself," I said icily. Sometimes you just get frustrated with people treating you child like the "bad kid" when his behavior is pretty much the norm for his age. Terse parent would have hauled out the leg irons for the kid who had his hands around a classmate's throat at preschool today. The choker thought he was playing. The chokee didn't enjoy the game.
Just then, another parent waved from below the little hill. "We found him. He's in your car."
I dragged Big Guy, dismayed that his only-child status had vaporized so quickly again, down the hill, across the street and to our car. That's when we found Boots, curled up and crying on the floorboard.
***From what I've been able to piece together, when the parents found Boots in the parking lot he did what he often does of late when he's embarrassed, in trouble or both. He ran around the car, laughing. It's highly annoying and not the expected behavior, but it's hardly beyond the pale. I've worked with adults who would twitter merrily when faced with a screw-up, and I've wanted to growl at them. I didn't, though.
Apparently the parent who found Boots did. "I told him to get his little butt in the car, sit there and not move," the parent reported.
"He yelled at me," Boots said later. "I'm not going back."
I really don't know if the parent yelled, though I'll bet at the least voices were raised. On one level, I understand that. Giggle tag is frustrating.
Boots, however, does not respond to growling. Stern is acceptable, but there's a thin line you can't cross with him. He once refused to go to a cousin's house for months after he was yelled at there.
Big Guy will see a growl and up the ante. With Boots, it sends him into a fetal position, just like the one in which I found him Friday.
"Sign me out of baseball," he sniffed.
The next morning when it was time to get dressed for their games, Boots put on jeans and a T-shirt. "I said sign me out of baseball."
***Boots and I have talked about it since. I've praised him for doing the right thing in going to the car when he couldn't find me. I told him how worried everyone was when we couldn't find him.
"Sometimes when adults get scared they get loud. It doesn't mean they're mean people. It just means they're scared," I said.
He's not buying it. "I won't go back."
I've displayed slide shows of Boots in happier baseball times - was it just last week? - in hopes he would remember how much fun it was before the world went mad.
"I won't go back."
Game, apparently, over.
Copyright 2010 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.