I watch both Toddlers & Tiaras and Dance Moms, and I’ve always heard tales about Those Parents who act a little nuts when it comes to their kids’ activities, but because I never experienced it I always assumed it was your garden variety yell-at-the-ump, yell-at-the-coach general jackassery.
Oh, how wrong I was.
I won’t go into the sordid details of what transpired this season with girls softball here in Mayberry, other than to say that there was a disagreement, and that some people who represent the sport did not represent well. And by “did not represent well” I mean that during a heated exchange last Friday night, a male board member charged at one of the mothers in an aggressive stance that seemed serious enough to Mr. Andi that he stepped in with Sarah Kate’s bat in hand and insisted that said male board member not continue on his trajectory.
I wasn’t present at the brouhaha, but the story has come out in bits and pieces – some from Mr. Andi, some from other parents – and while there’s certainly more to the story than I will likely ever know, one thing I do know for certain.
I’ve been living in a disability bubble.
We haven’t had tons of experience with sports – a couple of years of swim team and one season of softball – and it’s been great for us. Sure, I freak out a little when Sarah Kate gets up to bat, and it’s tough when she’s the last swimmer to touch the wall during her heats, but she (and by extension Mr. Andi and me) always receives encouragement from others. The umpire at her games has commented over and over again how well she bats, parents of opposing team’s players compliment her, and words like “inspiring” and “brave” are ever present.
But there’s a dark side of which I’ve been blissfully unaware – until now.
The Great Debate – centering on a forced forfeit – may end up being critical to the final standings at the end of the season. I know that’s important to a lot of people – who among us doesn’t have a competitive streak? – but it’s not important to us, because my goals for the season were for Sarah Kate to enjoy it and for me to survive it – we’ve done that and more. As great as it may have been, I’m ready to move on to swim team.
But on Tuesday night after her game, I cried.
- I cried for Sarah Kate’s coach who’s worked so hard and been so wonderful, patient, and good-natured with a dozen seven- and eight-year old girls, most of whom have little understanding of the rules, much less strategy, of softball.
- I cried for the girl on the team who started the season near the bottom of the batting order but worked hard and now bats fourth – the esteemed position of team slugger.
- I cried for the opposing team, who may end up winning the season in a way no honorable coach wants to win.
- And I cried because that same team, at the end of our last game against them, presented Sarah Kate with a medal inscribed with “MVP 2012.”
Most people understand that girls softball is about having fun, learning teamwork, practicing discipline, and developing social and other valuable life skills. But I discovered this spring that for a few people, girls softball is about the power, not the children.
As I considered what went down this week, I wondered if this particular board member (and his wife, who appears to be cut from similar cloth – her body language at last Friday’s meeting revealed the lies she told) would look at my family and thank the heavens that they don’t have two children with special needs. I’d be willing to bet that a man who routinely verbally abuses his young players and has to be stopped from assaulting a player’s mother would be less than enthusiastic about parenting a child with cerebral palsy and another with Down syndrome.
But I look at him and think how pathetically sad his life must be to have so little perspective.
There are days that I grow weary of therapy and medical bills. There are times when I long for a life more ordinary. But incidents like these remind me of how blessed I am to have children who, by their very existence, make me a better person. Children who give me perspective. Children whose achievements – walking, talking, and other seemingly simple things that most people take for granted – are celebrated with joyful abandon. There’s no cheating in therapy, and no one can take their accomplishments away from them.
Given the choice, I’d pick the disability bubble every time.
Note: I hesitated to write this post, because I feel that I’m being very “judgey” about a man I don’t know. But from speaking with other people (not all parents of our players, or even people with girls currently playing softball at any level), this man’s “rap sheet” is long and egregious. At any rate, I’ve withheld many specifics for the good of the league and the more honorable board members.