On Saturday morning, I took Sarah Kate to register for spring softball.
It was a much different experience from a year ago when I signed her up for the first time. There was no anxiety about making the leap. There was no wondering if people would look at her funny. There wasn’t even my generalized introvert anxiety of being in a place where I didn’t know anyone.
Instead, the registration line was like a Skyrockets Reunion. One of her spring coaches was there, as was his daughter the first baseman, the tough-as-nails shortstop, and the team slugger (and their various parental units). And finally, the new league president, coach of last spring’s runner-up team, was more than willing to accommodate Sarah Kate’s request to play down for one more season.
It was, in a word…nice.
But as great as it was to see Sarah Kate embraced by her former teammates, welcomed by the league, and confident in her ability to play softball, I left the ballpark with the distinct feeling that she was being left behind.
I have no doubt that staying in 8U is the right decision for her. 10U is about stealing, which requires running – REAL running – and it’s also about girls pitching. Our league is fast pitch, and the reality is that a wild pitch (of which there are quite a few in 10U) has a good shot of pegging her before she can get out of the way. We have enough bruises and skinned knees from her ten years of poor balance without inviting more.
So she will be left behind.
On Sunday, we went to Mass and I noticed an announcement in the bulletin about altar servers. Sarah Kate has, for years, enjoyed participating in the presentation of the gifts following the children’s liturgy. Although she’s a little old for the children’s liturgy now, it wasn’t unusual to see her process up the aisle between the two children carrying the bread and wine, holding the larger and less fragile basket with the collection from that Mass.
I think she’d love to be an altar server.
But altar servers have to go up and down the steps to the altar, carrying candles and various other items. It’s just not practical to expect her to be able to do what would need to be done. Some, but certainly not all, of her CCD classmates will become altar servers soon, and she’ll once again be left behind.
Being left behind isn’t a tragedy, of course.
All of us have to face being left behind at various points in our lives. Disappointment is part of life. But in our case, being left behind seems to not just be part of our life, but the story of it.
Nathan fits in well in his preschool class, and he seems to enjoy it. As far as I know, his teacher doesn’t treat him differently from the other children (other than patiently tolerating the parade of therapists that come through, observing and making recommendations). At his age, children develop in different areas at vastly different rates, so he doesn’t stand out as all that different from the typical children.
But the day is coming when he will be left behind, too.
He’s smaller than the other children. He doesn’t speak as clearly. He’s not as adept at simple daily tasks like using feeding utensils and dressing and undressing himself. The day is coming when all of his peers will be ready to move up to the next level, and like his sister in softball, he won’t be ready.
But in our fast-paced, frenetic world – of which I am not immune – being left behind can be a powerful thing. In that 400 meter race a few weeks ago, many families sent their kids to the starting line, watched them race, and left, and the whole thing was over in a flash. But for us, and for Lauren’s family, and for all of our friends who came out to be a part of it, the race had deeper meaning. It wasn’t just a vacation box to check or a photo opp or a way to get a unique souvenir.