I often write about the challenges of single parenting. The hiccups, ordeals, frustrations, and downright aggravations. They occupy a lot of my time. They can consume my thinking, and they often provide me with constant fires to put out.
But it is the moments of triumph that come amidst the problems and the plain-old mundane that make parenting so very worthwhile. They can be simple and small snippets of time such as watching my sons harmoniously practice making soccer goals together in the backyard or sending my older son off to school after a full night of sleep and confident he will do well on the MCAS exams required in Massachusetts. But sometimes they are much bigger accomplishments that take my breath away and give me a high the next day that rivals the ones gleaned from a fantastic date, an awesome concert, or arrival in a tropical paradise.
This week I experienced such a parenting high. And as is so often the case when a child achieves something spectacular, the road to the success was bumpy -- making the end result that much sweeter.
My older son hit a grand slam in a Little League game. With one out, two strikes, and bases loaded in his team's last up at bat, Christopher smacked a ball into left field behind third base. From my vantage point near first base, it looked like it would veer into foul-ball territory. It did not. Christopher rounded first and headed toward second. The ball hadn't been fielded yet from the outfield, so he kept running as his teammates and their parents cheered him on. He made it home just in time, outrunning the throw. His teammates poured out of the dugout to greet him, and I whooped and hollered out of pride and gratitude.
Having just returned from the town next door where my younger son was playing in his own Little League game, I only just barely saw Christopher's infield home run. I had parked, stepped out of the car, and immediately heard my son's name announced. ("Christopher Siems," mispronounced as "Seems," of course.) Chris was next at bat.
Wanting him to know I'd arrived, I called out: "Go, Chris! Watch the ball!" He listened. Boy, did he listen.
Chris came through in the biggest way possible. His hit raised the score from 7-2 to 7-6. Unfortunately, his team -- the A's or Athletics -- didn't bring in any more runs that final inning, so the A's lost the game against the Blue Jays. It didn't matter. In my book, my son had won BIG TIME.
As we ate celebratory sundaes at our favorite ice cream stand that afternoon, Christopher explained how he was able to hit the ball so well: a classmate's father had helped him with his grip prior to a game the day before that he had been invited to play in. That game was a AAA game, one level up from Chris's AA games.
The third-grade class at his school is so big that there were too many players who went out for the AAA. As a result, Little League officials drawing up the teams decided to place eighteen third graders on AA teams, which are made up of second graders. (Fourth graders fill out the AAA roster.) Parents were not notified of the split ahead of time. Instead, I learned about it when getting my son's team assignment.
Both Chris and I were disappointed the third graders had been separated, and that Chris had been put in the lower of the two levels. Before the season began, all the kids had tried out at an indoor facility and were ranked on ability based on their performance that afternoon. However, a kid can have a bad day or just be rusty from not having played baseball in nearly nine months. So it's an imperfect system.
Happily, though, Chris was called up by a AAA team to fill in for an absent player the very first weekend of play. Ranked at the top of the eighteen third graders in AA, he was among the first to be tapped for a call-up. It proved to be a great experience. The AAA coach is terrific, and several of my sons' friends are on the team. Meanwhile, Chris held his own and then some, hitting a stand-up double and RBI and later scoring the tying run before the next player came across home plate for the win. He did so well, in fact, that I asked the coach in all seriousness: "Can this be a permanent call-up?" Unfortunately, the answer was no. The system just doesn't work that way.
He didn't play as well the second time the same team called him up. But that game took place the day before he hit the grand slam in his AA game, so it proved to be a terrific warm-up.
In discussing the split of third graders with other parents at the beginning of the season, phrases like "big fish in a small pond" and "chance to shine" were bandied about in an attempt to put a positive spin on the fact that some children were assigned to a lesser team. But as the season draws to a close in less than two weeks, I'm finding these tritisms have some merit. A friend's son in AAA still feels intimidated by the power of some of the fourth graders and the speed at which they can pitch. Yet my son feels good as he strides up to bat. When he watches the ball and connects with it, his confidence soars. He is proving himself as a hitter and, as a parent, I couldn't be prouder.