For the first time ever, L pitched for 1 1/3 innings tonight. It went…not well. He was very, very nervous. He wants to please and gets nervous when people are watching. He especially wants to please people in positions of authority- parents, teachers, coaches.
There were a few tears. He lacks finesse (of course he does, he’s 9). He walked all but one batter, whom he struck out. His teammates- to their absolute credit and my pleasant surprise- were great. They have not yet learned to be mean. Instead they all cheer for each other: “You got this, Luke! You’ll get the next one, Luke!” He doesn’t. He might not ever. He likely will not ever.
Other boys do, though. There are some amazing athletes on this team. There are boys who do have finesse and control. One of the kids on this team struck out three batters in only 10 pitches. Multiple kids have grabbed would-be doubles right out the air. Other kids make the catch to get the out.
When L is up to bat (or performing at school, or playing with friends, or or or or) I am on high alert. I still see him as fragile. Bases loaded and he has the chance to get an RBI and I am praying that he makes it happen. I want him to be the hero of his own story…for something OTHER than being a cancer survivor.
What if there is some jerky parent who makes some smart ass comment about my son and his lack of athletic prowess? I am always at the ready. “Well, he stinks at baseball but he beat cancer, so take that ya blow hard!” There is never a jerky parent and I do not have to say anything. (Not yet, anyway. I fear that that day will come though.)
To the outside world, L is just too skinny and not that good at baseball. For me the experience is all about the “what ifs.” What if…
- He hadn’t lost 25% of his body weight (5 lbs) at age 3. Would he still be this thin? (Note. I am on the only person who worries about this. There are teams of oncology experts who are not worried. I know I need to let this one go. But there is not an ounce of fat on him. He is all bones.)
- He hadn’t had 15 months of intensive chemo that affected his coordination?
- They hadn’t radiated his thighs? Would he be a faster runner?
- He hadn’t spent so much time with adults at such a young age? Would he more naturally join in the chants of his fellow boys, rather than sitting on the end of the bench playing with blades of grass?
On their own, none of these things are awful or abnormal. He is average. He is nine. He is growing and making his way. But there is no “on their own” for him or for us, because there will always be this huge traumatic event in his past that may or may not have permanently altered everything about him.
It is highly likely that L would have been this average at baseball regardless of his health history. But that is something that I will never know.
Re-reading all of this now, I sound like an overbearing sports mom who thinks her kid is going to the major leagues. It’s not about that, L is good at lots of other things. He is good at things that matter more than sports. He is kind. He is a leader. He is loving. He is a creative thinker. But, when you are a young boy a lot of socialization and friendships and positive memories are forged around the baseball diamond. I just want that for him. I want his life and sense of self and memories to not be so effin layered.
I also hear a lot about me in this post. I need to get better at taking my cues from my son. It is his story, to share or not. I am working on it. Always working on it.