The Hat

This is a story about a hat. A hat that was just a simple baseball cap but ended up becoming a symbol of hate. My hate.

It all started when our son told us he wanted to play baseball instead of soccer in spring. Being that neither my husband nor I are baseball fans, we asked our son a number of times whether he truly wanted to play. After answering yes each time we asked, we gave in and signed him up. Spring was looking to be rather interesting.

As the holiday season ended and the new year rolled around, emails came slowly started trickling in from coaches and managers and officials of the league informing us of events to warm up the players and try-outs for the teams. Knowing as little as I did about this sport, I went into it thinking this should be fun! And new! And exciting. I was still thinking this until try-outs arrived and I realized the kids would not only try-out but would be marked down and drafted by the coached sitting quietly on the first base line. They were judging each player based on the skills they showed instead of a blind numbering system that I had known in soccer. Oh man… This mama was not ready to watch her son get judged, even though I understand why. Then realization of how different baseball was from soccer hit me and I had a sinking feeling.

But I brushed it off and went along, encouraging my child to believe that this will be fun and that he only had to stick out the season if he didn’t like it because we didn’t believe in quitting. We worked through things we were afraid of or things that we were uncertain of. While I was speaking to him, I know my words were meant more for me. I was telling myself not to quit and pull him from the possibly HUGE mistake we were making and stick him back into soccer, a sport we all know and like.

Then the final nail in the coffin came, sealing my doubt in with my fears. It came in the form of a parent meeting for all rookie players. At this meeting we were given our practice schedule and our practice location. They also explained our game schedule for the season and all the little tidbits of information needed: expectations, volunteers, events, the usual. My husband attended this and sent me back text messages that made the pit at the bottom of my stomach grow larger. We’d have two practice a week, throwing off our whole routine. There would also be a weekday game (WHY?!) and a weekend game.

So we sucked it up and shook off the initial shock of how much was involved and the scramble that would become our lives from now until the end of the season. And I realized that our son was hearing our doubts and voiced his concern that he’d made a mistake in choosing baseball. That shut us up fast. If he wanted to play, we’d make it work. From here on out, I’d have to silence my concerns and just fake it through.

It wasn’t until the first practice that made me realize how big a of a mistake we’d made. After practice, our son was lamenting how he missed soccer and didn’t like baseball. Oh boy… this was not what we needed to hear. Knowing now that he was only lukewarm to the idea of baseball made us feel even more hesitant. Was this a bad idea? Could we still get out of it? Instead we told him to give it a little bit longer to get used to it. That we didn’t quit things we started but if after this season it didn’t work, then it didn’t work. But, together as a family, we’d make it through this first season come hell or high water.

I only half believed what I was telling him.

By the second practice we were receiving both emails and text messages about all the goings on of this overly involved sport that neither of us liked. And each mention of the team made me grumpier and more frustrated. How could we have been so mislead to think that a family of two working parents could make this work? Who can make 4:30 pm practices twice a week when both parents have jobs?! This was becoming a perfect pitch for multiple wives. More hands, more help. But I digress.

At the second practice, it was asked that all players brought their hats and $25 for some embroidery to be done on them. Well, we never made it due to issues with homework not being finished so his hat was still with us. On Sunday we were reminded about uniform pickup and to bring the hat, too. That way the team moms could take it all in to get stitched and ready for our first games. Come Sunday, we were ready, cap and money in hand. We got our uniforms all picked out and sized up and then we left… with the damn hat. Somehow I had missed the memo that we were to leave the hat. I didn’t know who to give it to or what we were to do it with and somehow my husband didn’t know that I didn’t know so he didn’t do anything either.

So we left. With the hat.

Suddenly I get a message. The team mom realized they didn’t have our hat and wanted us to come back to drop it off. We were already out of the area and on our way to our delayed beach day with my sister, a day that was supposed to be a brunch date but got moved to late lunch when we found out our uniform pickup time conflicted with our plans. So no, we weren’t going to turn around and come back. Instead we made plans to drop it off the next day.

It was that moment that I started to hate that hat. The hat was nothing more than a piece of clothing but it became a symbol of something more. Of our frustration, of our lives slowly being whittled away by a sport that none of us, even our son, was really all that interested in. A sport that he wanted to just try for a season that was now consuming us. My running schedule was being disrupted and my husbands work schedule and gym sessions were being moved around. Everything was changing. Our happy little life was slowly being rearranged for baseball, a sport none of us loved.

As we all woke this morning, the moods were light and fun as we gave each other hugs and kisses goodbye. Everyone seemed to be in good moods. That was until I realized I hadn’t sent the address of our team mom to my husband for the hat drop off. It had slipped my mind. As I pulled up to drop off our son at his grandmother’s house, I sent a quick message containing the contact information to him when I saw out of the corner of my eye the lurking black bill of our son’s baseball hat.

The damn thing was with me. Sigh….

Dropping him off with a quick word and a kiss from my mother, I jumped back in the car fuming. I had to retrace my route and go back home to give my husband the hat so that he could drop it off for us. And this made me 30 minutes late to work. I was not a happy mama.

In a joking manner, I took a picture of me giving the hat the Bird and sent it to my husband for a good laugh. And we did chuckle at it. It was funny and stupid to flip off a hat because you are angry but it also had a deeper meaning to us. This hat, this season, this sport, was slowly becoming everything that was making us mad. It symbolized all of our frustrations and anxieties over how we would pull this off. It was the visible reminder of our big mistake.
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The hat is now in the possession of the embroidery shop that is stitching our son’s name to the back of it along with his name on his jersey. And to add insult to our already tender wounds that this damn hat inflicted over the past two days, we received the schedule for our games. From Monday-Thursday and then Saturday, our lives are now all baseball, the sport we are slowly hating more and more each day. The messages between my husband and I are littered with colorful words and a deep sense of frustration and anger. Anger at the loss of control over our schedules, the inability to foresee how this sport was going to affect us and change everything. And, personally, I think this has opened our eyes to how much we love our lives and how much we love the schedule we had built carefully and meticulously.

For now we’ll have to decide if this is something we can make happen without putting too much strain on our family. We’re also going to have to pool our resources in the form of babysitters, grandmothers, and family members that can be there if we can’t. And if we can’t make it happen, then we’ll at least have the ability to say we tried but it just wasn’t for us.

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Letter To My Son: The Hairy Summer

Dear Jacob,

When you were seven, we had a very big, busy summer as a family. It was the summer we got married. And by we, I mean me, your dad, and you. It was also the summer that you came into your own.

You discovered your hair.

Your hair was a beast unto itself. It didn’t curl like mine but laid straight against your head in a perfect shag. It grew more and more blonde with each passing warm summer day in the pool and outside playing with friends. Your perfectly chestnut hair changed over the summer to a perfect golden hue.

That summer, you were determined to grow it out long and you wanted so very badly for it to curl. Every other day or so you’d plead for me to curl your hair with a curling iron. Of course, those requests came at a time when I was busy cooking or doing something else so I had to say “not right now” more often than not. Even though it wouldn’t do it on its own and I wasn’t available to curl it for you, you found that your sleep habits helped create that wave and style you so hoped for.

I’ll be curious to know, when you read this as a grow adult, what your memories are.

Do you remember, as I do, the tangle that was your hair most mornings?
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The way it would flip out and scrunch up all over your head?
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It had a life of its own.

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Along with your hair, you also discovered your own style. You preferred a hat and jacket on most days. Your nice dinner jacket had become more of a costume piece. You wore it so often it had tears and rips in the lining. So many that I couldn’t keep up with them so I just let them go, figuring no one would notice…

Some days you were a super spy.

 photo null_zpsf2ea54f6.jpgAnd boy, were you a stylish super spy.

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And other days…well…I guess you went for that lazy beach bum look.

Other times you straight up wore a costume, becoming someone completely different. Comic book heroes were a big hit for you.

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As were comic books. That was the summer you discovered reading and the joy that a book could bring.

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Even if you read at the most inopportune places like in line at the grocery store or well past your bedtime. Many nights we’d find you wide awake with a book in hand and flashlight to guide your eyes when you should have been fast asleep.

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And just between us, I got a kick out of it. It brought me a special kind of joy to find you still reading when you should have been asleep. Though I had to act like an adult and take the books away so that you would go to sleep, I secret was dancing a little happy jig in my heart.

The best part about it was watching you develop before our very eyes. Rarely did you care what others thought about you. You did your own thing and walked your own road.

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Like the time you wanted blue hair.

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Or the time you dressed in long pants and a collared shirt in 90 degree weather.

You looked so spiffy even though I knew you’d be super warm and sweaty when I picked you up later that day.

Living life to the fullest, you pushed boundaries and found your own pace. Much of the time, it was appreciated by your dad and me. Other times, well…you’d push those boundaries and we’d push back only to find ourselves in a deadlock with you, head to head. It was at those times I’d remind myself that it was good for you to have a strong personality. It would serve you well as an adult, even if it would make your dad and me go grey early.

This was the summer you discovered more about yourself, about your interests, and about your personal tastes.

This was the summer I fell more in love with you, my son. I didn’t think it was possible because I loved you so much already. And I also worried, with the big responsibilities that came with a marriage, that I’d somehow fail you in some way. Instead I found new ways to love you than I had before. I loved your ingenuity, you curiosity, your creativity and I loved watching you discover new interests.

This was the summer you discovered your hair and it was the summer I discovered my love for you was endless.

xoxoxo,

Mama

Yours. Mine. Ours.

When you become married, life suddenly goes from being singular to being pluralized. It’s no longer me or I. It’s we and us. We will be available next weekend. This gift is from us. What was mine is now ours and the same goes for him. What was his is ours. That couch I bought years before? It’s ours. His colorful fiesta mugs? Those are ours too.

While these little things are small and insignificant, it does take some brain work to adjust our vocabulary. To remember to use inclusive language when, for so long, you spoke only of yourself. And maybe, though the ring is on your finger and the memories of the wedding day are still lingering, you still don’t quite believe that you made the plunge. That somewhere in your mind you still don’t believe you’ll ever get married even if you have the documents to prove that you have, in fact, been hitched recently.

I’m finding for myself that the hardest part is actually referring to Jake as “our” son. The Mr. has been raising him for sometime with me and we all feel that he’s as much a father as anyone else. He loves deeply and thoroughly and he worries just as any father would.

It’s not that I don’t want to share, it’s just an adjustment of vernacular. Instead of “my” son, it’s “our” son. Our son finished first grade today. Our son left his towel on the floor again. Our son has grown another inch and needs new pants that fit him.

Our son. Our home. Our life. Our dreams.

Ours.

Let Me Tell You About The Time With The Fish

Not too long ago, my son and I visited a far away country. The country of Georgia.

While there we saw castles and palaces and churches and statues. All reminiscent of culture and people who can’t, and won’t, be held down.

We also spent time in the company of family. People who had waited many years to finally hold us in their arms and greet us with warmth and love.

During our stay, we were given the chance to experience a large family dinner with many different exotic dishes including baked fish.

We helped set the table while the family cooed over the youngest and newest member of the family. My son, his hands carefully carrying a plate of small fish coated lightly and smelling delicious, made his way to the table while I worked diligently to make room for the food still to come.

“Look, mama,” he exclaimed, eying the rather fishy looking plate in his hands. “Fish! And they still have their eyes.”

Engrossed in the odd looking food, I watched with intent as my son gracefully picked up one of the small creatures and promptly stuck its head in his mouth and bit down.

For a moment I was so stunned and unsure of what I was seeing that everything seemed to freeze in time. Had I really just watched my son, who hates mayonnaise and pickles on his hamburgers, bite the head off a small fish? Bones and all?

He chewed slowly as the realization grew on him that the fish in front of him was actually a real fish with bones and eyeballs. His face turned sour and his chewing slowed to a stand still.

I could read the realization in his face as he squenched up his nose and pointed to his mouth.

I stifled a laugh.

“Would you like to spit it out now?” I asked.

He nodded quickly and I pulled a plate towards him as he evacuated all that was in his mouth. He quietly spit out bones and scales while I poured him a glass of punch and quietly laughed to myself.

“What did you think, Jake?” I inquired.

Shaking his head, he took a long sip of punch as his grandfather entered the room with a look of amusement on his face. He, too, had witnessed my son unassumingly and without concern bite off the head of a fish. We both began to laugh as Jake pushed away the plate with the remains of the fish.

“I don’t know, mama,” he told me. “I just wanted to see what it would taste like.”

The rest of the family entered the room and we quickly retold the story. Everyone had a good laugh and we toasted my son as the bravest of us all.

For only he was brave enough to eat the head of the fish.

 

Letter To My Son: Missing You Much

Jacob,

When you were little, you shared a bed with me. It was for a number of reasons. One being that you nursed and having you close made it easier for me during those middle of the night feedings. Another was that we had a small apartment and only one bed in the beginning. I saw no need for a second while you were so small.

But the biggest reason was because I loved having you near. I loved having your little body so close that I could reach out and touch your sweet head or stroke your soft cheeks. I loved having you near.

When you started to get older and bigger, you started to seek out more space in the bed and found your favorite sleeping position. Most often it meant your little baby toes would tuck underneath my thighs as you dreamed sweetly about playing on the playground or building with blocks.

I didn’t realize until we were separated by many many miles that I love feeling your beautiful little feet tucked against me. The way they wiggle under and find the sweet spot where they will rest for the night.

That simple little moment of touch, that point of contact, means so much to me. To know I’m raising a sweet and sensitive boy who loves hugs and shows affection to all those he cares for.

I miss your toes and the way you seek me out when we sleep close together. I’m looking forward to your return soon, my son.

No matter the distance between us, mama will love you always.

Forever,

You Mom

Trust

Sometimes it is hard to let go and allow what will happen to happen. It’s hard to believe that there are just some things you can’t do anything about.

Letting go is one of the hardest areas in parenting for me. It’s a control issue, that’s for sure. I think I know what’s best for myself and for my son. I mean, I’m his mother, who would honestly know any better than me?!

So letting go when it comes to him and allowing what is meant to happen just happen makes my stomach turn. I want to protect him from all the bad things. I want to control what happens to him so that he doesn’t feel pain or sadness.

Right now we are apart as he vacations away from me, having a huge life experience. But the fact that he’s so far and in conditions I’m uncertain of makes my mind loop constantly with fear, doubt and worry.

But what is worrying? I’ve heard it said that worrying is like sitting in a rocking chair, rocking back and forth but going nowhere. It’s a waste of energy and time. And here I sit worrying for my son.

Instead of worrying I need to trust. Trust that I am strong enough to handle anything that I am given. Trust that my support system will be there for me no matter what. Trust that the love I have for my son is big enough to conquer anything we go through.

Trust that even though he’s far from me for a few more days that he knows my love for him will always be there, no matter what.

Trust that everything will be ok in the end. And if it’s not ok, it’s not the end.