We Stand Alone...
Zed watching her cousin, Reece, play lacrosse at the Sarnia Arena - June 2012
Michael Paterniti recently wrote for GQ Magazine...
"For the 10-year-old boy on that Little League field that stretches from coast to coast, baseball can be the cruelest of American-made sports. It's a messy, wonderful, monotonous, Oedipal, sublime wreck of pain and glory. Between the chalk lines of youth baseball we watch ourselves becoming. We stand alone, suddenly motherless."
Now that's some writing. Who writes like that? Michael Paterniti for one, but who sees sports that way? I do, and I'm sure that there are a million others, but I find myself perpetually drawn to sport as metaphor, as lyrical prose, as romantic nonsense. They're more than just games, but then at their most basic, they're nothing more.
Zo likes to swim, and gymnastics allows her a physical kind of freedom that most playgrounds and parks don't. She grows confidence in bushels, and she finds friends skipping along the padded floor, or swinging from the uneven bars. She more recently swung a baseball bat and swatted a teed up soft foam-ball no more than five or six times. She then proceeded to run willy-nilly all over the backyard yelling, "first base...second base...third base...home!" while sprinting in random directions, touching random pseudo-bases, like hammocks and lawn sprinklers and bushes. It helped me to imagine what kind of challenge teaching her the intricacies of baseball might be. She has lacrosse sticks, but picks up the ball with her bare hand to set it in the mesh, every time. She mixes up football and basketball and hockey...even hockey...it doesn't even have a ball. She's athletic, and co-ordinated, as much so as any three and a half year old can be, but she's really only sincerely interested in certain pursuits, often Olympic and solitary in nature...like swimming, and gymnastics, and running and jumping in Decathalon-like bursts. It's cute.
"We stand alone, suddenly motherless."
There are really few pursuits beyond the athletic that at such an early age pit child against him or herself, and others...motherless, without parent. There are valuable lessons to be learned there, ones you can't find reading in your room. Although admittedly, reading in your room does magical things as well, but it's a different kind of challenge. Sports is indeed, "a sublime wreck of pain and glory,"...even in such small doses as your typical three year old endures. They are vital.
Who knows what Zoey will become, if she'll engage in such painful ritual as sport, or if she'll shun such seeming nonsense for more practical indulgences? Who knows? All I really know is that I hope that she chases those dreams and all that fun. It will be something that she does motherless, and if she's really lucky, something that shapes her and adds meaning and definition to her days.
So what if she can't hit a baseball, or could care less about a hoop ten feet off of the ground. All I really want is that she experience the joys and defeats of it all, and that she do so without us. There's an overwhelming urge for modern parents to mine the solitary nature of sports for their own personal meaning, allowing neither the child or the experience to do the kind of work it's done for centuries. There's an annoying tendency to get involved, and steer, and help, and in most cases hinder, and we'll avoid all that. We'll pay the fees, and buy the gear, but we'll let Zoey experience the enterprise. After all, it's for her, not us. They're more than just games, but then at their most basic, they're nothing more.