Fun In Pink Velcro Sneakers: A Father’s Day Tribute

The year is 1984. I’m lying on the carpet and occasionally pilfering pretzels from Dad’s snack bowl as we watch the Atlanta Braves fiercely lose another game. Watching the Braves bolstered my twice a week t-ball practice and allowed me to hang out with the most important man in my life, Dad. He never complained about me or my sweet sister asking too many questions or the fact we ate the majority of his pretzels.

Me: Why did that guy walk to first base?

Dad: Because the pitcher hit him with the ball.

Me: Why did he hit him?

Dad: It was an accident Amelia.

Me: Do the pitchers ever hit the batters on purpose?

Dad: Yes.

Me: Why?

Dad: Because sometimes grown men do stupid things.

Saturday morning rolls around, and I don my Arnold’s Plumbing t-ball jersey, white shorts, black-stripped tube socks and pink Velcro sneakers (hey, it was 1984 ya’ll!). I hop into the passenger seat of Dad’s car, and he lets me shift the gears from first to second and second to third. I feel so grown up and confident that I will successfully drive a standard transmission 7 years from now. We arrive at the baseball field. I grab my glove and bat and run to my teammates. Dad greets my coach in the dugout, takes a seat and pulls out his clip board with a fresh sheet of paper. My Dad assists our coach with t-ball strategy (i.e., encouraging us when we strike out, miss a ball or get tagged).

Given my underdeveloped batting skills (i.e., I whacked the tee more than the ball), my father and coach encourage me to tap the ball off the tee with the hope it would roll ever so slightly outside the dead ball line. My father gives me a high five as I exit the dugout and says, “Remember this is about having fun, A.” (Yep, my inner perfectionist was alive and well in my nine-year-old body.) I saunter up to the batter’s box, plant my pink sneakers firmly in dirt, eye the ball, take a couple of practice swings and then, “tink!” The ball rolls off the tee and slightly past the dead ball line. I’m good! I run like the wind, throwing off my batting helmet for full t-ball athletic effect. Then, I get tagged out. I jog back to the dugout where I find my Dad waiting with a high five and the encouragement of, “way to hustle in, A.” To which I lovingly reply, “It’s all your fault I got out!” Then the tears flow . . .

Dad: A, everyone who plays baseball gets out sometimes. Look at the Braves.

Me: The Braves kind of suck Dad.

Dad: Well, they’re not having the best time lately. A, this game is about having fun.

Me: Everyone plays better than me and can hit the ball.

Dad: A, I’ve seen you hit the ball. You always try and hustle in when coach calls everyone. You always cheer on your teammates. Good sportsmanship is important. Now it’s up to you whether you have fun today or not. Do you want to have fun?

Me: (sniffle, sniffle, gulp) Yes.

Dad: Give me five (We high five).

I am back up at bat. I breathe deeply, focus and “whack”! I hit a grounder that speeds past the short stop. Like a lightning bolt, I round first and land on second. My teammate is up. Jenny is good hitter, so I have an excellent chance of crossing home plate. Sure enough Jenny rockets the ball past the infield. I make it to third but hold tight once I see the right fielder scoop it up and hurl it towards the pitcher. Fortunately, her throw lacks the appropriate trajectory, and I see a prime opportunity to steal home. (Please note: t-ball practice does not include sliding into/stealing bases.) I start running and the pitcher quickly relays the ball to the catcher. The catcher steadily holds the ball in mitt over home base. I am not deterred. I thrust my scrawny arms forward, dive and slide across home. The umpire spreads his arms east and west and pronounces me, “safe!” I get up, brush the dirt off my uniform and see my Dad running towards me.

Dad: Way to go A! Did you learn that from watching the Braves with Dad?

Me: No Dad, the Braves never make it across home. But was that cool or what?

Dad: That was pretty cool A.

Happy Father’s Day Dad. Thank you for reminding me to take myself less seriously and to have fun.

Imperfectly,

Amelia

Me and Dad 1977

Circa 1977. Dad assures me his t-shirt was hip then.

Circa 1977. Dad assures me his t-shirt was hip then.

Me and Dad 1977

Me and Dad 1977

Me and Dad 1977

Me and Dad 1977

Splendidly Imperfect Mothering

Today I had the pleasure of spending the afternoon with my dear friend and her newborn son, Finn. His funny faces, chipmunk cheeks and coos intoxicated us as we walked him in one of those bad ass off-roading strollers that could take a baby to Everest base camp. During the walk, I contemplated that motherhood is one of the most challenging jobs in the world. What other job (besides fatherhood) offers the greatest opportunity for FOG (F@#$ing Opportunity for Growth) moments? If I have the fortune of becoming a mother one day, my child can simply read my blog and learn about all my imperfections upfront. It will be like informed consent for childhood, “By having me for a mother here are the potential risks and benefits of your upbringing. . .” Who wouldn’t want a mother who knows all the lyrics to “Head Like a Hole” by Nine Inch Nails? Seriously, my child could win a talent show with that one . . . or conversely be sent to the office . . .

We have the “luck” of living in a culture that loves to tell mothers they are imperfect . . .If you don’t breast feed you’re a bad mom. If you give into your child’s temper tantrum in the store and buy the Cheetos, because they will save your sanity and the sanity of all the patrons in line, you’re a bad mom. If you cannot work, keep a clean house, volunteer at your child’s school, exercise regularly and cook healthy meals, you’re a bad mom. If you forget to buy cupcakes for your child’s classroom party, you’re a bad mom. If you didn’t spend hours to develop a creatively-themed birthday party and invite your child’s entire classroom (because all the other parents invited your child to their childrens’ birthday parties) then you’re a bad mom . . . All of the above examples were shared with me by splendidly imperfect, loving and amazing mothers with splendidly imperfect and well-adjusted children.

I feel fairly confident that my mother would agree that she is recovering from some perfectionistic traits. I imagine she could give you a list of the things she wished she had done differently in raising my sweet sister and me. However, in honor of Mother’s Day, I would like to offer a small list of the innumerable things she did right . . .

  1. When I was seven, I approached her in tears after a friend called me a name. She gently pulled me into her lap, rocked me and told me I could always talk to her if anyone ever hurt my feelings. I continue to take her up on this offer.
  2. When I was 10, I watched my mom shop for a used piano. She found one she admired, and inquired about the price. The salesman asked, “Do you need to ask your husband if you can buy it.” My mother replied, “I have a full-time job and a husband that does not require I ask permission to buy myself a piano.” Then she gestured for me to follow her out of the store.
  3. When I was 16, I watched my mother graduate valedictorian of her of university class after 9 years of going to college part-time while working full-time.
  4. When I was 22, my mother drove two hours after a full day of work to help me find a new apartment, because I, in the naiveté of leasing my first apartment, rented a hell hole.
  5. When I was 27 and contemplating reconnecting with an ex-boyfriend, I asked for my mother’s advice. She said, “Will seeing him again move you towards the woman you want to be?” She knew the answer was irrevocably “no” but made me come to that conclusion versus giving me the answer.
  6. When I was 33, she cheered me on as I decided to leave 30 years of living Texas and head to Southern California.
  7. A few years later, she flew across country on little notice to help me pack up a home that I loved and stage it to sell after my ex-husband and I separated. She wrapped up all my wedding pictures and labeled them, so I could decide what to do with them when I was ready.
  8. She always reads my blog. (She also read my dissertation, which is an undeniable act of love!)

I love you Mom.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers and those that love like mothers!

Imperfectly,

Amelia

Somehow I'm doubting that my splendidly imperfect dog bought me a Mother's Day gift . . .

Somehow I’m doubting that my splendidly imperfect dog bought me a Mother’s Day gift . . .