My nine year-old softball player of a daughter needs a fielding mask because it is required for pitchers and she is dying to take the mound, but I find that part of me resists. For two years I avoided buying a facemask as they were not required, and there were enough expenses to go around with the buying of bats and gloves and batting helmets. Finally it looks as if I’ll have to warm up to the idea of her wearing a mask and prowling the infield with a plastic cage strapped over her eyes, nose and mouth. Growing up I never wore a mask playing baseball, and when I glance at the boys playing on an adjacent field, I notice that not a one of them are wearing masks either.
I’m honestly not sure she really needs the mask but what bothers me more is the openly chauvinist practice playing out across baseball diamonds where girls are required to wear masks and boys are not. Whereas no one has suggested boys wear these masks, mass e-mails have been sent out by our local and national little league concerning girls’ safety and the risk of injury from softballs striking them in the face. Money was pooled to get masks at a cheaper rate. These masks are not helmets and do not protect the entire head from injury, only the face. Why not just have them trot out there in batting helmets if they truly want to protect them? But aren’t boys exposed to the same risks? My son plays baseball in the same league and it has never been suggested that he wear a mask for fielding. The curious silence regarding masks for boys highlights our different societal conceptions of male and female. While it is okay for boys to be exposed to the risks of facial injury, the faces of girls are evidently a more highly prized commodity. The message is that a girl’s future is more dependent on her looks than a boys and it is pretty obvious that society does value a woman’s looks more than a man’s. It is also generally thought that a girl’s appearance is more important to her than a boy’s appearance is for him, although my own experience tells me there is a wide range of vanity amongst men and women. I do know boys and men who have shown me their scars as emblems of battle or personal history, whereas only a few women I’ve ever known have flaunted their scars in the same way. It is also interesting to note that while a man with a scar on his face connotes toughness, a woman with a scar is just ugly. No one wants their daughter to be that woman, if at all avoidable. I don’t want to be the guy whose daughter gets her face smashed in because he refused to buy a facemask. Consequently, later today I’ll be at a cash register ponying up for a mask for my girl.
All things being equal, I should buy one for my son to protect his cute mug too. He’d be the first to wear one on his team, maybe he’d start a trend, or more likely he’d be cajoled into ditching it like everyone else and take his chances. He has a glove after all, I tell him, just catch the ball and you won’t get hit – I’ll still tell my daughter that too, it’s not like she’s going to toss the ball around the backyard with that thing strapped on her face – is she?
It is that time of the year again when my nine year old son is starting basketball season. Like his dad, some would say under the undue influence of his dad, my oldest son loves basketball and competing with teammates. He is a pretty good player for his age but he seems to enjoy the camaraderie of his teammates more than anything else. We’ve taken part in a winter basketball league for the last three years and now it is time to gear up for his fourth season as practices start this month. We have always had some problems with basketball leagues he has been in, early on when he was younger he was usually one of the few kids who could actually dribble and he got upset when the referees wouldn’t call traveling violations or double dribble on other kids. Not surprisingly, those games between six and seven year olds took on the quality of a rugby match more than a basketball game and that also frustrated my son and I. Last year he was on a team with some talent but a total lack of coaching and they ran around like maniacs and left Aurelio and I frustrated at the way they were losing games without any game plan at all. As he is getting older now the teams are getting better and I was hoping to get Aurelio on a decent team this year that at least had a chance to compete in games. Aurelio has been practicing with a group of good players lately and I had him all set with a team of these kids. My only worry was that Aurelio might not ever be featured or even get that much playing time because these were all kids who could play and most of them are older than he is. I was mentally preparing him for that and although my wife didn’t like it, Aurelio seemed all right with sharing time if it meant getting a chance to be on a competitive team. Unfortunately it turns out the team Aurelio was on had too many players so Aurelio was assigned to another team which we know absolutely nothing about. Last year he was also assigned to one of these teams and it turned out to be pretty agonizing to watch as other more well prepared teams creamed them game after game. By the end of the season they had a few wins and Aurelio was happy with the way it had gone, but I was dissatisfied to the point of deciding I’d rather him not be on a team at all than be on another team like that again. I am not sure if I made that decision for me or for my son and now that the same scenario is playing out again I am trying to think about things objectively. After some discussion with my dearest wife we decided I should check it out and see what I think about the team he has been assigned to before jumping ship. The only problem is that these free agent teams are usually short of players so they are going to want to hold onto him and also Aurelio is usually one of the best kids so coaches want to hang onto him because he can dribble and look up at the same time. Realizing all of this I am worried I will feel guilty and keep Aurelio on the team no matter what its prospects.
There is also a team out there that a friend of mine coaches that is super competitive. They have some of the top kids in the state on the team, supposedly, although I’m not sure how sound the process is for rating ten year olds and it sounds pretty ridiculous, but that is another option. They usually practice three times a week and I’m not sure how much playing time Aurelio would see, but it would be good for him to be challenged and get a feel for how good he really is and how much he likes the game. Also, not for nothing, it would give him a chance to play with some kids from other types of backgrounds as that team is pretty much an all black team. That, in and of itself, interests me but I am not sure I want to go to that level of commitment and competition as that will definitely freak out Aurelio’s mother, although she will probably like the fact of him playing with other kids of color.
Ah, decisions, decisions… no wonder Lebron James had such a hard time deciding how to change teams, I can barely deal with it for my nine year old!
Create a Football/Wrestling Pit for the kids. Most kids cannot help themselves from bashing something after they have sat and watched football for more than ten or fifteen minutes. Last night watching the game my boys began wrestling and hurtling themselves into each other and the sofa and around the room and even veering dangerously toward the TV. The urge to tackle something is too great to resist. Even girls like my own little starshine find themselves inevitably wanting to smash into another human being. I had to banish them to the playroom with some yelling and they are just as likely to get injured over there as anywhere else. Next year I am going to throw down a bunch of blankets and pillows and tie some shirts around their heads for protection and just let them go at in timed rounds.
Self- Censor the broadcast of the Superbowl. This year there were a few ads I’d have rather avoided that featured guns and explosions but mostly there were a lot of racy sexploitation ads that my little children could have done without. Not so much that I object to the baring of the human body, but the way in which women’s bodies are used to sell stuff is just too much. It’s tacky to say the least. Then there are the totally creepy commercials about a company like GE as if it is a person running for President, selling us on the idea of a corporation leading our country to greatness. I do not want my kids exposed to this kind of corporate propaganda. It’s bad enough my three year old is telling me we should go out and buy some Coca Cola after all those polar bear commercials. I could censor this pretty easily by recording the game on my DVR and then pausing for a few minutes before the game starts so I’ll be watching a few minutes behind the actual broadcast. Then I can skip whatever I don’t want to show in my home.
Get out of doing anything that night or the next day. This morning after the Superbowl no one wanted to get up and if not for my wife’s extreme fortitude in such matters and the fact that we had bought frozen waffles to coax the kids out of bed we would have certainly missed a day of school. Next year I am going to make sure I use (recyclable) paper plates to save on washing dishes and have the kids buy lunch at school that day so I won’t have to make it. I’ll also use a plastic tablecloth for them to eat on the living room floor where we watch the game. That way I won’t have to sweep or vacuum up the mess in front of the TV. Next year I am going to tell my wife and kids that there is a furlough day at school and no one needs to get up and go. There are always these random days off at school lately so I think it will work.
Make food beforehand. Yesterday we didn’t start cooking dinner until about ten minutes before the game started and we were walking in and out of the room for most of the first half. Somehow I did see most all the snaps of the ball but it took some skillful maneuvering and game planning and most of all, my wonderful wife, who didn’t mind missing a play or two to get everything together. Next year we need to start cooking in the afternoon. Or just order out from a favorite restaurant or pizza place.
Get the kids bathed and in their pajamas before game time. Luckily we remembered this one yesterday. The game goes long into the night and there are few breaks because the commercials and the halftime show are as much fun to watch as the game. Kids especially like the commercials better than the game itself most of the time. Incidentally, we use this tactic all the time on the kids and put their pajamas on early in the evening in the hopes of putting them early to bed. As they get older this seems to work less and less.
The last thing I have to remember to do next year is repost this entry so I can remember all this stuff!