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Category Archives: baseball

Healthy competition vs. Sibling rivalry

I admit it. Our family is a little competitive. Okay, a lot competitive. Okay, the most competitive! Seriously, our family is more competitive than your family.

And, since I’m brainwashed by motherhood to take it easy on the small wusses, I mean children, I’m probably the least competitive of the bunch.

All three of my boys, ages 5, 8 and 11, compete on everything from who can stare without blinking the longest to who will get to the car first. They compete on whose drawing is better, who grew more, who likes pizza the most or even who’s the rightful owner of the number five.

5 year-old – My favorite number is 5.

11 year-old – Hey, that’s my number!

8 year-old – No it’s mine, because David Wright is number five.

5 year-old – Well, I am five!

11 year-old – I liked it before you guys were born!

Their competitive streak runs deeper as well. They argue over who is the most likable, smartest, or, the ever popular, who can love mommy more, with all three of them simultaneously trying to squeeze the life out of me.

Competition might just run in their blood. My husband, aka Coach, aka Mr. Baseball, leads the charge in all the sports they play, especially baseball. When not at a game or practice, Coach and his boys are on the lawn engaged in some kind of game that usually ends with one or more of my children crying over who won or who lost.

Coach’s dad, Grandpa H, is no competitive slouch himself. Whether playing my kids, a geriatric, one-eyed, limping widow or men his own age, his joyous cries of victory, after killing a shot, echo from mountain top to mountain top.

And my mom, Grandma S, for all her giggly cute smiles, is a shark in short shorts. No one, not even Charlie Sheen on a crazy streak, takes winning more seriously.

Whether nature or nurture, I find competition healthy and productive, for both the winning aspect and the losing. However, when it occurs, as it does regularly, inside of the family, it’s another story.  The results of competition as sibling rivalry range from frustrating tantrums at the least to confidence crushing at the worst.

Competing with a sibling, especially one older is almost a guaranteed set up for failure and feelings of inadequacy. No matter how much I protest and remind them that they are in completely different developmental ages and stages, they have already categorized themselves according to the other.

I can’t stand the idea of my middle son thinking he’s less than his older brother, simply because he’s competing against unfair parameters. My youngest is still young enough not to be affected, but my middle guy constantly beats himself up. No matter what I say, he refuses to believe his own worth.  He just shrugs and says almost defiantly, “I’m just not as good.”  It breaks my heart.

It’s hard to draw the line between healthy competition and unhealthy sibling rivalry. I want my kids to be competitive, just not with each other. Yet, I don’t know how to stop it.

Early on, I even inadvertently encouraged it with little contests designed to motivate.  You know… “Who’s going to get in bed first?” Or, a favorite, “Who can be quiet longest?” I don’t do that anymore, but back then I didn’t realize the seeds I was planting. Still, even without the mommy motivator or the daddy influence, I don’t know if they’d be much different.

It’s like they’re in a race with each other from birth… my oldest far ahead, my middle struggling to keep up and my youngest, not really caring as much, and just kind of attaching himself to the oldest in all his glory. Sigh.

It seems all I can do is be aware of it, discourage it, and do my best to build each of my children up on their individual strengths.

Those articles I read about birth order and sibling rivalry are true. The race starts right from the womb, with the finish line being the only one that no one wants to cross first.

boys 5



There’s no crying in baseball!

I know a thing or two about being a Golf Widow. My mom, for example, is a seasoned pro, for many years, giving up countless weekends to the cause. With a house upstate that her husband frequents, she is regularly left to her own devices from Thursday thru Monday, April thru November. Yeah, it’s like that.

Of course, it has its advantages. My mom is an independent creature who loves her routine. She’s perfectly content with her alone time, but there are some weekends where I know she would enjoy a Saturday night date, or having a partner to grandparent with, or simply appreciate being placed above a small ball and a little hole.

Many years back, my husband was almost lured into the golfing cult by a persuasive friend named Big Big. My husband, not as big as Big Big, was simply referred to as Big. Weren’t they cute? So Big and Big Big would sneak off in the wee morning hours, sometimes driving well over an hour to get in a round.

As it turned out, they never truly got beyond the golf honeymoon stage. Children entered the picture and then Big Big and his little wife moved to wealthy suburbia where he commuted from NY to Toronto for his big job.

But I do understand Golf widowhood and at the time felt lucky to have avoided it, until I realized what was in store for me would be much more life altering and all-encompassing .

I am a Little League Baseball Widow.

I should have seen it coming. My husband was captain of his college baseball team, a lifelong baseball fan and now is the father of three littler leaguers, I mean, boys. All that pent up baseball energy, harnessed for all those years working in the real world, has finally been released in the form of a highly regarded, extremely vested, little league coach.

You don’t hear about LLBW’s often, maybe because technically we’re not always left alone. A LLBW is, by the circumstance of being Mom, drawn in to support and help. She’s in it, whether she wants to or not.

So I guess it’s more like being a Little League Baseball Sacrifice. Yeah, that’s exactly it.

Not sure you’re a Baseball Sacrifice? Let’s find out.

1. When your husband asks you for a cup, do immediately head to the underwear drawer?

2. Is your floor littered with all sorts of baseball paraphernalia – gloves, bats, balls, bags, cleats, etc? Kind of like this…?

Actual hallway

Actual hallway

3. Does a night out with your husband somehow wind up near stores like “Dicks” or “Sports Authority”?

4. Does your husband’s nightly routine include watching baseball, while talking baseball, while checking stats/writing emails about baseball?

5. Do you spend more than 3 days a week driving to games or practices?

6. Is your house referred to as the one where the dad is always on the lawn throwing balls to his kids? Even at night. In winter. Or rain?

7. Do you have five or more of these items on your lawn – pitchbacks, hitting tees, bases, bucket of balls, swing corrector, bats, helmets?

8. Do you spend endless time sifting through laundry for the UnderArmor and uniforms that need to be hung dry?

9. Do you respond to every attempt for plans with, “I’ll have to check the baseball schedule.”

10. Can you get out of your house in under 10, with a cooler, distractions for your other kids, lawn chair and a fully uniformed player equipped with baseball bag, the right cleats and water bottle?

If you’ve answered yes to 3 or more, you may be a Baseball Sacrifice. If you answered yes to 5 or more, you probably are, and if you’re like me and answer yes to all of them, well, I wish I could tell you greener grass was ahead.

But it’s only AstroTurf .

baseball rainbow



Mr. Baseball

I guess I never thought of Howard as a man who would cheat. I always smugly assumed that if any cheating were to be done, it would be me. He’s loyal to the core.

I remember back 100 years, when we were in our early to mid-twenties. It was dawning on me that basically my first boyfriend might be my only boyfriend, so I started probing the boundaries of our bonds, until finally in Switzerland, of all places, on New Year’s Eve, of all nights, I gathered the courage to talk about a possible break. I mean, he had pretty much the same lack of experience that I did. Maybe we could mutually agree on a short hiatus? The idea that he might want a little freedom as well, excited and terrified me. Here’s how our conversation went…

Me (Stunning, snow-capped Alps in the background) – So I was thinking… we’ve been together so long. Do you ever wonder about if we’re really right for each other?

Howard – No.

Me – I mean, we really never dated other people. You’re not curious at all?

Howard – No.

Me – Don’t you think it might be good for our relationship to, I don’t know, see what’s out there, just to make sure…?

Howard – No.

Me – “I worry that we started so young and don’t really –

Howard (Firm, confident and kind of cute.) – No. We’re good. There is nothing we are missing. Do you want to share the calamari?

He flatly refused even the discussion, and me, not really wanting to go, never did. That’s why I wasn’t prepared for his obsessive love affair that has only gotten stronger in recent years. I should have seen it coming. It’s been there all along. Oh, yeah, I’m talking about baseball.

I guess I should be happy that my initial assessment of my husband has held true. He’s not interested in other women. He is, however, interested in little boys and grown men in uniform. Okay, that didn’t come out exactly right, but you know what I mean. Anyone holding a bat, on a field has his attention. He’s a coach. He’s a player.  He’s a fan. He is Mr. Baseball.

When not coaching our sons on the field, at one of their many games or practices, he’s painfully begging them to play with him on the lawn. “Come on Tyler, let’s get in a few throws.” Tyler, after initially rebuking most of his overtures, has now gotten with the program. Throw daddy a bone, or more accurately, a ball. So, when the request comes, Tyler will look up from the television or game that he’s contentedly involved in, and generally look to me with a patient, knowing little smile, that says, “Okay, I’m going to play with daddy. Daddy needs to play.”

Overall, Michael is more eager for the practice time, but he too, can be fickle and deny Howard his play, leaving him at the door like a dog with a leash in his mouth. At least, little Julius is always at the ready, and Howard is happily prepping our youngest on the lawn to soon take over on the fields. He has high hopes for that one.

Every time they have one of their “sessions.” I am inevitably called out to bear witness to his amazing 4 year-old potential. “Did you see him self-hit??” Howard will ask with amazement. “Eight year-olds can’t do that.” I watch. It’s cute. I’m duly impressed, but Howard has a momentous, lit expression. He’s nodding like a bobble-head. “Did you see that? Amazing, right?” Of course, I agree. Julius is amazing (they’re all amazing – sorry, equal billing), but to me baseball is a game. To Howard, it’s life, and as such, it’s my life, which makes it a little annoying.

Baseball in the morning. Baseball in the afternoon. Baseball on the television all night long. Howard is making the roster. Howard is coaching the team. Howard is at the field. Howard is playing his own middle-aged softball version of the game he used to love. Howard has board meetings. Howard has coaches meetings. Howard, who can’t pack a lunch, lovingly packs the baseball bags. Annoying. Oh, I said that already.

I am far from the only wife to take the aggrieved cheerleader role in her husband and children’s sport experience.
I am on this bandwagon with many friends. It’s a support group.

“I’m doing laundry every day!”

“I had to drive to Syosset yesterday at 7am.”

“My husband had them out playing on the lawn till 11’oclock at night.”

“My husband had them doing drills.”

“My husband had them doing drills, at 11’oclock at night, with a broken arm and saddle bags tied to their legs.”

We dutifully pull our chairs and our other children to the fields to shout and applaud. Root, root, root for the home team.  Watch my boy on the mound. Hold my breath. Jump and cheer. God, he’s gorgeous. Okay, fine, so I love watching them play. I never said I didn’t. I just was annoyed I couldn’t go to the gym this morning because it rained last night, and Howard had to leave extra early to check the field before the game. There you have it. The selfish truth.

Howard may be a bit over-enthusiastic, but there are dads on the fields far crazier. I see them. You know who they are. So while baseball may be overwhelming to me in my house, I recognize that I am a mom of boys and I married a ball player. I am proud that my house regularly has my husband on the lawn playing with the boys. He’s a really good dad. It’s a feather in my baseball cap.

Often, when Howard’s leaving for work he’ll say, “Why don’t you have a catch or practice hitting with them.” I roll my eyes. “Your job.” I say, and shove him out the door. But when he’s gone, and we’re all out on the lawn, a funny thing always happens.

“Pitch to me mommy.” They chant.

And happily, I do.