Sunday, November 14, 2010

We've Got Balls

I was in our backyard looking around and thought, "Damn, we have a lot of balls."

We really do. For a family who spends a lot of time in front of the computer, Wii and television, one might be surprised by just how big balls are in our family.

I sent my son--a future researcher if genes are any indication--to categorize and tally the balls in the backyard. He counted 50 spheres in our yard. This does not include deflated balls (such as the flat basketball my son received as a gift from a classmate for his 9th birthday), nor does it include the estimated 25 balls that have been lost in the two years we have lived here. If the neighbors on either side of our house were to count their balls, they would have approximately 25 balls of unknown origins, if you follow the logic.

The balls in my son's tally include orbs that fall into the following categories: Basketballs: 10; rubber curveball baseballs: 10; regular baseballs: 8; soccer balls: 5; footballs: 5; rubber balls with TV characters: 3; ping pong balls (but no table): 3; baseball with team logos: 2; volleyballs: 1; and whiffle balls: 1. This count does not include the indoor balls: 29 autographed baseballs and 20 commemorative baseballs. We like baseball.

All these balls and the thought of them bouncing and scoring goals and plopping into gloves got me thinking about some of the emotional ups and downs that I associate with balls. As a lifelong sports spectator (with very little discernible athleticism of my own), I only have to think about Game 6 of the 1986  World Series and/or Game 4 of the 2004 World Series to reduce me to tears (for very different reasons). As a parent, I get wistful thinking about my daughter maturing from the cuteness of a toddler throwing a ball backwards (so it would drop behind her) to being a competent catcher and thrower as a preschooler.

When my oldest child was about 2, he attended a preschool affiliated with a major research university. I like to think the preschool's provenance was the reason for the inane surveys and reports that the staff would guilt us into scheduling conferences to receive the results. Truthfully, these evaluations were most likely state-mandated, but it is more fun to chalk them up to the occasional silliness of academia. Anyway, at the 2 year mark, I nervously sat with the teacher, a kindly woman whose stability was comforting, although it also meant that she didn't ever, ever deviate from the bureaucratically mandated procedures. Don't get me started. Anyway, I had the usual first-child concerns about whether my child was socializing and responding within the bell curve of expectations. Well, yes, he was. He received 2s and 3s (out of 3) in most areas, including being able to differentiate up from down (3), being able to put on his sweater or jacket with minimal help (2, but this is Los Angeles and there is rarely a reason for outerwear), and seemed destined to be on the Toddler Honor Roll. His quest for excellence, however, was marred by one apparently fatal flaw. He did not show adequate ball-kicking skills. My son was behind his peers in the ball-kicking department. This apparently was a precursor to all sorts of life failures. I asked her to repeat this Achilles' heel (or rather toe) to me--her English was a work in progress and I wanted to make sure I heard her correctly. Yes I had. Well, I posited, we live in the city in an apartment and have never had the opportunity to kick a ball with him. Would that perhaps have something to do with is? Well, yes, given that he is showing no other deficits in coordination, that would explain it. OK.

Ironically, just a few years after being castigated for not providing my son with adequate ball-booting opportunities, I was with my son at the airport when we were approached by a man who identified himself as--I kid you not--a Division 1 College Soccer Coach. He had the cool jacket with "coach" embroidered on it, and was traveling with a large group of gangly young men, similarly attired, so he seemed legit. My son was barely out of diapers and this man told me: "Your son reminds me of a young David Beckham." Huh?? We actually had taken my son to hotshot orthopedists on both coasts because of his tendency to toe-in. And to say graceful athleticism is in the genes would greatly exaggerate the modicum of tennis and ping pong skill that occasionally shows up in blood relatives. But, guess what? When we signed him up for AYSO soccer in 3rd grade--he turned out to be a natural! Who needs to go to a Psychic when a Division I Soccer Coach is available to make predictions?


  1. I am laughing at this post...especially the parent-teacher own daughter is suffering through similar travails as a mother of twins (boy/girl) and reminds me constantly of what I endured as a parent...thanks for the post!

  2. Hi, Cath! Parenting can be so surreal! The conference I described is one of many such "parent" meetings when I had to pinch myself to make sure I wasn't in the middle of a weird dream. Often I hear behaviors of my child(ren) described and I think to myself: "Does the teacher mean that in a good way or bad?" Sigh..... Thanks for visiting! Best, Karen

  3. I don't usually have the time (therefore take the time) to read posts all the way through. But this was a good one, drew me in and kept me there to the the end. Good going! I also love your blog's background. Makes me think of school, where I fell in love with writing. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Hi, Margaret! Thanks for the kind words! I don't usually have the time to write posts all the way through :). I so appreciate the feedback--and love seeing a photo to put a face to the name. Please visit again soon. Best, Karen