For 6 weeks we have taken 4 to 5 year olds and taught them the sacred game that is baseball. We started easy. This is a baseball field. This is a baseball. That is dirt. Sometimes you can eat the dirt but you never eat the baseball.
After this important lesson the kids quickly scattered to the four corners of the field. Not because we told them to but because this is what 5 year olds do when they are bored. Rule number 1 of coaching tball: never stop moving. Want a good workout? Coach tball. Crossfit is for pussies.
That was our first practice, so long ago. We spent 10 minutes explaining rules, 45 minutes of chasing kids away from a drainage ditch near our practice field and a good 5 minutes just wandering what the hell we had gotten ourselves into.
But this is baseball and if you pray to the baseball gods, they will provide. And provided they have.
6 weeks later we find ourselves in an actual game, in the middle of our season. And oddly, my voice isn't hoarse. It's not hurting, it's not strained. It's a curious feeling. I am not having to yell over the roar of the wind for a kid to stop climbing the dug out fence. I'm not having to remind anyone that we can play in the dirt after the game. I am not telling any child to turn around, the ball is the other way. No kid is running from first base to third base while skipping second all together. It's amazing, I think the kids have finally gotten it.
They hit the ball. They run to base. They field the ball. They through it randomly. Right now, I'm just happy if they throw the ball and if they happen to throw it to first base, then hell, that kids a genius and a future all star. I'll take what I can get and right now what I get is a team that is actually playing baseball and not tag in center field.
When the ball is hit, I no longer have 11 5 year olds all running balls out to go get it in right field. We have explained to the pitcher that he is playing pitcher and if the ball gets past him that is where he shall stay. Today we are not having to pull kids off of a mile high dog pile that they have invariably decided is the way to play baseball. It's not some weird lord of the flies contest where the winner gets the conch and gets to throw the ball somewhere, it doesn't matter anywhere.
All game, they are actually playing baseball they way it's supposed to be played. I am happy.
Our bases are loaded (they always are in tball). We have a big hitter up, which means a kid that lines up next to the T with the right end of the bat and not an umbrella that he somehow smuggled onto the field. We are about to complete a full game. We are fielding, we are running, we are hitting. It is glorious.
"A Plane! Look, A Plane!"
The bane of every tball coach everywhere. The arrival of the mysterious plane. Where is it going? Who's on board? None of that matters. All that matters is that the plane is here and that is the worst distraction. Might as well throw fucking Micky Mouse on the field and have him do a dance. Before I can even scream "NO!", I have lost the little buggers.
The kid standing on second decides that a plane needs a run way so it appears that he is attempting to build one in the dirt. This is a problem because the ball has just been hit and he should be on his way to third.
Not that he has to hurry mind you. My kid on third is currently looking up at the plane and is turning in circles because turning in circles if fucking awesome. The helmet though covers his eyes so I'm wondering if he is just trying to get a glimpse of home. I see the on deck circle empty because that guy is running toward the plane. Carrying a bat.
The bench has erupted into a full on WWF cage match. I wonder who will win? Probably the kid that is currently dumping over all the water bottles. I like his style, he's playing the long game of attrition.
The parents are cheering and I'm wondering why. Do they notice that we have lost the kids or is this just less chaos than usual? Or maybe they are cheering because they like to see me and the two other coaches run around cat herding. I think the parents are using us for some cheap entertainment, bastards. I'll bet they are drunk.
Someone threw the ball in, this is good. But what's bad is that our kid on first got the hint and ran toward second. This has caused our runway for the plane to be destroyed. My kid on second reminds him that THERE IS A PLANE UP THERE SO DON'T WRECK THE RUNWAY! He's got passion, got to give him that credit.
So close, we were so close to a complete no distraction game. And the plane, which is now my mortal enemy, stole that from me.
Baseball is simple. You catch the ball, you throw the ball, you hit the ball, you ignore planes in the sky. If I can just teach this for the rest of the year, our season will be a success. And failing that, if you can at least build a halfway decent runway in the dirt then perhaps the plane can land safely and join our little game.
Those words, although sound glorious the minute they leave your mouth, are just not true. It's a lie you tell yourself and as you grow wiser and you change, the lie remains the same. No, you can never make it. That's not how it works. You tell yourself you can make it. You tell your wife that we can make it. You tell your children that we can make it. But you can't, it's just the way of the world. Yet, you say the words and for a moment, a brief fleeting moment, you believe them. Your family believes them because your family believes in you. You are Dad, you are the all powerful. You are the adventurer and the adventurer says that you can make it, nut up you sons of bitches. But alas, whether you utter those words while jumping Springfield gorge or while looking down a muddy dirt road, the words are empty and hollow. We cannot make it.
But maybe we can!
Hossmom looks at me, there is doubt in her eyes. I find her most beautiful when she is doubting me, it's a chance for me to once again prove my worth. To impress her with my strength and the daring of my character.
"Drive damn you! Drive!" I tell her. And she does. Because we can make it.
The children cheer us on as our tires leave the pavement of the civilized world and enter the mud and the muck of the dirt road. I am hoping that our nice little bed and breakfast that we are looking for in rural Kansas is just over the hill. However, that supposes that this is the right dirt road and that our minivan, as manly and awesome as it is, can make it through the obvious slick mud that is this dirt road. It should damnit, I have skulls on my seat covers.
I breath in the fresh manure air, we are on the hunt. The family is on adventure! Most times when we adventure, Hossmom is not with us. She is tucked safely away in her office with air conditioning. We may be hiking a river with a stroller tucked on our back, kids strapped to our front. Our motherly princess is most times enjoying her air conditioning and 5 dollar coffee. We are enjoying battling the mosquito hoard as we burrow through woods looking for a rocky cliff where Jessie James may or may not have camped at one point in time. She is chasing the advertising dollar, we are chasing folk lore. She is happy in her office, in her security, creating spreadsheets. We are happy creating legend.
The minivan is chugging along, not as fast as I would like, but we are moving forward.
"Don't stop mother! Don't stop!" Yup, I actually call her mother. I don't know why, but I did. It seemed right, it seemed appropriate. It fit our adventure. We would find our bed and breakfast and we would enjoy our god damn quiet weekend but only after we slung some mud and fought for the glory. The children are cackling in the back to the sound track of Toy Story and Randy Newman. I am cackling in the front, we can make it! Adventure! Hossmom still looks worried.
"More gas, give it more gas!" In my head, and this may be a serious flaw in my plan, I imagine that if we can gain enough speed the we can safely hydroplane right over the top of the muddy hill while our horn plays Dixie and I yell yeeeeeee-----hawwwwwwww. Once we crest the muddy hill I'm sure we will see out little bed and breakfast. Victory, it's so close, just over the hill.
The minivan starts to slide as do my hopes. We start pulling to the right. Hossmom corrects the curvature but her heart just isn't in it. Perhaps this is the moment that it all went wrong. Hossmom lost faith. It had nothing to do with my hydroplane plan, it was flawless. But it required a certain degree of moxy and faith and sadly I was seeing the faith go out of my wife's eyes. My leadership was perfect.
"Gun it!" I scream, passion in my voice. If I know anything about driving in mud, and I don't, it's that if you give your car a crap ton of gas it should automatically give you traction and send you flying and not dig you a hole in the ground. Apparently, it does not. It digs you a hole.
We slide at a 45 degree angle and eventually come to a stop. Hossmom tries to give it some more gas, we sink just a bit.
The phrase "we can make it" apparently means that we can make it about 50 yards with a good 100 to go. Uphill. I know what I have to do.
"Are we stuck" my daughter asks.
"Yup" I say.
"Adventure!" my son says. Always the optimist, the backbone of family morale. Yes, adventure son.
And what does adventure mean? It means that sometimes to obtain glory, you have to create your own opportunities. Fucking A bubba, adventure!
I open the door and step in the mud with my flip flops. I have tennis shoes but they are buried in the back under all the baby gear. Naw, my flip flops will be fine. 3 month old Bacon Hoss is back there, this is his first real chance to see hero dad in action. Flip flops will be fine.
I go to the front of the car and put my hands on the hood, it's warm from battle. I gather myself, this is my test, my family is watching. My strength is pooling in my arms and in my soul.
I tell Hossmom to put the car in reverse, I'll push us out. In my flip flops. In 2 inch deep mud (or field runoff, the manure stink was high). Glory. It's there. You just have to go get it.
She guns it and I push.
My brand new fucking flip flops slide out from under me, one goes to the left and I feel the strap on the other one break. My knees hit the ground. We moved about an inch.
Flip flops are for pussies.
Adventuring is not for the faint of heart. It's not for the weak of soul. It's not for those that cannot adapt to bad decisions. It's not for those that quit. Glory does not always present itself to you. Sometimes, you have to go find it, create it, embrace it until it submits itself to your will.
Shoeless, I dig my toes in the mud. My face is red with strain. I faintly hear my children cheering me on. They are laughing, I am laughing. Adventure kids, adventure. Hossmom guns it again, I push. The minivan moves slowly backwards. Glory, go get some, you can make it.
I have made it to the fabulous 4 month mark of having a new kiddo, Bacon Hoss. And in that time, I think perhaps I have written once, the wife is starting to get pissed. Not pissed like when she was pregnant and wanted a hamburger with cheese and she only got a hamburger. That was scary. By comparison, this type of anger is almost nice. She says that I need to write, that she needs entertainment. I say that the oven is on the fritz and I need to figure that out but only after I replace the garbage disposal under the sink.
Fun fact: taking care of 1 kid takes a lot of time. Taking care of 2 kids takes up just about the same amount of time. As they get older the two kids actually entertain each other or at the very least understand the difference between a Phillips screw driver and a flat head. This makes life easier. More things get done, life is happy. Wait a pop, I've got to change the baby.
3 kids, that tends to get a bit harder and I will admit, I'm still trying to find my footing. I'm still trying to adjust. It doesn't help that as the other two kids get older, sports seasons kick in. This week we are having sandwiches for dinner, every night. I am a gourmet with sandwiches.
But we adjust, the family thrives on challenge and adventure! We will continue, we will grow strong, right after I heat up some breast milk and feed the baby. And then take my daughter to swim team. Well, she will have to catch a ride there I think because we have tball tonight with my son. The baby's hungry again.
No, we will adjust! It just means that things have to be done a bit different now. We can only admire dad's massive biceps for 30 minutes a day instead of the full hour. That will free up some time.
Bedtime is hereby pushed back to 9:30 under the excuse of awarding everyone for good behavior over the year while the truth is that I just can't get them ready by 8 anymore with sports. Only two kids are allowed on my back at one time while I fix whatever fucking appliance has decided shit out on me. Three would be ok but Bacon Hoss is still learning the ropes so let's error on the side of caution, we'll just set him aside and let him play with some exposed wires.
I myself will no longer get to bed before 11:00 pm every night. That kitchen isn't going to clean itself people. If I'm lucky, I'll get to watch 20 minutes of TV by myself before falling asleep. No worries, I've spent the last 4 months of my life going without sleep and have trained myself to Navy Seal levels. Sleep is for the weak. Hold on, baby needs to eat again.
I will continue to coach Tball and soccer. I will strap Bacon Hoss to my chest during Tball and incorporate a new drill. It's called "don't hit the baby you little bastards". A bunch of 5 year olds, luckily, have terrible aim when it comes to throwing a baseball. Eventually, a mother in the crowd of spectators will take the baby while I continue to coach. Do I know her? Sometimes. But we are adjusting and sometimes that means we need to change our attitudes. Right now stranger doesn't equal danger, stranger equals babysitting for 45 minutes while I explain to 5 year olds why trying to hit me in the nuts with an aluminum bat is a very bad idea. Just a sec, got to burp the baby.
We shall continue to go on adventures! We will go to Arkansas and the middle of the country. We will go to museums and fields and places that have lots of things that we can break. Oddly though, this is the one area of my life that has gotten easier. Turns out new kid just sits in the stroller and the stroller gives us a base of operations. And if one of my other kids starts going astray, we just whack them with the stroller and get them back in line. My stroller, Old Bessie, is like a sheep dog.
The past 4 months have all been about adjusting, adapting to our new situation. Sometimes we are going to win and sometimes we are going to fail massively. Sometimes we will get repairs done and sometimes the new screens will have purple glitter on them because I got distracted. These are the things that I expect.
And I also expect lots and lots of naps. For the baby, not for me. I've got a hole in my rough that now needs my attention.