Emily started playing t-ball for the first time about three weeks ago. This is her first foray into organized sports, which isn't surprising given that she's 4. We signed her up for the Gloucester South Youth Softball League. T-ball is for the 4 and 5 year olds who register. It has to be the best deal in town: $55 ($50 if you sign up before the early-bird deadline) gets you eight weeks of games, one game a week, a t-shirt, a banquet, a trophy and a great time.
At least, we figured it would be a great time.
Emily was very excited preceding the first t-ball game. She talked about it almost non-stop. She was jumping out of her skin. She couldn't wait to don her new pink sweat pants and new running shoes. And don't even mention the pink baseball cap.
The first thirty minutes were practice. She practised batting and catching the ball. Then it was game time. She was the end of the batting line-up (as an aside, there are only 2 to 3 innings, everyone bats, no outs, no score). She went up, hit the ball (as an aside, I have to note that Emily is a switch hitter, pretty cool for a 4-year old. John had to point out to me that he was the same. Thank the Lord she gets her athleticism from him) and then stood there. A few of us started cheering and pointing to first base.
She burst into tears.
It took almost 30 minutes for her to stop crying. She asked to go home. She declared that she didn't like t-ball, that she didn't want to come again. I explained that when you join a team, you make a commitment and even if you never bat again, you still have to come to the games and be part of the team.
I asked her what was making her sad. She said it was everyone looking at her. Later she said it was everyone cheering. Even later she said it was the orange team shirts. As you can see, she wasn't exactly in tune with her feelings.
What happened at that first t-ball game has happened a few times before when she is in front of a small or large group and all eyes are on her. It happened again last week at her kindergarten Mother's Day concert. She started the first song with her class, burst into tears and spent the rest of the concert sitting beside Mrs. B with her back to the audience.
The second t-ball game was much like the first. She got the batting helmet on and then ran, in tears, towards me and wouldn't consider batting again. She did go into the outfield but just stood there and didn't move a muscle.
I feel really sad for my girl. She is suffering from some kind of anxiety and it has happened on and off for about a year but has been much more intense recently. I feel like I don't have the advice to help her through this and she doesn't completely understand why she has these feelings. That is, I didn't have the tools until I spoke to someone who knows a lot more than me.
After the school concert debacle, I talked to another mom who is a social worker who works with kids who have anxiety (how fortuitous). She gave me some tips to help Emily: taking ten deep breaths (children and adults tend to hold their breath when they suffer from anxiety which only makes the anxiety worse), do role playing before the event and talk about what to expect at the event.
I did all this between the concert and the next t-ball game. I think she was more at ease but she had no interest in batting. However, she didn't get too worried that her friend Rebecca wouldn't be at the game, so that was a step forward.
And then the second inning started and she caught a ground ball coming toward her and her t-ball world changed. She was so thrilled that she did something and did it well. She had a success and it was something she hadn't done before. She got a compliment from her coach. She was on the road to happiness. (I can't credit deep breathing or role playing on this one. It was all good luck.)
The top of the next inning, she ran to the bench and said she wanted to bat. There was a bit of a frenzy of activity trying to get her out there as fast as we could in this small window of opportunity. Her coach moved her to the top of the line-up and sent her right out with me following. She hit the ball (no kid ever strikes-out by the way), we ran the bases together and my girl was happy.
I honestly don't care if she bats or if she ever catches a ball. I just want her to be happy and be confident in herself when she tries these kinds of things. And be able to try all kinds of new things and not worry about whether she does well or not. I also want her to enjoy team sports, something I didn't really do or didn't have much opportunity to do.
I always wanted to play summer sports, or any sport outside of school, but back then, kids' sports went all summer and we spent a month every summer at the cottage. During the year, it just wasn't on the radar for my parents. I took piano lessons and some art lessons and that was it. I probably didn't push it much. I kind of wish I had.
So, yes, some of these issues are probably my own but regardless, my girl has some anxiety and she seemed to be able to rid herself of it by seeing her own success, by me (and I'm going to toot my own horn here) being extremely patient and understanding (I constantly told her she should only do what she was comfortable with; she didn't have to bat if she didn't want to; although I also pointed out a few times that batting was the best part of t-ball), and by the encouragement, in a very playful way, of another parent who kept asking her if she would hit a house for him.
In other words, Monday's t-ball game was great.
As further evidence, the girl who wouldn't bat, didn't want to do anything in the outfield, asked her coach if she could play first base next week. Uh, yeah, a bit of a switch.