We are a baseball-loving family. I’m a born and raised San Francisco Giants fan and my parents are die-hard Giants fans. My brother played ball from the time he was tall enough to bat off a tee until he started high school. James didn’t necessarily grow up a baseball fan, but was converted while we lived in California and cheered on our beloved Giants to 3 World Series wins (Hummmm Baby!!).
So when our town’s minor league team was playing my parents’s town’s minor league team while my parents were here visiting us, of course we all wanted to go to a game.
There was only one game that coincided with their visit and it was a night game, starting at 7pm. Our boys are usually in bed by 8 at the latest. Calvin can stay up late on occasion and not get cranky. Henry is another story. Henry’s sleep schedule is kind of a big deal. But we had been to a game a few weeks ago, a 6pm game, and Henry had done all right with James carrying him in the Ergo so he could sleep while the rest of us watched the game, and he even woke up at the end and enjoyed the fireworks.
Sadly, last night’s game did not have a happy ending like that other evening game or like our day at the lake last weekend.
I mean, we knew what we were walking into, but we were optimistic. We had the Ergo, we had snuck in some Goldfish crackers, we had water for him, and we had picked seats in a part of the stadium that we thought would be quieter (we were wrong on that one, it wasn’t any quieter thanks to some big speakers aimed at us). We even tried out using some little kid swim earplugs to help with the noise.
Almost immediately, Henry was fussy and James had to put him in the Ergo and walk around. James walked laps around the stadium until Henry was asleep, or at least calm, and then tried to come back and sit down. It was hot, and he thought that sitting down and opening up the Ergo would cool Henry off and let him sleep better. But, even with the earplugs, he woke up as soon as James sat down.
There were moments where Henry was happy, or at least OK… he played on the little playground at the ball park for a few minutes with Calvin, he sat in the stands with us for just the briefest of moments. But for the most part, James spent the game walking around with him in the Ergo. And worse, for the last couple of innings, Henry was in full meltdown and was crying despite James’ efforts to calm him down. Our team won, and the cheering crowd only made Henry more miserable and he cried and screamed as we made our way, painfully slowly with the rest of the fans, out of the stadium. He finally stopped crying when we got out to the street where it was quieter.
Ugh. Why did we think it would be OK to take Henry to a night game??!
A harsh way to look at it would be to say that we were selfish to try and make our sensitive son deal with an outing that we knew would be hard on him just so that we could do something for ourselves. It’s easy to say things like that about parents of fussing children. It’s easy to beat ourselves up over it or be mad at the fact that we have a kid who can’t deal with crowds or changes in his sleep schedule.
A kinder, more generous way to look at it would be to say it was worth a try. To say that it’s OK for us as Henry’s parents to attempt to include him in family outings even when we know it might be hard for him. That’s certainly how we felt going into the evening. That’s the story we were telling ourselves: We’ll give it a try. We’ll make the accomodations we can, and we’ll go for it. Baseball games are a part of our family life and we wanted to include Henry.
And yeah, it did not turn out well. Sometimes we have to learn the hard way that we have to draw some limits where we’d rather not. No more night games for Henry. At least until he transitions to a later bedtime if that ever happens.
It’s tempting to feel discouraged and tell myself that we were foolish to try and we should just stop trying. But we are stubborn. And we will stubbornly try to include Henry in family outings, even at the risk of a meltdown, and we will stubbornly do everything we can to accommodate him. We are trying to raise him to be a part of our family and that includes our family hobbies. But at the same time, we are trying to feel our way through figuring out what family hobbies and outings are in all of our best interests. We are trying to balance introducing the experiences that we want to share with our kids with meeting them where they are with their own interests and needs. I mean, all families do that, right? And ugh, sometimes it is hard and discouraging and the Parent Guilt sweeps in to tell us how badly we messed up, or maybe the frustration sets in and we push back against the reality that our kids are little individuals with their own wants and needs and no, we can’t necessarily just enjoy a night game as a family. But, *deep breath* it’s OK to mess up. We are imperfect humans raising little imperfect humans. I tell myself that all the time. Gotta let the guilt and frustration help us to learn and do better next time. Shake off any feelings of shame or worry that creep up. Keep doing the best we can. And appreciate the times when things do work out, the surprisingly special moments, when they do happen.