A family of Legends

Tradition, community, friendship and family. No summer league represents baseball’s virtues better than the Port Washington Youth Activities Baseball League the Legends. Since the League’s inception, several generations have come through the system. This summer it’s the Alexander’s turn to share in  the family connections and for us they have been extraordinary.   Growing up I can remember that my parents shared many a dinner and I many ice cream cone with the families Joey, Laura and I played softball/baseball with.  In fact many of those families are still in our lives sharing in the excitement of what is the new generation of ball players.  My parents made life long friends and us kids made life long friendships as well.  Now we are reliving those connections with our new found Legends family.

There are so many life lessons to be learned on the baseball field.  It teaches us so much about  qualities such as consistency, perseverance and focus and teaches us about those people who surround us, such as how they support, encourage and inspire us.   When children face a curve ball in life the skills learned on the field can translate to everyday life.  Baseball teaches us about leadership and what happens when there is a confident and consistent coach leading the team.  Baseball teaches us that hard work not only translates to improved play but improved self worth.  But to me by far the greatest lesson Baseball teaches the importance of community for both the player and the parents.

With Danny Boy away at camp, Donald and I continue to attend the Legends games to both fulfill Donald’s coaching commitment and my cheerleader commitment.  Last night the Legends played an outstanding game.  The pitching was top notch, players in unfamiliar positions due to kids out sick or at camp played their hearts out and the game ended in a heartbreaking loss in extra innings.

My Mother was always the loudest and vibrant fan for my siblings and I and I have followed in her foot steps.  You will always hear me cheering loudly for my Danny Boy and all the boys on the team.  But last night with my Danny away I asked some of the boys if I could cheer just as loudly for them.  There is another boy on the team who is named Daniel.  I asked him if I could call him Danny Boy for the night he smiled and gave me a thumbs up while Benjamin yelled “Mrs. Alexander please call me Benny Boy.”  The center fielder Ryan called me over to tell me that he had been bored in the outfield tonight but that was OK because our man Jasper was killing it on the mound.  With our  teams head dugout cheer leader Tal cheering away for his team I overhear Noah (the catcher) telling Jasper (the pitcher) his signs for setting up the ball inside or out.  All while a new member of the team Aidan is smiling ear to ear cause he normally does not play first base and he just had two nice grabs.  Next my little friend Ethan is calling me over to ask what house my Danny is in for the upcoming middle school year and all the boys are a buzz about Weber Middle School.  Then there is my man Isaac who recently had a arm injury and is on “light duty” for the Legends.  I think Isaac thinks I am one crazy Mom, anything I say he looks at me and smiles and it simply warms my heart.  After the game was over the boys were all asking us how two of the other boys were who missed the game today.   Chris who had an ankle injury and Owen who was not feeling well.  They pulled out their cell phone and were texting on their “Legends” group to let the other boys know about the disappointing loss and to see how their teammates were feeling.  They were all truly concerned with their teammates well being.  The sense of community was palpable.

On the bleachers are continuously the many family members cheering on all the boys.  We all seem to share in each victory and defeat.  Grandparents and Parents, brothers and sister’s all cheering on their favorite Legend.  Recently a set of Grandparent’s were at the game and the Grandmother told me “I’m not an athletic person and I don’t even understand most the rules of the game. I’ve been clueless for years on the game of baseball, but I’ve sat and cheered for the team regardless.  My clue-less-ness has brought on plenty of laughter to those around me. ”  Another Grandmother told me she much prefers Hockey its a faster game and she gets easily bored with baseball.  My own Mother in law joins us for some games and proudly reports that she has no clue whats going on yet she looks to see when I clap and then she knows she should be clapping too. The sense of community is palpable.

Last night I found myself hugging someone else’s husband as their child missed a ball.  While last week I was hugging and jumping with another Mom as Danny Boy shot a bomb of a homer over the fence for his first out of the park home run.  At the end of last nights game I was on my hands and knees drying off the tears of a young man who’s Mom could not make the game and by my side was another Mom hugging him and letting him know it’s going to be ok that we lost. Across the field was yet another Mom jogging to that boys  car to greet him and give him a  hug before he left.  She wanted to remind him that we are a team and no win or loss is because of one person we are in this together.  The three coaches gathered the boys before we left and with arms wrapped around each other praised these little men on an outstanding performance against a club team that is made up of the best of the best ball players.  The dedication shown by these coaches has been top notch.  Coaching at all levels involves much more than making out the lineup, batting practice, or coaching third base. Coaching involves accepting the tremendous responsibility you face when parents put their children into your care.  The sense of community is palpable.

Legends

Camp Mom and Dad

Johnny Angel, Danny Boy and Chrissy Mac are all currently residing in an Upstate NY summer Camp operated by Local Union #3 IBEW called Camp Integrity.  Our kids had mixed feelings about going to camp for the first year, although it was Danny’s second year: They were excited, but also scared. “TWO WEEKS!?” Chrissy cried when I told him what, to me, was great news: They were going to summer camp! “They have kayaking and arts and crafts!” I said cheerfully, trying to drum up excitement. “And archery and fishing!  I’ve never been kayaking myself, You’ll get to do it before I do!”  For weeks we spent evenings talking with Dan asking questions about what to expect.  And for weeks Chrissy said “I am not going.”  John sat quietly during most discussions soaking in all the information and wondering if he made the right choice to attend.  All while Mommy and Daddy planned to break out of the routine, reconnect and rekindle.

The drop off went well, the packing was a nightmare yet in the end they all had what they needed.  I am already having anxiety about the amount of laundry I will need to do when they get home.  Johnny’s bunk is a short walk from where his younger brothers are.  Walking in teenagers were all over the place, throwing footballs, Frisbees and  playing music.  We settled him in and then moved to the area where the younger boys would bunk.  Donald and I settled Chris and Dan into their individual bunks and said of goodbyes.  I told Chrissy where all his items were stored so he would know what I packed for him.  I ended with these are your water shoes for the lake.  He said I told you I am not swimming in the lake.  His counselor said swim test in thirty minutes…..it was in that moment that I thought no fighting with Chrissy for two weeks.  This poor guy has to deal with his I am not doing that attitude.  I silently smiled and gave my hugs and kisses and off we went to make sure John was all settled in.  John was talking to his counselor who came all the way from England through an exchange called camp America and I was happy to see him connecting with him.  We gave our hugs and off we went to break out of the routine, reconnect and rekindle.

So why send my three boys away for two weeks.  The thing is, I believe that it is important to challenge our children in todays world. To get them truly outside of their comfort zones so that they can grow and mature.   Our desire to challenge our kids was reinforced in our belief that kids who always have problems solved for them believe that they don’t know how to solve problems.  You have to let your child ride their bike and fall.  Why? Because they need to learn how to manage that fall and get back on the bike.  We are sending them the message that we believe that they can manage those falls along with emotions like loneliness, homesickness, and anxiety. I believed that they could, at the tender ages of 13, 11 and 9, handle these difficult emotions themselves, without me standing over their shoulders telling them to relax. As awful as it sometimes feels to me, they simply don’t always need me there, telling them what to do and what to think and how to react.

UNPLUGGING!  Yet another reason we were interested in sending the boys away.  Tuning into nature is something they just are not programed to do in todays world.  I know they will have tried dozens of new activities, took on new challenges, and learned to accept their discomfort as a part of their growth without their iPods, iPad and iPhone’s!    We are all well aware of the effects of too much screen time on our own ability to concentrate and our social interactions. And we don’t want that for our Boys.

In the five short days the kids have been away reconnecting has been the theme.  Not only has this given Donald and I to reconnect as husband and wife, it has allowed us to reconnect with our “former selves.”  We have had dinner with family, drinks with our Fire Department friends, planned playdates with some old friends and set aside alone time to fall in love all over again.  Next week I have even scheduled us to do a shift at Fire Medic’s for Ambulance duty just like old times.

Sending your children away to camp requires a leap of faith and the anxiety of it all will be worth it. It requires an ability to manage the emotional discomfort that comes with not-knowing, not-controlling, not-checking—it requires just trusting. But I’m comfortable with that discomfort.  But mostly I am comfortable with the new found temporary silence, full fridge, full checking account, full tank of gas, empty laundry basket and date nights with Donald John.

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