As much as I love Ben's dedication to baseball, I do not love what he is learning from the older boys on his Little League team.
The fact is, Ben is the second youngest on his team and he is totally and completely enamored with the team troublemaker. Ben seeks out this boy in the dugout (despite the rules about sitting according to the batting line-up) and repeats everything this child teaches him, much to my horror and shock.
This week, we had a game in the rain. I was huddled with the other moms on the lawn, near 1st base and a good distance from the dugout. We were discussing important details of one mom's upcoming getaway to Napa - sans kids - when I heard this:
"BEN'S MOM TO THE DUGOUT!"
I furrowed my brow (which is why I need that damn Botox) as the other moms immediately ceased their discussion of how fabulously romantic Silverado would be - and looked at me, wide-eyed.
No other mom has ever been called to the dug-out. At least not on our team.
As I silently cursed my ex for missing the next few games (due to work), the command was repeated. Loudly.
"BEN'S MOM TO THE DUGOUT! NOOOOWWWWW!"
It was one of those rare moments in parenthood where I momentarily lost my identify. Who is Ben's mom? I'm Janeen. Am I really someone's mother? Then, I snapped back to reality and sheepishly made my way to the dugout.
The dugout was mayhem. Little boys and helmets and bats and gloves were everywhere. One mother peeked around the corner and quickly backed away. "It's a hurricane in there!" The mom in charge of the dugout threw up her hands in exasperation. "You need to sit with him," she ordered, as she pointed to Ben.
Ben was in the eye of the hurricane. Next to, of course, the team troublemaker. Between the two, there was a flurry of pokes, jabs, and body slams. I also saw a kick and a good drench from a water bottle.
I planted myself between 60 pound Ben and the 75 pound troublemaker but the physical exchanges continued. I realized - after the tenth body slam - that the two boys combined outweighed me and that they needed to be much farther apart - like one boy in Fair Oaks and the other in Carmichael. I settled for opposite ends of the dug-out and settled myself on the bench for the rest of the game.
On the way home, Ben and I had a little chat about appropriate behavior in the dug-out. What Ben must have heard was "wah-wah-wah" because as soon as I finished my lecture and asked if he had any questions, the conversation went right to the troublemaker:
"When can we have a play date with him, Mommy?" "He's my very favorite person on the team."
Right then, I realized that I might as well leave my lawn chair in the trunk for the duration of the season. I think I'm destined for the dug-out. Which might not be so bad. Because...
Yesterday, I emailed a friend who has coached for years, which makes him somewhat of an expert on Little League matters, since he has two boys who also play. I relayed the dugout story to him.
And then he told me what happened in the dugout of his 11-year-old's son's team this week.
His son's team is comprised of one 4th grader and several boys from each grade up through middle school. During this week's game, the older boys tested the knowledge of the younger boys with this question: "Do you know what a BJ is?"
So there is yet another benefit to Little League: my son will get schooled on activities that I do not want him to know anything about until he is, say, 30.
My friend went on to relay all the rewards associated with team sports: boys learn to channel their physical energy in a collective way, they are exposed early to team building and the character building that comes with supporting one another both on and off the field, and the "pack" mentality that boys generally gravitate toward is fostered and strengthened.
As a bonus, they also learn about BJs. From their teammates. Which gets me off the hook for that conversation. Unless the boys get the information wrong.
I'm staying in the dugout. Indefinitely.