Just when I thought I knew my role as Baseball Mom, my boys changed their position on the field. They're umpires now. Baseball officials.They make the calls for Little League Games - the littlest of the leagues. Little tiny doll-size players who are eye level with Tucker's belt buckle.
A catcher so small and so new that he still has the price tag on his chest protector, just in case this whole thing doesn't work out to be his cup of tea. They are like little weeble wobbles out there. Their names all seem to be some version of Braden-Cayden-Jaden-Layden-Grayden-Maiden, but their coaches use nicknames like G-Money, Big Dawg, and Wild Man.
When the pitcher throws a wayward ball that hits a player, the batter crumbles in tears. Four coaches come running, likely sent by their wives who are trying to abide by the strict but unwritten rule: No Moms on the Baseball Field. You can practically hear them with their folded arms and furrowed brows, communicating fiercely, "Go check on that child. Don’t make me come out there."
The pitcher's mom comes to the fence and calls out, "Go see if he's okay, buddy. Tell him you didn't mean to hit him with the ball." Like this "modified kid pitch' little league game is a giant playdate, and everyone is learning their roles.
But that is kind of what it is. Literally everyone is learning. Including the umpires.
I hear someone heckle my kid, and I quickly become that mom, folding her arms, furrowing her brow, and fiercely communicating "He is a child. Don’t make me come over there."
I hear my son say, "I'm not arguing with you, and I'll thank you for not yelling at me. It makes the whole thing much easier."
I see what they are learning - not just the positions on the field, not just about balls and strikes and signals and calls. They are learning conflict management and assertiveness, even with intimidating people who outnumber them in every way. They are learning to use communication skills to manage a complicated situation.
Umpire moms are supposed to be neutral. They're not supposed to cheer... but my sons know my voice. Don't worry. I'm subtle, but I assure you: they hear my affirmations from the sidelines.
And it helps that Peter is always close by, unafraid of anybody, filled with his own intimidating tactics, and ever willing to say out loud, "Hey. Do you like having officials at your son's game? Then zip it."
(Some women fall in love with their husbands when they change a dirty diaper or do the dishes. I fall in love with mine when he defends my son against people who forget there are exactly zero college scholarships on the line today.)
Every baseball player is somebody's kid.
Every umpire is somebody's son.
Everyone is learning.