I try to do it all. I just finished wrestling with my six-year-old in our basement. He got me in a headlock and jumped off our couch, pinning me in an IronMan match. Even when I lose I win. It's a pleasure just to spend time with him. I organize my kids' play dates, and know all the names of their little friends, even if sometimes I can't for the life of me remember the names of their moms. I pack their lunches, and know what they will eat and how much of it will come home when I pick them up at 3 p.m. I plan their birthday parties, volunteer at their school and help them with their homework.
But let's face it: playing baseball with my kids on my lawn for two hours a day is a little much for me. Just last week, I got hit once in the head and once on the butt in back-to-back line drives, but that's where I draw the line.
"Boys, I'm injured," I'll tell them. Bruised and tired after 45 minutes, I take a break.
When I take them to their baseball games, I suddenly feel guilty for having put myself on the DL. I see other dads coaching t-ball teams, completely invested in their son or daughter's little league careers. I see other dads throwing the ball back and forth with their kids on the sidelines. Then I watch my kids struggle on the field. They each have the potential to be good, but don't have the same opportunity to practice with their dad. When you're divorced and see your kids in the evening or according to a parenting schedule, there just isn't the same amount of time to play as someone who has a dad living at home.
With that in mind, I took my boys to Baseline Sports in North York for some private baseball coaching. Their dad and I agreed that if our kids wanted to work hard at something, we would give them the opportunity to excel, even if it wasn't on our front yard.
When we arrived at our first session last week, Coach Single greeted us with handshakes and high fives. My boys took to him instantly. They asked him questions, laughed, and actually listened to Coach Single's directions. He taught my kids how to stretch, he worked with Josh on his throwing and another coach was assigned to help Ari improve his hitting. By the end of the hour, my kids were sweating and happy.
I had the chance to ask Coach Single (not his actual name) about his background. It turns out, he's an actor and was so good with kids that when he was offered the job with Baseline Sports managing the kids' baseball program, he jumped at the chance.
"What's your story?" he asked me in return. "Well, I'm a single mom and a writer and my boys love baseball. They just don't get enough practice at home. I want to give them the opportunity to get better at something they love."
Coach Single looked at me thoughtfully. "There's a lot of single moms in the same situation. I was thinking of inviting single moms to the park with their kids on a long weekend so we can play baseball. And if you give me your kids' baseball schedules, I'd be happy to come to some of their games and cheer them on. Kids love that."
I was so touched by the gesture I nearly cried. My kids would love to see Coach Single show up to one of their games, and I would, too.
We've been lucky to meet not just Coach Single, but other teachers and mentors who have encouraged my boys and taught them things I'm not capable of teaching them myself. Our guitar teacher Louie is amazing. My boys and I adore him. They spend approximately half their lesson learning guitar and the other half listening to rock music and laughing. Louie has said my kids are special to him, and he can tell they love having an extra guy around to lavish them with attention.
My kids also have an amazing MMA teacher, James, who coaches them with a soft voice and lots of positive reinforcement. They know they have to work hard to earn a stripe of tape and new coloured belts. I had no idea that tape and belts were such great incentives. (I've been buying them WWE wrestlers!) Of course, my kids have my dad, who has taught them to play golf and football, and who loves throwing the baseball around with them . . . until it devolves into a wrestling match. My kids also have my boyfriend and my brothers who laugh at their jokes with them, play video games, chess and running bases.
I started my single mom journey thinking I had to be everything to my boys, but now I know it's not true, or even possible. And it's not even necessary. Of all the things I can't do, or do well enough, I've been lucky to find others who will enrich my boys' lives and pick up the slack. We may not have a traditional family, and my boys may not have as much time to practice baseball as other kids, but we seem to have found a village of people who do a great job filling in the gaps.
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