Out In Left Field

Filed under: Gay Parenting, Activities: Big Kids

Baseball season is here, and, like millions of parents nationwide, I have Little League anxiety this week. But unlike most parents, my angst comes with a gay twist.

This is our fourth year of Little League -- and the fourth consecutive year Ann* is the only girl on the team. It's the first year on the field with Mary*, who's starting her rookie (aka Pee-Wee) year after three seasons of watching Ann play.

Being the parents of the only girl on the team, we'd probably stand out a bit, anyway. Being the two moms with the only girl on the team, we stand out just a little bit more. So, after the first practice, we don't really need to introduce ourselves.

Now, I'm not terribly sociable by nature -- I'm perfectly friendly, mind you, but I tend not to seek out conversation with strangers. Given a choice, I'd rather spend the hour waiting out a dancing class or baseball practice with my nose in the Kindle. But when it comes to my kids, I have no choice -- I have to overcome my wallflower inclinations and chat up the other parents.

The first conversation is pretty easy. Watching the kids taking their turns during practice, you only have to say to ask, "Which one is yours?" to get things started. And I've gotten pretty good at keeping that first conversation going. How long has he been playing? He's got such a good swing. Things like that.

All I have to say is, mine is the girl. That's good for a few more minutes of how she's always been the only girl on the team, and, no, she doesn't mind it a bit, and, yes, she really has a good arm.

When appropriate, I try to work in a reference to the Other Mom, figuring I may as well get it over with early, so we don't surprise anyone later. If we're alternating practices, it usually comes up at the second one. (You're the mom? There was some other woman here last week. I thought that was the mom.)

So, by the third practice, there's no doubt in anyone's mind who we are. Unfortunately, I have no idea who they are. You see, all these little boys look kind of alike to me -- they're all major league cute, and, at this age, they're still not jaded. They don't have to play it cool. Their excitement at playing ball still shines through, and it's so wonderfully innocent and heartwarming that I get a little teary-eyed just watching them.

But, seriously, I can't tell them apart. So, how do I start a conversation with a mom I talked to at last week's practice, when I can't use my "which one is yours" opener? She told me who he was, just last week. Now, was that Jimmy, or one of the Matthews or Tommy?

At every practice, though, and every game, I screw up my courage and talk to someone -- because I don't want to be the one who's standoffish, who's not friendly, who's not part of the team. I'm not giving anyone the slightest reason not to like us or our daughter. We bring snacks, we volunteer to help out, we make sure we're on time to practices and games. We're going to be the Perfect Baseball Family -- even if we are the two moms with the only girl on the team.

I don't say this to Ann, but I know she's going to have to be better than average to be part of the team. To be accepted, she can't strike out or let the grounders get by her too often. Little League Baseball rules say girls can play, but that doesn't mean anyone really wants them there. So she's going to have to prove her value to the team every week. Like it or not, she'll be held to a slightly higher standard than her boy teammates.

Everyone in our league has been completely nice and supportive of Ann, and I have no complaints at all at how she's been treated. But I can see that baseball is not about girls. They're an afterthought -- tolerated, certainly; accepted, mostly; welcomed, sometimes. But always outside the mainstream, always a little different. Not really the focus of the game. A little bit like being gay, actually.

So, we'll do absolutely everything we can to help her -- from working on her fielding between practices to bringing the best treats when we're the Snack Family to, yes, talking to other parents and trying to tell one cute little boy from another.

And, when Mary starts her baseball career this week, we'll gear up our best social skills for her, too. Because for our kids, we know we need to step up to the plate -- and we do.

*All names have been changed to protect my family's privacy.

Veronica Rhodes and David Valdes Greenwood alternate weeks writing the Family Gaytriarchs. Look for them on ParentDish every Wednesday.

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.