There are times in a parent's life when they watch their child do something that is mature beyond their years. It's humbling and beautiful and gives them a glimmer of hope that we are actually doing something right.
There are also times when the same child acts like a complete immature baby and you shake your head wondering where you went wrong and when the rapture will occur so that we can all live in heavenly bliss forever and ever amen.
But that's a topic for a different post.
Friday and Saturday, I watched Mary Emma struggle with something, dig deep and find some determination, and grow up about 10 years in front of my eyes. I am still in awe.
As always, our worlds revolve around softball. Especially this time of year. All 3 girls are playing and loving it. But Mary Emma has a passion and a focus for it that she doesn't have for anything else in her life. She's a pitcher, so she practices with her team 2x a week plus weekly pitching lessons and daily workouts. She breathes softball. She plays travel ball in the fall and rec ball (where all of her friends are) in the spring. This is her last year playing rec ball - she's going full travel after June - so it's kind of her last hurrah. Her team right now, the Pride (named after the Profastpitch USSSA Pride - Mary Emma's dream is to play Pro Softball), played in a tournament this weekend. Many of her best friends in the world are on this team. She has a ball on and off the field with these people. I love the parents. They are my closest friends and a complete JOY to be around.
Our 1st game was Friday night. Mary Emma was on the mound as usual - she was KILLING IT in warmups. She was confident and ready when the game started. And then it all fell apart. She spent the next 75 minutes desperately trying to find the strike zone. It was freezing and she couldn't feel her hand. The more she struggled, the more she fell apart. She walked batter after batter - most of the time going to a 3/2 count on all of them. We ended up losing 2-0. The other team didn't put a ball in play - their only runs came from being walked in. After the game, she was sad and frustrated. But mostly she was furious. She knew that the loss was her fault and she was not happy.
See, Mary Emma has recently struggled with her confidence. She is constantly questioning everything in her life - from friends, to abilities, to intellect, to size (she's really small - especially for a pitcher). We have been talking with her and loving her and working on her confidence for MONTHS now. But we can't maker her see what we see. We can't make her recognize her own talent. She has to realize it on her own, no matter how many times we tell her that she's good. (And y'all, she's GOOD.) I fully expected the Saturday games to be a repeat of Friday - that she would tell herself that she couldn't pitch well and it would be a short day for the Pride. I even went to the ballpark with no cooler, no snacks, and about $9 cash. (For anyone who has a kid who plays in all day tournaments, you know that you pack your entire kitchen plus about $50 for a day at the ballpark - you OVERPREPARE.)
However, she woke up Saturday with a determination that I haven't seen on her in a while. Actually, I haven't seen this level of determination ever. She was READY. And to the ballpark we went. At 7:30AM.
We ended up playing 4 games Saturday. We finished 3rd in the tournament - crawling our way out of the loser's bracket. We lost our last game 3-2 in an International Tie Breaker. Mary Emma threw 218 pitches (not including warm-ups) all day. She walked 7 (SEVEN!!) people all day. She struck out 35 (!!). She got stronger as the day went on and performed at a level of someone twice her age. She gained confidence with each hour, and was on cloud nine when we left at 8:30pm. She was exhausted, dirty, and happier than I've ever seen her. EVEN AFTER A LOSS. She recognized her own talent. Finally.
I watched my baby girl grow up on Saturday. I watched her reach down and find something in herself that Spencer and I knew was there, but couldn't get her to realize. I watched her quote Phil 4:13 to herself before she threw every single pitch. I watched her have a BALL with her teammates. She cheered for them and they cheered for her.
I don't know if she'll ever realize her dream of playing Professional Softball. But today, I know that she knows that it's possible. And that is a huge step in the right direction.