The Kid You Want versus The Kid You Have

9 May

When I was pregnant, I was convinced I was having a girl. I planned the name, planned the nursery, planned everything… except for how I would react when I saw the little member on the ultrasound. The technician didn’t even have time to ask if I wanted to know what I was having before I figured it out. And right away, I started crying with joy. “That’s my son,” I said. New name picked, new nursery theme, new dreams.

I love sports. I love baseball, and football, and college basketball, and hockey, and soccer, and rugby. I’m lucky to live in a major city with awesome sports teams – I remember watching the ’85 Bears and I remember doing the Super Bowl Shuffle. I remember going to the original Comiskey Park, and getting stuck under my seat when I crouched there in fear of the fireworks display. One of my regrets in life – and I have many – is that I’m not very athletic. I can throw a spiral, but that’s about it. I can’t run very fast, or far. I played soccer for years, rugby for a few months, softball and tennis for one summer each, and never got very good at any of them.

(You can guess where this is going.)

My dad also loves sports, especially baseball. He’s a die-hard White Sox fan. He coached high school baseball for years. I think he was a little disappointed that I was a girl, and could only play softball, baseball’s inferior cousin. (Side note: My dad taught me how to steal bases. That’s not allowed in softball. Guess who found that out the hard way?)

That day of the ultrasound, I came home and told my dad he was getting another grandson, one that would carry on the O’Grady family name (my dad doesn’t have any brothers or male cousins.). My dad said, “Oh good, someone to mow the lawn.” Now, he was joking (I think?), but I knew he was excited to have a potential athlete in the house. We bought a White Sox mobile to hang over the crib. We bought a little baby Bears jersey. We were prepared.

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When Danny started feeding himself, it quickly became clear that he was left-handed. My dad and I were overjoyed. A left handed pitcher!! This is great!! I dreamed. I naively thought that, with enough practice and instruction, anyone could be a good athlete. We bought a t-ball stand as soon as the kid could walk. We bought little golf clubs, little soccer balls, little footballs, everything. I was going to have an athletic, happy kid!

And you can guess how that all turned out. We are now in Danny’s third spring of baseball, and he has about as much interest in it as he does in watching paint dry. Drying paint might actually have the lead at this point. He is currently relegated to right field, where he enjoys chewing on his mitt, throwing dandelions, and waving at me. Last summer, his third summer playing soccer, he frequently scored goals against his own team and often stopped play to wave at me. We tried tennis lessons, but he was even less interested in those than baseball. He is good at golf and swimming, so there’s that, but he has no competitiveness and spends most of his time in the pool or on the green daydreaming.

Am I a bad mother for being just a little disappointed? I had all these visions of cheering Danny on at sports games, watching Danny make friends with his teammates, bonding with my Dad over ballgames. I thought life would be easier for Danny if he was athletic – easier to make friends, easier time at school, easier in general. I can’t have been wrong for wanting that.

And I’m not forcing him into doing things he doesn’t want to for my sake. When he says he’s done with something, I don’t push it. We quit tennis pretty fast, and I think baseball will be next. I try to encourage him, to keep him going, but I’m not a sadist.

Still, I was sighing a little for the athlete that could have been. Until yesterday. My parents watch Danny during the day while I’m at work, and my mom took him with her to the grocery store. In the checkout line, he fingered a candy bar and asked if he could have it. “Haven’t you had enough treats today?” she asked.

He looked at her incredulously. “It’s not for me,” he said. “It’s for them.” He then pointed to the box my mother had missed, collecting candy and food for the troops. She bought the candy, and he proudly put it in the box. This is the kid who can’t catch a baseball to save his life, but who can catch things others can’t.

Yeah… I’m pretty darn happy for the kid I have.  At least he’s not a Cubs fan.



… Shit.


p.s. Speaking of dreams… I would really, really love it if my cousin’s film could get funded. It’s way better than Garden State 2. Check it out:

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