I've been anxious a lot lately. Big Time. A swirling ache. Where I can't sit still. It's been bad since Saturday, which was Opening Day, which is a terrible day to be anxious because it's the best day of the year, all the little boys and girls in their pristine uniforms and nobody's struck out yet and no coaches have yelled at umps yet (which, incidentally, lasted all of ONE batter in AJ's first game) and everyone's 0-0 with a slate as fresh as the dirt on the infield.
But yeah. On edge.
It wasn't difficult for me to pinpoint a reason. I've spent the better part of three weeks trying to arrange my schedule around AJ's baseball practices and games. Many of them are during the week and at a time I have no chance of making, due to my hours and long-ish commute. Emet has graciously lent a hand. Not so with X. Not to bitch about her lack of involvement, but the fact is, these sorts of things don't matter to her. Or matter enough for her to move things around to help.
When I was 8, I tried to beg out of a soccer game, claiming sickness. The real reason was the size and aggressiveness of my opponent that day. Bigger kids. Older kids. The aptly-named Crusaders. My mother was having none of it. She sat me down and explained that I had made a commitment to play soccer and I was going to honor it. That I had an obligation of myself, my teammates and my coaches to show up and do my best. Obviously, that lesson has stuck.
There's another reason I've been so adamant that AJ not miss a practice. He's in a new league. An outsider. The coach knows all the players and the parents. They've played together for a couple years. AJ had to be there if he wanted a chance to impress, to penetrate a tight group with a history together (I should note the coaches and parents have all been quite lovely). He needed to make an impression.
Thanks to an empathetic boss, picking up some shifts on Sundays and the ever-supportive Emet, we've managed to get him to every game and practice. Where I sit and scrutinize his every move. On the edge of my seat. That anxiety.
And, I'm sorry to say, I crossed over from supportive to That Guy.
"AJ, you know Daddy loves sports and sometimes gets really excited. Like when we watch the Kings play and they score a goal. It's the same when I watch you play sports. I want you to do well, because I know it makes you happy. Remember when you scored that goal against the Cobras? You were so excited. And that made ME excited. It was awesome to see your face. I know you were proud and I was proud of you. Same when you scored those baskets last week. But sometimes Daddy gets too excited and instead of being happy for you, he wants to be happy for himself. And that's not right. Because of that, I've been too hard on you sometimes and not let you just play and have fun. I'm sorry. I still want you to behave yourself, pay attention and listen to your coaches. But when you are playing, don't be nervous about what Daddy will say. Just do your best, support your teammates and have fun."
I offered that mea culpa to AJ last night as I put him in bed. He seemed...grateful...relieved. At one point he reached up to hug me.
I felt better. Sure. But realized at the same time that the source of anxiety was not his baseball schedule or my burst of over-bearing parenting. It was time. It was that I spend hours moving my life around (and thinking about ways to move my life around) to see my son play baseball. And what have I done with that time? I threw batting tips at him like nasty curveballs, tossed him disapproving glances when he messed around. I couldn't control myself enough in those precious hours, not enjoying the mood of boys at play, instead spending them bombarding him with instruction.
Instruction I couldn't give him at other times because we weren't together. I was at work. Or he was at his Mom's. No time. And that's from where the anxiety stemmed, that deep-down knowledge that I lose him. Continually. Three days this week; four the next. Time he should be with his Dad. Time I spend frantically trying to maximize, while, at the same time, being sidetracked by the pressure of it all.
When X was plotting her escape, I said to her, "You are voluntarily giving up half of your life with your son. He's four now; he'll be 18 when he goes off to college. That's seven years you're giving away; seven years you're taking from me." Dramatic? Sure. I was pulling out all the stops. But it still rings true for me on a regular basis. I miss him when he's not around. And I know he misses me. There are days when he won't even leave my sight, where we sit on the couch, him not next to me, but physically on me.
No, he's not been taken away from me, but sometimes he's not there when I want to talk to him. I miss the funny things he says and does at his Mom's. Just his presence, and how it brings an entirely different dynamic to our home.
Like many times in my life, just logically pinpointing the source of my issues goes a long way toward resolving them. It's a better day. I came in to work a little later today so I could take him to school. Nothing major. No great bonding miracle or timeless moment. Just an extra 45 minutes together.
Sometimes, that'll do.