She stood at the plate last Saturday her body frozen, her tear filled eyes locked on mine, oblivious to the coaches and other parents cheering. "You can do it, Ella!! Just Swing!" I yelled as she stood as still as a statue the only movement the tears that now spilled down her cheeks. She didn't swing. I was surprised because she had been all smiles in the other games, but I wasn't surprised because, well, it was Ella. Finally her Daddy rushed in to save her, just as a Daddy should. He wrapped his strong hands around her miniature ones and they swung the bat together. She ran the bases like a pro.
We talked through the fence. She was committed to playing and wanted to try again. The next inning she got up to bat and we all played out the agonizing scene again. As she came across home plate I scooped her up and we sat on the grass. My heart in my throat I gave her the out. "You don't have to play" I said. "But I love Tball!" she answered back choking on tears still lodged in her throat. Luckily the game was over before we finished our conversation. As happy as I was that it was over, I knew leaving that day without getting back on the horse was a mistake. My little girl with the big feelings would torture herself with the memories of this day, building up her fear every night as she laid in bed.
We talked it out that night until we figured out the source of the problem, but we both knew it didn't matter anymore. The new experience of failing at bat, of standing there crying while parents cheered and yelled was worse.
So I made a plan. We would practice. We would learn affirmations. We would remember all the positive at bats she had. We would bribe with lemonade and ice cream. My girl could do this, I knew she could and she convinced me she wanted to play.
It worked. Our practice and plans and bribes, combined with a patient calming coach was just what she needed. She stepped up to bat, her eyes locked on mine, tears brimming ready to fall. Then she swung, hit, and ran smiling to first base. I turned to the mom next to me, tears in my eyes and said, "I can't take this, and it's only tball!" She looked back and took off her sunglasses, tears streaming down her face, "me either."