You ever have days when just putting on a underwire bra feels like work? When did my foundation garments start requiring metal reinforcements? Gloria Steinem, you needed to melt bras not burn them. Onto my story…
Yesterday, I had my first turn on baseball duty. I don’t know what the pros are like, but let me just compare the difference between Atlanta Little League baseball and Tokyo Little League baseball.
In Atlanta, Chase has played little league baseball since he could hit off a tee. The organization there has a pretty tough reputation for being very competitive and families get more and more involved each year as your son/daughter gets older. When we left, Chase was in the 8-9 year old group at NYO, I think it was AA League. In season, it was 2 practices a week and a game or 2 depending on the schedule. Each practice was about an hour maybe an hour and half. There were always rumors of secret additional practices held by the more enthusiastic coaches, but I don’t think we ever had one of them. To me, the hardest part of NYO baseball is the politics and the parking. I never minded practices and games. Chase isn’t perfect, but he is always a showman and entertaining to watch. Over the years, with perseverance and good coaching he managed to end up in 1st base or 3rd and is a pretty good hitter. Moving to Tokyo, we were very excited for Chase to experience Japanese little league.
So back to yesterday. Cliff had a golf/spa day so it was my job to take Chase to practice. We tried to join a team in Minato-ku which is in our town, but evidently they are having an awesome winning year and they practice all over Tokyo so the logistics of meeting up with them (sans car) and them “needing” us has been tricky so it never seemed to pan out. By luck, I happened to meet the coach for a baseball team in Chase’s school district and he needs players and seemed like an incredibly nice guy. A few of the boys are from St. Mary’s and they practice in fields around the school, so after talking with Cliff we decided to join the team and see how it goes.
Practice is year round. They have leagues, but everyone from 2nd-6th grade practices together. [Queue Big Eyes here.] I know, it’s quite a stretch in maturity and sizes, but that is how they roll. So a normal team practice usually handles about 60 boys. We have about 30 on our team. The good thing is that means Chase will probably get to play. Playability is based on seniority and whether you are at practices or not. They don’t like to recruit from St. Mary’s because many of the boys tend to leave during the summer (which is when half the games are played) and there is always the possibility of unexpected relocations.
Practice schedules are determined by coaches for each month at the end of the previous month. Always on Saturday & Sunday. Since we live far away and without car, it takes us about an hour and half to get to the fields via subway, train, then taxi or bus. Yesterday, on our way to practice, I was feeling like one of those documentaries about “day-in-the-life of inner city kids”. Once you get to the field, practice is 3-6 hours long (for us that’s 6-9 hours with commute). The first hour is usually exercise and stretching. The baseball field itself is little more than a dirt diamond. So each team has its own bases, netting, chalk machine, pitching machine and sports equipment it needs to bring and set up and take down. Team members all pay 3000 yen each month to help with expenses.
Like Atlanta, there are a lot of volunteer dads who serve as coaches and they are all in the sports gear and team colors. The boys also practice in team colors/uniforms. Chase will get his uniform once the new season starts. Since there are 6th Graders on the team Chase is not the biggest kid by any means but because his Japanese isn’t conversational yet he is “special”. He’s kind of like the deaf-mute on the team. It’s really so sweet. I can tell the other boys are still trying to feel him out. There are also Japanese rules of etiquette in baseball. A player always tips his hat to another player who picks up his ball for him. A player always greets coaches and new players. After each practice, the boys line up and bow to the field out of respect, then they line up again in front of moms and coaches and bow to show gratitude.
Back in Atlanta, I attended a lot of practices. Especially when Cliff was away. I enjoyed throwing in with the boys and running bases, playing catch, stretching with the boys, etc… Here in Tokyo, moms have their role. Let’s just call it “Woman Work”. All the moms on the team take turns coming to practices and doing such things as:
- Taking role
- Handling dues
- Setting out baseball equipment
- Administering first aid
- Doling out snacks at the END of practice (no eating during)
- Serving tea/water to coaches
Yes, you read that correctly. When I first heard about this from Cliff, I swear, I thought he was just making it up. But sure enough, yesterday on the hour, every hour, the other mom there started pouring tea and water into little cups on a tray and handing the tray to me. I’m assuming being the rookie on the scene, it was my duty. I’m gonna have to admit, there was a mental pause, it could’ve been a mini-stroke, but I quickly recovered and walked my ass over to the coaches tray in hand.
Even Chase must have noticed my mini-break down because he felt compelled to offer encouragement in the form of “you look good mom” when I started to walk off with my tray. I was thinking, it must be on the Y chromosome! Now I’m walking across the field to serve the coaches their refreshment because God forbid they come to the well to get a drink. Was that mirth in their eyes at the sight of this foreign woman with the tray in her hands? Were they gloating at my subservience? Have I watched too many World War II movies? I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt and I’m going to assume they were happy to see I was being a good team player and not some high and mighty “Western Woman” with no wire in her bra and hair in my armpits.
This whole experience has made me re-evaluate my “woman work”. Why was I feeling so conflicted about serving these men while they were doing their “man work” and coaching the kids? What has happened to us (woman-kind) that serving a little beverage during a long practice is suddenly compromising my sense of self? Lord knows I would do it for some hot man-boy mowing my lawn on a scorching summer day… but I digress. Maybe I need to bitch-slap my ego into towing the line and take pride in the fact that my husband and son can say with confidence that I am the best wife and mom they could wish for. Truthfully, I think the woman’s movement has hurt the state of relations between men and women in the long run. It has created what I call the “SuperWoman Syndrome” for many of my fellow double XX-ers. I don’t like to see women killing themselves to get ahead in the world of business or medicine and trying to be perfect wives and moms. The sad fact is there isn’t anyone on the pecking order to serve us tea when we’re thirsty, so why do we fight it? Granted, some of us are single-moms and you don’t have that choice. My sister is one of them. I don’t know how she does it. I do know, she’s tired all the time, and as much as she says she doesn’t miss the man-smell in her closet, I still hope she finds someone worthy of her awesomeness. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t take issue with women wanting to work, just women trying to do it all and making themselves and everyone around them miserable at the same time. Whatever you decide to do, just find meaning in it and be joyful. Screw whatever you mom said.
In the end, I guess I’m just trying to say I’m okay with serving the tea. Hell, let me take your shoes off for you too. Still in the spirit of Thanksgiving, let me just show you, I’m thankful.
I think the boys are going to be home soon, and I need to start their bath water.
Until next time…