It took me only a few weeks after having my first child to realize there were things my mother never told me about having a baby.
She never told me that nursing hormones were worse than pregnancy hormones; that I was responsible for cleaning the black, protruding stub of an umbilical cord jutting from my little six-pounder’s belly; and that staying up all night with a newborn pales in comparison to dancing the night away with friends and booze and a free morning to indulge your hangover.
Yes, there are things my mother never told me about raising a baby. And as I hit the “big kid” mark with my oldest son, it appears there are secrets my mom chose to keep about raising boys as well.
Saturday marked Opening Day for San Carlos Little League. It was a huge display of patriotic balloons, proud moms, dads, grandparents and coaches. It was a day of sunshine, community, hot dogs, popcorn, grounders, pop flies and smiles. The smell of oil on leather lingered as the Little Leaguers skipped around in their oversized jerseys and cleats, giddy about the day ahead of them. White baseball pants, jumbo baseball hats and the hopes of home runs propel this day to the top of the year for some.
And for me, it came with a bit of anticipation, embarrassment and curiosity. For the day prior to the Little League’s Opening Day was an opening day of sorts for me. It was my personal opener into a world I am hesitant to venture into. It is the world of discomfort between a mom and son and one that in a few years will be all too familiar and uncomfortable still.
It was time to gear up my son for baseball. He had outgrown his cleats, needed an undershirt, a batting helmet and for the first time -- a cup.
It happened to be a day off for my grade-schoolers, so we took to the sporting goods store ready to purchase the items we needed with swift retailing.
We tried on cleats with ease, an undershirt that matched, and then came the dreaded cup. I stood there, awkwardly grasping the shoebox of cleats, shirt on a hanger and oversized helmet looking at the rack, reading the signs for Youth. I found the cups and went counter-clockwise, not sure what I was really looking for.
I was stunned. Some cups under the Youth header were as big as my child’s head. I made sure they weren’t catcher’s masks and then proceeded to open a few packages to make sure I was in the right section. Jock straps, boxers with a pocket and a huge silicon hockey mask that would fit perfectly on a newborn’s face … I was spinning with all the choices.
I finally found one of average price and style, measured the waist of my child to make sure it fit and was ready to go.
Equipped for check out, I brought my loot to the distracted checker. She beeped each item until she reached the cup and then languidly commented, “These are usually the ones that girls use for softball.”
“Really,” I said, clearly not having played softball enough as a young girl to ever warrant a cup of my own. “Well, which one do you recommend,” I asked.
“I’ll ring someone to baseball,” she said, with a gum-chomping drawl.
So off I went to meet an enthusiastic salesclerk who might know what I needed. While I waited, two of my three children played on the treadmills and exercise bikes.
Up came a boy, nearing 17 at most, stuffed in a shirt and tie and most likely having no baseball experience himself.
He told me that all the youth cups are the same size, always based on the size of … the waist.
“Hmmm,” I said, as he held up another cup the size of a large pear.
“Uh, have you seen my boy,” I asked with a bit of a tongue-tied chuckle, hoping to solicit a bit of sympathy and true assistance in the matter.
He didn’t sway.
I raised my eyebrows as he held up something likening my size in ladies shoes – “Really,” I asked, now blushing and sort of hoping he was kidding. How will this even fit inside his baseball pants?
I finally spoke up, hoping he had something to curb my skepticism. But at this point, Connor finished his workout and joined the discussion, unbeknownst to me.
“I am looking for more of a pee-wee cup,” I stated.
It was not the stalky salesman that piped up this time, rather my son, who loudly pronounced, “Mom, pee-wee – I’m not a pee-wee!” He was not talking about his size under the cup, but rather making the entire store aware that he is a big kid and not a little one.
As my son reared his defensive head, I looked above him at the long line of rifles and BB guns in the hunting section. I momentarily contemplated what he might do to me if I had pronounced the same message while buying him a cup when he’s closer to age 16 instead of two months into the age 7.
This reflection left me with little determination to see eye to eye with my salesclerk. I went back to the front of the store, purchased my original selection and left, but not before desperately calling a friend who has two boys herself. She must have gone through this.
“Which one did you buy,” I asked in a low voice, my teeth clinched. She paused, laughed and said, “I bought out every size at Goetz Brothers.” Between the two boys, she said she’d need them.
Perhaps I too could have handled my situation equally as diplomatically. Instead, I made a mental note to talk to my daughter about this, should she someday have a boy. My advice to her will be: Most certainly have your husband take your son for his first and every cup fitting.