I shouldn’t have been surprised by what happened on Saturday morning. Still, I was.
I’ve always known Mitzi is brave. Bold. Confident. When she was less than 2 years old she approached a group of older girls (3rd or 4th grade, it seemed to me at the time) at the playground and said hi. She was unfazed when they ignored her. She pressed on. She did the same thing at a different playground 2 years later, and found new friends for all of us just a few weeks after we moved to a new town.
Then, the diabetes. Because I know only my daughter, her experience, her behavior, to me it is all normal and expected. But her school nurse, her teacher, her principal — heck, just about any other adult who knows her — always comment on her maturity and responsibility when it comes to managing her condition.
So, Saturday shouldn’t have suprised me. But it did.
Ray signed up Mitzi and Cooper — at the last minute — for a local basketball league. Cooper had talked about it for a while, but for Mitzi, it was a sudden decision. Ray knew of a league and registered them. On Saturday morning both had tryouts for their age group. Cooper went first, with all the other second grade boys who were there, a whole gym full of them.
That should’ve tipped me off.
Mitzi was in the next group, ninety minutes later. Since we had been there already, we got to watch the rest of the third graders assemble and sign in. As we did, it occured to me — there were no other girls suited up to play.
Turns out, while this particular league is open to boys and girls alike, most girls play in a girls’ league in town. Huh. Who knew?
So there’s Mitzi, with fifty third grade boys, running drills at various stations. I watched her very closely. She seemed to be having fun, bouncing up and down on the balls of her feet as she waited her turn, grinning broadly. Fun is what I wanted. She didn’t seem fazed that there were no other girls.
But the last drill. A free throw elimination. One miss, you sit at the wall. Sink the shot, you get back in line. On and on they went. Everyone made noise — cheering, stomping, clapping as kids sat down or tried again. Until it was down to two players.
Mitzi. And some boy.
By the last few players, the kids who were eliminated had somehow chosen their favorite to win. Him, they applauded. The others got a sound that sounded an awful lot like booing. (As a side note, I found it a little unsettling that the adults in charge did not discourage the booing more actively than they did. Which was, from my view at the other end of the court, not at all).
Boy shoots, scores. Huge applause. Mitzi stands at the free throw line. Booing. She shoots and scores. Boy repeats to louder applause. Mitzi faces the net. More booing. She misses.
The gym erupts — for all the kids, I guess, but I like to think that much of it was for my daughter, who faced down FIFTY boys and almost beat them all. With a skip in her pink-legging-clad steps and a toothy grin splashed across her face.
I’ve never been so feminist as I was in that moment.
The epilogue to the story is that while Mitzi could stay in the league — there is another girl who plays, apparently — she has opted to sign up for the girls’ league where her friends are. That’s fine with me (even though I tend to think girls and boys should just play together — I mean, take softball. Girls should just play little league for crying out loud, because who the heck can properly hold that unwieldy softball, and what the heck is with that ridiculous underhanded pitching anyway??). Wherever she’s happy, that’s where I want her to be.
And she will always be able to look around and say, yes. I did THAT. Many others (myself included, at that age especially) would’ve walked off the court at the beginning. Not my kid. She was brave and beautiful and skilled and almost BEAT A GYMFUL OF BOYS.
You go, girl. I hope she never forgets the strength of that moment.