In general I think I’m a pretty good mom. I have consciously chosen some of the most important things I want my kids to know and I focus clearly on doing all I can to make sure that those are things they come away with. Primarily I want my kids to know that I love them. All the time. No matter what. More than anything. Because I firmly believe that a child filled with love can do anything else they want. So I tell them about a million times a day. And sometimes when I say it to Tommy he rolls his eyes and says “I KNOOOOOW mom.” And I say “oh good! I want you to KNOOOOOW.” And I ask him how come he knows. And he uses his most exasperated voice to say “You tell me EverySingleDay. Mom.” And I sit back satisfied that I’m teaching him The Most Important Thing everysingleday.
But there are other things I want him to learn too. We value lots of other things in our home. Truth telling, teamwork, service, cleaning up after yourself, kindness, hard work, trying again, forgiveness, but most importantly love.
So when we signed Tommy up for baseball I had big dreams of him learning about doing hard things, stick-to-it-iveness, teamwork, winning and losing, practice, and maybe even how to hit a baseball – though that never climbed higher than 29th on the list. He didn’t really like it, but he got a cool hat and a “just for baseball” shirt. So he’d go out and play anyway. Then he’d come back exhausted and overheated swearing that his legs would fall off from “toooooo much running!”
During last week’s game he got out after hitting the ball and his little soul was positively crushed. We talked a lot about how even the really good players sometimes get out, it’s just part of the game, not giving up, practicing makes us better, and The Most Important Thing. After sitting out the rest of the game, Tommy was glad to play with dad in our own front yard when we got home, and I thought we were going to have a great baseball experience. Because Josh and I taught him ALL the things! Boom! Character traits acquired! Next?
But this week Tommy didn’t want to play when we got to the game. He hates baseball and he hates me and he's scared of getting hurt or getting out or or or or... and he was too shy to tell any of the million grownups who asked him if he was going to play that he didn’t want to. I reminded him of all the things we knew. He reminded me that he already knew that. He had given me the "right" answers on the way there, “If I get out, I’ll just keep thinkin’ about the next time. And the more I play the more I get way better.” Then he reminded me that he hates baseball. I told him that the people who play baseball games get treats at the end. Every time the team moved from outfield to get ready to bat I asked if he felt ready to play yet. He never ever did. 8 chances he had to join his team and he firmly said no 8 times. Sometimes with tears in his eyes snuggling into my lap looking for love. Sometimes while throwing his shoes. Sometimes while running away. With every inning the warm wash of shame closed in a little tighter on me and I was a total wreck.
It took 2 or 3 innings for me to remember The Most Important Thing. I told Tommy I was afraid that he might have forgotten The Most Important Thing too so I whispered it in his ear I love you more than anything in the whole wide world. And way WAY more than baseball. He looked up at me from my lap and told me that he hated me. I reminded him about treats. He didn’t care. He hated baseball. When we left – defeated – not even one second of participation, I cried. Because there’s totally crying in baseball, and Tom Hanks doesn’t know anything about 5 year olds or coach pitch or rec ball. Nothing at all. Lousy good-for-nothing celebrity spreading lies. Tom Hanks is now a cuss word at my house. There is crying in baseball. And definitely crying on the sidelines of baseball.
When we came home Tommy finished his school work, then went out to play with his friends. Because Hunter Blesshisheart came and knocked on the door to see if Tommy wanted to play. Hunter and his brother are on Tommy’s team. And in all of their childlike goodness they didn’t care at all if Tommy played or sat on the side lines. They just wanted their friend to come and play when we got home. So they invited him. And yes he did want to play. So he went outside and played with his friends on a lovely summer night. They drew with sidewalk chalk and rode bikes and played with squirt guns and ran around and played on the playground and acted like kids. They were kind and loving and welcoming and fun. And nobody cared one bit about baseball. Thank goodness for good friends. Because I swear it healed my heart a little to see him outside playing with his friends.
I wish I was more like Hunter Blesshisheart. I wish I could go to someone who bailed on my team with my eyes wide open, full of love and hopeful that they’ll join me now. Or anytime really.
I wish I was more like Tommy, leaving the hour of shame on the field and ready to pick up and face the shame people 10 minutes later.
But at least I remembered The Most Important Thing.