The Coach Gaveth, and the Mother Tooketh Away

June 12, 2013 at 12:55 pm (Community, Kids) (, , , )

I feel like the worst mother in the world. Henry got the game ball at his baseball game last night, and I made him give it back. But you know what? If I could rewind, I’d do it again.

Henry’s in his second year of playing Little League. Henry loves baseball like the Pope is Catholic. He reads the sports section over his breakfast in the morning, looking both like my husband and my father as he pores over statistics. He watches Brewers games on TV when we let him, and listens to them on the radio as he goes to bed. He has it all planned out – he’ll play baseball at Notre Dame and then in the minors and then in the majors. (I looked up the 2013-2014 tuition at Notre Dame when he told me that. Let’s just say we’re going to need that baseball scholarship money). I had this bedtime story I’d tell him of how the Yankees would want him, would pay any price for him, but he’d want to play for his hometown team, so he’d stay a Brewer. He liked that one, and so did I. He’ll play outside in the backyard with the neighbors for hours, and when they’re done, he’ll keep playing on his own, throwing up high balls and diving for them, pitching grounders and running to scoop them up. “Mommy/Daddy/Baba will you play catch with me?” is his incessant refrain from when the snow melts to when it flies again.

Henry got in trouble once this year at school for getting into it with a classmate on the playground. He was mortified when the recess monitor didn’t believe his account of what happened. His teacher was sympathetic, but banned him from playing team sports for a week or so, because he just “cared a little too much.” (Luckily for Henry, that week coincided with a bout of bad weather and indoor recess). He is uber-competitive, and he cares deeply about whatever game he’s playing, but especially baseball.

Henry plays for the Durham Bulls. It is a great group of kids, and a great group of parents, and a great group of coaches. They move the kids around quite a bit at this age so they get experience all over the diamond. Henry played the last two innings last night at first base. These kids don’t know what they do to us – I couldn’t sit still on the bleachers and wandered over to the fence next to first. I guess I’m glad I did, but I saw some things I didn’t want to see while I was there. A kid threw wide to him, Henry couldn’t grab it and he got visibly frustrated with his teammate. And then it happened again on a couple of plays he wasn’t involved in.

His team won, though really I shouldn’t even write that, because it doesn’t matter. Henry plays baseball because he loves it, yes, but also because his father and I believe that playing team sports can teach you important life lessons. You have to work together, because no man is an island. (Who’d a thunk John Donne was a baseball fan?) You have to work hard, because other people are depending on you. And you have to be a good sport, fercryinoutloud. I get it, I promise I do – it’s hard to be a good sport when you feel it so, so much. It’s especially hard when you give your all every single time – perhaps Henry’s finest quality – and you suspect others aren’t doing the same thing. But that’s a rotten way to live. I want Henry to assume that the people he meets are doing their best, even when it seems…unlikely. A quote made the rounds of the interwebs a while back: “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” It was attributed to Plato, but I couldn’t find it, not that you should imagine me exhaustively reading my Greek. I don’t care who made it up, it’s one of my favorite sayings ever, and I want my son to believe it with every fiber of his competitive being.

Anyway, after the game and after the team meeting, when the coaches gave Henry the game ball, I pulled him aside. I asked him if he’d been a good sport during the game, and I asked him if he deserved the game ball. My brave boy answered no to both questions. I told him he could earn it back, not by playing well – he’s a decent little ballplayer, and that’s not the point – but by being a leader on his team. By cheering on his teammates. By setting a good example. By being a good sport. It was a tough talk, but he took it on the chin…I was proud of him. He’s a good kid, and he can learn this. He has to.



  1. Kerry Hill said,

    Henry received something bigger and better than a game ball last night. What he received will live on and will be paid forward! Great job!

  2. Emily said,

    Great job. I think it’s important to teach everybody empathy and to be kind, but maybe especially talented, smart boys.

  3. It’s in the (Hockey) Bag | Bats in the Belfry said,

    […] be sad when you don’t win. I’m so proud of what a good sport you’ve become. I can remember making you return the game ball when you were a Bull in PeeWees. (Believe me, I cried just as much as you did…you just […]

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