Thursday, May 27, 2010

Steps in Parenting: Sports

Getting to the office a few hours before most people show up gives a chance to stroll thru a mostly open parking lot and a few moments to take in scenery without glares of possible mental health problems from another corporate drones.  No cars zooming thru the front road, sprinklers saturating the bits of grass between the concrete dividers, and a smoke monster waffing thru the edges of once sizable marsh that now has a center of ledger balancing for an unnamed retail store standing in the middle.  It's a scene out of your favorite zombie movie, 28 Days Later sticks out in my mind despite my horrible attempts at a British accent.  The pavement is calm, no other walks of life within an corrected eye-sight radius just morning calm before the storm of deadlines and deciphering emails from people who speak English as their second or third language. 

Its the quiet walk that allows 10 minutes of reflection, breathing the fresh air before stuffing one's self into a cubical with pumped in freon to battle the near-summer humidity.  Before retiring last night I got to watch my son's first at bat from a thrown ball on the camcorder we had purchased around Christmas time but have only used sparingly and looked in disgust.  There he was holding the bat a little bit differently than practiced in the backyard over the last couple of years, knuckles not making the straight line, knees looking a bit stiff, and eyes more focused on the pitcher rather than the softened red-stiched ball they use. He would swing a total of ten times, feebly fouling off a few like Nick Punto having to face Mo Riveria but mostly finding air.  No stomping, no throwing the bat, just continued patience of trying again and again to get one between the chalk.

But, that wasn't my source ire watching the video.  It was the little figure in the polo shirt on the third base line behind the fence.  It was the father of that kid with gestures of WHY, turning around not understanding the seemingly smooth swing not connecting with the ball, embarrassed with his child's lack of skill as other parents tried to watch and wait for their little tikes turn. 

The embarrassment was on me.  I hated that person for not encouraging his son more, the fact that the much more mature baseball player wore the number three on the purple shirt with gold lettering that cost $5 more.  The player who could have packed it in after five whiffs instead gutted it out until he was directed to the bench and told to try again the next loop thru the numerical order was the man on the field not that selfish s.o.b. wincing in the background. 

Maybe it's due to this new parenting step of seeing my little athletes run around outside my body with my last name and wanting success before years of practice, wanting the natural home run swing and dedication to the sport laid out on a particular day.  The horrible feeling of becoming "that dad" when all I wanted to see was a smile on his face made me wonder if showing up for the games is a good idea.  My negative presence could not have helped in the least, only damaging the passing of the love of the diamond on to my son and daughter.  Time will tell if the asshole in the stands can take his son at face value and encourage what is there instead of trying to force what isn't.

Good thing there's a blog to talk to myself without worries of a doctor trying to cram Clonazepam down my throat.  And being able to reflect on a short walk is more therapy than that $250/hour master of the DSM could offer.  Now the part will reside in the father growing up to be the nurturing parent versus heckling fan.  


Anonymous said...

Keep showing up. Don't tell so much, but ask much. Ask how he felt, what he was thinking about. Ask if he is having FUN.

Relax. There are no rules to the game of parenting. Our 72off will conquer KKs and AAs often.

Great write up. MrGoss

Bill said...

I don't really have any advice. Its tough. I can just tell you how I am trying to approach it. Show him your love for the game and don't make it a chore.

You'll hate yourself if he gives it up, you'll hate yourself if he doesn't live up to his potential.\


Annah said...

:) I think if you care enough to write about this, you'll figure out a way to make it just write. I liked your post :) And yes, cubicles, SUCK. Can I say that on a comment?

Joe Speaker said...

I don't know what the fuck it is about Little League that makes normally sane men go crazy. Especially grown men forgetting the part about how really difficult it is to hit a baseball.

It's taken me 3 and a half years to figure out how to help AJ and it's a lot less technical instruction than it is making sure he's in a positive frame of mind. Kids are so sensitive to the words and body language of others, so it's not "hold your hands higher" but "do your best, buddy!"

And reminding them that, you know, Joe Mauer is awesome but he still makes outs more than half the time.

ToddCommish said...

Take it from an EX-Little League parent and coach, forget all that stuff about knuckles lining up, toes pointed a certain way, and hands a certain height.

We all say that we want the kids to have fun, but it's NOT fun to strike out every time (kids that age can be brutal). Hitting takes a little work.

Put the ball on a hitting tee and tell the kid to stride and hit it. Once he can hit the BALL and not the tee consistently, move to lobbing a (tennis or wiffle) ball underhand from 10 feet or so. Once he gets used to that, lob the ball overhand from 20 feet. Once he gets used to that, toss a wiffle golf ball from 20 feet. You'll find that his hands, elbows, knuckles, etc. will find their own path, and forcing him into a stance or grip is simply making him THINK when he should be hitting.

Drizztdj said...

The thing is, in the backyard he knocks the crap out of the ball so often I can't play back there anymore which is why his missing last night baffles me.

I gotta work on MY attitude and quickly.

Angela said...

This whole debate brings to mind a quote from Randy Pausch's:
"... we send our kids out to play football or soccer or swimming or whatever it is, and it’s the first example of what I’m going to call a head fake, or indirect learning. We actually don’t want our kids to learn football. I mean, yeah, it’s really nice that I have a wonderful three-point stance and that I know how to do a chop block and all this kind of stuff. But we send our kids out to learn much more important things. Teamwork, sportsmanship, perseverance, etcetera, etcetera. And these kinds of head fake learning are absolutely important. And you should keep your eye out for them because they’re everywhere."

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donald said...

i think bill is right above about stating it should not be a chore. let him enjoy the game if you want longevity. D

Iak said...

I spent the afternoon throwing spirals with my 8 year old, and had to catch myself when I noticed he wasn't smiling despite a pretty tight release. I was dumping a shitload of corrections on him and we were just screwing around in the front yard. Yes, it improved his throws (he's insanely coachable) but joyless is the only word for the expression on his face.

I think I saved it by pretending he hit me in the nuts with the last throw and tried to spew on his shoes. Still. Fatherhood is stressful. Damned if you, damned if you don't. Try to live vicariously through them, I mean.


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