Five years ago, my son picked up a bat and fell in love with the game of baseball, and I fell in love with watching him play. His love grew into a passion, and for the better part of the last three years, baseball has been a way of life for our family. It was simply what we did, and I cherished every minute of it.
I sat on the sidelines and felt every moment my son played on the field. I remember the diving catch in center field and the first time he threw a kid out on second base as a catcher. I can still see the kids running out to celebrate with him when he hit a walk-off single to win the game, continuing his team’s perfect season. I was his proudest cheerleader and his motivational speaker before each game, saying things like, “Hustle every play” and, “Keep your eye on the ball.” I always ended with, “Make sure you have fun,” except I’m not really sure I meant that last part.
Sure, I wanted him to have fun, but what I really wanted was for him to succeed, which would ultimately lead to fun. Because after all, losing isn’t fun, right? No one likes to fail. I know this because I was the kid who failed. I wanted to make teams and be cheered on for my superior skills, but in the end, I was simply average. In some cases, below average. I remember every rejection and realization that I was simply not good enough. Softball was short-lived. Cheerleading never panned out.
My son had found something he loved and that he was also good at, so like any well-adjusted mom, I was living through my kid under the guise of support and encouragement. I saw all of the good, but my disappointments from years ago left me blind to a few things I should’ve seen as his mother.
For instance, I didn’t see…
…him dwell on the lows more than celebrate the highs.
…the pressure he put on himself to hit the ball every time and succeed for his teammates, coaches, and yes, his mother.
…that my pre-game pep talks were pushing a 12-year-old too hard who put enough pressure on himself.
…that the drastic change in his behavior had everything to do with that same pressure and anxiety.
I didn’t see those things because they never impacted his performance on the field and because frankly, I didn’t want to see them.
One drizzly morning as I was yelling through the house to get ready for practice, it all came to a head, and he decided he was done. He quit. It was the hardest decision he’s ever made, and I know this because of the look on his face and the tears in his eyes. He didn’t want to let his team and coaches down, and he didn’t want me to be disappointed. Plus, he was struggling with the fact that he still very much loved the game, but he knew he needed to walk away and take a break. Instead of supporting his decision and being the adult, I failed. I said and did all the wrong things. It’s a parenting moment I will always regret because I was wrong and he was right. He made a mature decision even though he still has a lot of maturing to do.
For now, I’m enjoying our free time. He’s taken up playing basketball and goes out after school to play with friends, staying out some nights until dark. He’s gotten closer to his sister and the behavioral challenges we were dealing with have morphed into normal pre-teen moodiness. Simply put, he is happy. I don’t know what will happen in the future, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t hope he goes back to the game he loves one day with a different perspective, better equipped to handle the pressures. What I do know is that it will be his choice, and I’ll be a very different cheerleader if that day ever comes.