A Series Of Moments


The season started badly. Our third little traveller stood at the base for his first game looking lost and nervous. The first pitch was hard, fast, and out of control. He was hit fair and square in the shoulder, it was hard enough that the bat dropped out of his hands, and as he walked towards his father and first base he threw up. In that second everything changed about how he saw the game of baseball.

Week by week it became worse. After three or four games the pattern was set; he stood in the outfield praying nothing would come his way, and when it was his turn to bat he couldn’t stop himself from flinching, stepping away from the ball as it came towards him. Each game provided another dose of humiliation, his coach screamed at him from the sidelines “Don’t move!” “Swing at it!” As a parent everything about it felt wrong. We were making him do something he dreaded. Each week G and I would talk him into going, each week I’d force him towards something that terrified him. We took counsel from friends, teachers, anyone who’d had any experience with children in sport. What should we do? Was it better to just give up before we killed his confidence completely? And finally the decision was made for us by the words of an 11 year old boy.

“You just need to man up.” I heard a boy twice the size of mine say. His mother joined in, she was tying to use the power of persuasion to get our little traveller onto the field – she wasn’t the coach nor the assistant.

I shot the boy a look, glared my thoughts into his face. Keep out of it, I told myself it wasn’t for me to jump in.

“You just need to man up” he said it again.

I turned to a girlfriend, “I can’t listen to this, if he says it again I’m going to have to say something”

“You just need…”

“Okay!” I was out of my seat and halfway towards the cage. “You just need to be quiet” I said to the man child.

“Fred, do you want to go or stay” my voice had a controlled shake to it.

“I just want to go” there was relief in his voice, and without an ounce of disappointment he grabbed his glove and left.

When we got to the car he asked me why I’d finally let him stop.

“Because being a man has nothing to do with being able to hit a baseball. Your father is the best man I know and he’s never played a game of baseball in his life. Being a good man is about being a good person, about caring, about being genuine, about helping others.”

That was the end of baseball for Fred for the year. Over the summer we talked about going back, he didn’t want to. We talked about getting some coaching, he didn’t want to.

“It doesn’t feel right for that last game to be the end of the story for him” G agreed.

We signed him up again.

I was on my way to the airport when G sent through the text.

“HE HIT IT! A clean hit! Nearly made it to first base!!”

A girlfriend put a note on my Facebook “G is beaming”.

I shared the news with the taxi driver, the check in staff, and the guy in the coffee shop.

Life is a series of moments, and as a parent it often feels that our response to these moments falls with the weight of a million therapy dollars. What am I doing? I’m not sure if this is right? Do I need to back off? Shall I push a little harder, show him he’ll be fine. Will this give him the confidence that he can do this or confirm that he can’t?

In the hotel room I sat staring at the screen, he’d sent me a video. His face filled the screen, his eyes wide and sparkling, his sandy coloured fringe flopping over one eye “I did Mum! I hit it! I got caught out but I hit it! Can you believe it Mum? I hit it! It was so good, I wish I could play again today. I want to play every day! It was so good Mum. I hit it!”

Tears streamed down my face.

He did it.

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