Little League All-Stars. District championship game.
Bottom of the sixth. Tie game. Winning run on third. My son emerges from the dugout.
Standing with friends on a hillside above center field, I sigh heavily. I turn away from the field and put my leader onto a buddy’s shoulder. Anxiety and prayer come together in a moment of hopeles hope.
Please, God. Let him have this one . em>
Throughout his Little League career, Ben’s had various chances to be the hero–those pressure-filled, activity triumphing opportunities–and the wheels have always come off the bus.
“I don’t know if I can watch, ” I confess.
“Are you kidding? ” my sidekick giggles. “Ben’s preceded the tournament in hitting for two years. This is his moment! ”
His moment . em>
That’s a lot of pressure for a kid: This–right here, right now–is your defining moment. Finally, at the ripe old age of twelve, all of your hard work, thousands of moves in batting cages, tee drills . . . it all comes down to this. All attentions are on you. Your team is counting on you. Everyone’s anticipating your next waver of the at-bat . em>
Ben gradations into the batter’s box. He contacts his at-bat out to touch the far area of home plate and then flowers his paw. He promotes his at-bat. The boy gapes ready and in control.
“It will be the first tone, ” I say to my friend. “He’ll go after the first one.”
The pitcher checks the athlete on third. Receives the tar label from his manager. Makes one more glance at the man on third. And then he off-load a fastball headed for the outside corner of the plate. As I predicted, Ben get after it.
There’s a smothered CRACK ! em> The audience spews. After an uncharacteristic moment of wavering, Ben explodes down the first base line as his teammate races for residence. The defense is scrambling in a confusing blur.
Ben’s defining moment becomes immersed up in chaos.
We have a picture in our family room of a twelve-year-old baseball player in midswing. A split second forever frozen in time. Ben’s final at-bat in different districts championship game.
There is so much detail in that photo. The determination in his young hearts. The sweat on his royal-blue jersey. The fine off-color texts of his pinstriped gasps. The move is textbook perfect as the bat stirs linked with that outside fastball the pitcher had tried to sneak past my son to get ahead in the count.
However, the picture likewise captured one other agonizing detail.
Going after that first pitch, Ben did everything right. However, that CRACK we’d all listen from beyond center field was not a perfectly swung bat suppressing the fastens off the ball.
At the worst possible time, in a moment when he was completely in the zone, in his groove, and prepared for whatever was shed at him, heads of state of his bat snapped off at the point of contact.
The bat broke.
The shortstop collected the chunk and shot it to the catcher for the play at the plate.
“You’re out! ” screamed the umpire.
Our boys objective up losing.
In a performance-based society that can be cruel and unforgiving to our boys, we need to reevaluate what we’re teaching them about success and failure.
I’ve watched mothers go crazy with rage when a kid does well. I’ve likewise seen them lead stone cold silent when things take a turn for the worse. That silence speaks volumes into the heart of a child. As a upshot, minors grow up urgently chasing clapping, and that usually does twisted into a fragile, warped appreciation of self-worth.
When your smell of self-worth is tied to the applause of others, you cede power of your own joy–indeed, your life–and put it in the uncaring entrusts of strangers.
Our adolescents need to know they are loved, they substance, and their importance is not handcuffed to some performance. They are far more than their successes and failures. We all are.
But how do we send that letter to a child growing up in a world that is grasping for Likes , Followers , and ReTweets ?
We learn to dial back the praise .
We should celebrate our children for who they are and not what they do, and we need to become intentional about how we applaud from the sidelines of their lives. Whether they superseded or miscarry, Cal Ripken( MLB’s Iron Man pitcher, coach, and dad) counsels parents to support children “at a consistent level.”
“They[ cheering adults] “re driving” the kids’ spirits nature up and they can help them crash, ” Ripken writes, and child psychology professionals agree.
Praise can actually damage your children and cripple their development. “Praise, ” writes psychologist Robin Grille, is merely “the sweet side of despotic parenting.” If you’re not careful, you gamble humiliating your child under the load of your applause.
It’s too easy for kids to equate their action with your endorsement … and your love.
After the game, Ben went off the field and collapsed into my weapons as he contended back weepings. I hugged him.
“I’m proud of you, ” I told him. “I love you.”
He’d frisked his part and played it well. He’d worked hard. He’d developed. He did exactly what right.
But sometimes the at-bat violates. A lesson for all of us , and one we should be teaching our kids.
I now look at that photo of my lad in that beautifully heartbreaking minute and I refuse to see a smashed bat. It’s one small detail, an inauspiciou hitch in an otherwise stunning showing of who my son was becoming in that season of his life.
And after that?
Ben went on to play college baseball. He became a teacher … and I cry he’s overtaking on the lesson that every boy needs to learn: You’re cherished. You matter. Even when the at-bat undermines . em>