My Ego Riding a 10-Year-Old Arm

This comes a little late, as Father’s day was at least a month ago, but here’s what I’m learning about myself through parenting right now…

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In the last week of the travel ball season, my 10-year old son was the starting pitcher in the first game of his final tournament of the season. He pitched nine straight balls to open the game. He walked the first three batters, threw a couple wild pitches and by the time the inning was ended, the other team was up 2-0 and they hadn’t hit a single pitch that he threw.

He came off the field with tears in his eyes, disappointed with himself and feeling like he had let his team down. I talked to him about resilience. I told him that one of the things about baseball is that even the most successful people fail – a lot. The best hitters in the MLB are successful only ⅓ of the time. The best pitchers give up home runs and walks. But what makes baseball players great is they have a short memories. They forget about the last pitch, the last at-bat and they move on.

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Two days later, same tournament, he was the starting pitcher again. And again this time he started rough, but he settled down, found his groove, and pitched the entire game, knocking off the #1 seed. Over six innings, he only walked 4 batters, while striking out 10 and allowing only a few hits here and there.

For a kid of his age, it was a great outing. (And, to top it off, he tripled twice over the weekend and only struck out once in 6 games over the tournament. He had a great weekend!)

But here’s the key insight about fatherhood. I’m trying to learn to pay attention to myself and I’m trying to learn to pay attention to what I’m feeling and I’m trying to learn to be curious about why I think and feel the way I do. And I’m trying to do the hard work of naming what I feel. And here’s what I noticed:

When my son was pitching poorly, I felt bad about myself. I was beating myself up for not working with him enough in the back yard. I was questioning how good a Father I am to him. I was feeling like a failure.

And when he was succeeding, I felt good about myself. I thought about all the time we’ve spent in the yard working on pitching. I thought to myself, “I’m a great dad.”

I noticed that my ego was riding on the arm of my 10-year-old son.

Ugh. “This isn’t good,” I said to myself.

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And so, on Father’s Day weekend 2016, out on the ballfields, I had to remind myself that my love for my son and my love for myself can’t ride on his arm or his bat. That’s too much weight to put on a 10-year old. And all the things I really want for him someday have nothing to do with his WHIP or OBP. The best thing I did for him last weekend in fact had nothing to do with his ability to play baseball, but rather was the speech I gave him about resilience and having a short memory.

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On the Monday after Father’s Day, while I was at work there was some family discord. Brothers being brothers, normal stuff. And Jennifer had to punish them. And 10-year-old son, after the dust had settled came to Jennifer privately and said with tears in his eyes, “Mom, dad is teaching me to have a short memory on the ballfield. Can we just have a short memory about this morning? I’ll do better.”

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  • Paige Staes Whitney

    Charlie…wow, great piece. Even as a mom, I have experienced these same feelings…letting everything of my existence or my parenting “skillz” balacne on the ability or inability of my children…taking everything to heart and personally. To the point that I’ve almost missed some of the best moments.
    I just recently heard Joe Madden with the CUBS say that his most successful attribute as a MLB manager has been the ability to maintain a short term memory.
    I’m trying to live in the moment as well…the warm-up talks in the car, the great stories on the way home…focusing more on the important aspects of the sport, rather than just the score.
    But in the end, it is truly amazing how bright our children are and the born resilience they have…and God love the humor they do bring to our lives.
    Thank you for sharing.