I was on baseball duty with my son today. He’s been playing baseball since he was in kindergarten, he’s in the fifth grade now. He likes baseball. He always checks the local leagues website to make sure he doesn’t miss sign-ups each season — although, I’ve tried to talk him out of it the last couple of seasons.
I was worried it was making him sad. He sits the bench… a lot and he bats last in the order… a lot. Last season he stopped swinging the bat whenever his turn came up. His coach, his dad, his sister, his teammates, me — we all would tell him to swing the bat — just swing the bat…he never did. So, this year, I was hoping he might choose to leave baseball behind. But there he was, looking at the website, making sure I didn’t forget to sign him up. He chooses baseball.
In baseball, the universal phrase for coaches to say when they have confidence in a kid who is up to bat is, “give it a ride”. When my son got up to bat, the coaches would say, “just swing the bat.”
I was sad for him, as any mother would be. By the time the season was winding down last year, he would often leave the field, hiding his tears. I asked him on many occasions why he just wouldn’t swing. He said he was afraid he would do it the wrong way or at the wrong time and then everyone would be disappointed in him. It’s true, what he said. An elementary school kid with an understanding of human nature.
We get in ruts and it’s easier to stay there then to work your way out. Working your way out takes effort and time and patience. Often, it’s easier to just not attempt to leap for fear that you’ll do it wrong — fear that the net won’t appear. It’s easier to not try because if you do it wrong, someone is bound to point it out — sometimes our mistakes are easier to point out than the stuff we get right. It’s easier to hope for four balls, then to swing and risk the three strikes.
So, back to today. The first day of scrimmages for my son. The first game he had three at bats, no swings. After the game, I had my usual talk with him about why he should swing and why it was so important to do things that he was afraid of and if it didn’t work out then he would at least know what it felt like to swing — to take a chance… to leap.
The second game, his turn in the batting order finally came up. He looked at me long enough for me to motion to him to take a breath — and he swung the bat.
He missed — strike 1.
The next pitch — he swung, foul ball — strike 2.
The third pitch — he swung and it was the most beautiful bomb to center field ever. My elation was only second to his as he rested at second base.
That’s all it took, just an attempt. He hit the ball two more times after that. He wasn’t afraid to leap, he wasn’t afraid to strike out and risk people being disappointed or angry. He gave it a ride — and it was beautiful. But truthfully, I missed the bravest thing he was doing. I overlooked his leaping. He was leaping every year when he chose baseball. Swinging the bat was just an added bonus. So maybe, we overlook our own attempts to leap. Maybe we’re leaping… maybe I’m leaping. Maybe…
And now, go visit the absolute best blog on the web, Zebra Sounds, written by the hugely talented and lovely Judy Clement Wall, who gives us a beautiful reminder to take a breath and leap — a net will appear.