March 26, 2007

Letting Go of Baseball and My Son

I'm a baseball fan. Though I didn't play much when I was a boy, I have fond memories of watching baseball games on my Grandmother's tiny, color television with my dad and his step-father at their home in Southold, back in the early seventies. We could have been watching the Yankees, or the Mets, I don't remember. But, I do remember the three of us in Grandma's cozy living room, the aroma of a roast beef wafting in from the kitchen, and their big, golden dog named Mike plopped down next to me as I scratched behind his ears. That's where my love of the baseball developed.

Imagine my shock when my seven year old son opted to play Lacrosse this season instead of baseball. "He wants to run around." My wife said. "Baseball is too boring for him." Yikes. Did she say “too boring?” He doesn't know enough to determine if the game is boring, I thought. “Maybe I should have a talk with him?” I asked her. “I mean, all that gear costs a lot of money. If he quits, think of the money we wasted.” My wife stopped me. "Just let him do what he wants. He has to make his own decisions."

This past Saturday, as I stood on an enormous field at the local high school watching about a hundred kids in battle gear, holding netted sticks and charging around at the behest of their earnest coaches, I had to wonder, why does he want to play this game? It’s soccer played with pool skimmers, I thought. It’s also a game I know nothing about. On the other field, some older kids were playing baseball. They had the look and feel of a real baseball team with records that matter and perhaps some of them dreaming of the major leagues. Selfishly, I wished my son was one of them, working the count, stealing bases, or hitting the game winning home run. In front of where I was standing, my son was laughing and running around with his friends practicing this alien game which I never wanted to play, ever.

That's when it dawned on me that being a father meant that it isn’t about me. Nothing mattered on that other ball field with bats and balls and called third strikes. What is important was that my boy is doing something that he wants to do, and that is what is best for him. It is good that he is active, making choices, and asserting himself. He is living his young life the way he wants to, and with me as his dad, it is they way I taught him to be. And, I won't have it any other way. After lacrosse practice my son told me that he wants to try ice hockey next season. I gulped and said “Sure, whatever you want.” Whatever he wants, huh? Do you know how much hockey equipment costs?

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