Sunday, May 22, 2011

Winners never quit

winners never quit“ ‘Winners never quit’ – can you identify with that, honey?” I had just finished reading a book written by Mia Hamm, one of the greatest female soccer players of all time, to my youngest while he was in the bathtub. At one point in her life, Mia didn’t want to play soccer if she couldn’t win. But if she had given up, she would never have been the youngest woman to ever play for the U.S. Women’s National Team (at age 15), or break an all-time international goal record, or lead her team to victory in the Olympics. I had borrowed the book from my son’s kindergarten teacher just that morning.

“Whaddaya mean, mom?”

“You know, can you relate? Can you see how that applies to you?”

“Oh, yeah. Uhmmm. Yeah, well, sometimes when things get hard I want to quit.”

“Yes, honey, that’s exactly it. Sometimes you do. Sometimes I do. Sometimes other people do. But you can’t just quit every time something gets hard.”

My son had quit his t-ball team after Opening Day with a dramatic flourish that included throwing his glove in the dust and stripping off his uniform shirt and hat. He was frustrated that there are no outs in t-ball yet everyone can only take one base at a time. He protested this by walking around the bases. He is used to the “big league rules” that his brothers play, and as it turned out that day, his ambition and aptitude are not aligned. He quit again during the next game, when he stalked off the field and into the parking lot. I remained on the field with the team even though I was afraid he was going to try to walk home – fortunately a parent of one of my oldest’s friends who saw him stomping around with angry eyebrows redirected him.

After that episode, I was ready to quit. I was really annoyed because I had missed my older two boys’ games across town to be at t-ball that night. I also didn’t really want to be a coach in the first place, but the league needed t-ball coaches. I had told the head coach after two pleas were issued “I want to help but please understand that I will be juggling two other baseball teams this season.” As an aside, my older two boys have both tried out for tournament ball and because practices will be starting before the end of the regular season, it’s possible I may be juggling five teams.

Surely the fact that my son just didn’t want to play was a good enough reason to quit, wasn’t it?

But before I could get in touch with the other coaches to even discuss it, I got an email from the head coach saying that he was going to be out of town that week and it would be just the two assistant coaches running practice. And oh-by-the-way, he needed some other parents to step up because the other assistant coach (who was coaching two teams) couldn’t be at the game that Thursday. That meant I would have to be in charge, so quitting was no longer an option.

I told my son, “Mommy can’t even consider quitting, honey. There are no other coaches for the game Thursday.”

“Well, I’m not playing.”

“That’s fine, but I have to go, and that means you have to go. Just show up. You’re part of the team.”

That night he still wasn’t into it. There were two other parent volunteers, and my oldest had come along, so I asked him to shadow his younger brother. We made it through the whole game – barely. The following day was when we read the book.

Then we had a week of rain and all baseball was cancelled or rescheduled. Miraculously the clouds parted for our t-ball game on Thursday. Both of my older two would be helping that night. One of them asked his brother, “are you gonna quit today?”

Before my youngest could answer, I chimed in, “Absolutely not – this story needs a happy ending!”

And he didn’t. He ran – not walked – around the bases every time he was up. He had a turn to play “pitcher” and first base (basically the only two positions that get any “action”). His two brothers kept him interested and involved when he was anywhere else. The game went so well we had time to play an extra inning. Mrs. Head Coach handed out popsicles afterwards. What a great night!

In t-ball, everybody is a winner. I know it’s not always like that in life. There might be some things we should quit, such as bad habits, toxic friendships, or overly stressful jobs. But any time we’re unsure about what lies ahead, or any time something feels like it’s too hard remember you’re not alone. We’re all in this together. You never know who might be counting on you to be there, so just show up.

This is the invocation I delivered in church today, which I wrote with this scripture in mind: "Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it." ~1 Corinthians 12:27

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

One step at a time

baseball lineup“I quit!” My son shouted. “This is so stupid!” he threw this baseball glove and it landed on the ground in a cloud of dust.

We were sitting in the dugout during the top of the third inning of his very first t-ball game; the same dugout that my oldest uses when he plays in the “majors.” The rest of his team was out on the field.

"Shhh! Honey, you can’t just quit. We’re in the middle of a game. I’m a coach. What’s stupid, anyway?”

“I’m never gonna get a home run!”

“You will when it’s your turn to bat cleanup.” In t-ball, each batter only takes one base, regardless of how well they’ve hit or what “errors” might occur on the field, except the last batter who clears the bases before the teams switch who’s batting. My son had been protesting this by walking from base to base.

“When’s that gonna be?”

“Actually, it will be your next at bat. You’ll be the last batter of the game.” But after that, it would only be once every 11 innings. The kids bat in numerical order, and after they bat first they go to the end of the line up. My son is wears #2.

“Well, it’s still stupid. Even if I make a play, it doesn’t matter.” In tee-ball, each batter takes that one base, whether they’re out or safe. This is why he was sitting on the bench – he had been standing on the field refusing to play the position he was asked and I told the head coach I thought he should sit out the inning. We had more than nine kids on the field anyway, plus a couple of adults to help the kids know where to make the play or what direction to run around the bases.

“It matters. You need to learn how to make the plays.”

“I’m not playing. I quit!” He threw his hat over the fence.

“You can’t quit. What am I gonna do, coach all your friends and not you? You’d still have to come to practice anyway.”

“I don’t care.” He started stripping off his uniform shirt.

“You won’t get your chance to hit the home run…”

“I! Don’t! CARE! " He stalked out of the dugout and across the adjacent field, and I lost sight of him.

I couldn’t worry too much about him because a) he wasn’t going to get very far and b) by this time, the rest of his team was coming in off the field and I was supposed to manage the batting line up: who’s on deck, who has a helmet, don’t go out on the field til the play’s over (“The play is over when the ball’s back on the tee, honey.”), and keeping track of all the hats, since very few of the kids had written their names in them.

This will be the fifth year my youngest has attended baseball season, watching his older brothers’ games, but only the first year he can play. He’s played “family baseball” (where every position on both teams is covered by four people and augmented by any friends that happen to be around). He’s also been to a bunch of minor league games. So, it seems that he expected t-ball to be as fast paced and action packed as all of the other baseball he’s experienced.

When the game was over and we’d high fived the other team and put away all the equipment, I caught up with him: he had wandered back over to the field and was standing near the first base foul line. “You have to learn the basics before you can play real baseball, honey.”

“I already know the basics, Mom!”

“That may be so, but you still have to develop your skills. Your brothers both started out in t-ball, too, you know.

He looked at me with angry eyebrows and neither of us spoke.

“You have to learn to walk before you can run, honey.”

He raised his eyebrows, and was about to speak but I cut him off.

“And no, that doesn’t mean you should be walking around the bases! It means that you have to start at the beginning, and go forward a step at a time.”

The kids had cleared the dugouts and field, and the grounds crew had arrived to rake and redo the lines for the next game. I handed him his glove, which had his hat and shirt folded up inside it and we went to find his brothers.


But no one will see it

I set up the nativity in the back yard again this year. In the past it has been out front near the fire hydrant that is on our property, and...