A father-son bonding moment over sporting goods? Why not?
“This one is all yours,” Lisa said, handing me the Little League notice stating that all the boys in our son’s program must wear an athletic supporter and protective cup. My wife, who grew up with a sister but no brothers, is occasionally horrified by boy stuff, so procuring these particular pieces of baseball equipment for our 7-year-old, Alex, was going to be a father-son deal.
Alex and I hopped in the car and headed off to Modell’s. As we drove, I could tell that he wasn’t completely sure of the nature of our errand.
“What exactly are we getting, Dad?” he asked. “And where do I put it?”
I spent the majority of the short ride trying to explain to him what a jockstrap looked like and how the hard plastic cup fit (“No way!”), but he just couldn’t visualize it based on my descriptions. When he finally saw the stuff on the store shelf, he just laughed.
Back home, I showed him how to put it on. Alex thought his new gear was the greatest thing ever. It made him feel invincible. In fact, the first thing he did was run downstairs and dare his 3-year-old brother to punch him in the crotch. He wore it under his clothes for the rest of the day even though he didn’t have baseball practice.
It occurred to me at some point that this was a rite of passage, the first real recognition of his manhood, both literally and figuratively. So I didn’t protest when he insisted on wearing his cup in the Opening Day Little League Parade. (He was easily the most well-protected kid marching through downtown Needham that day.) But I drew the line when he asked if he could wear it to school.
I know the novelty will wear off soon. But for now, in his mind, wearing the cup has brought him one step closer to being a grown-up. After all, it’s the kind of thing that men do. And it makes me, too, feel like he’s not a little boy anymore.
I just hope, for his sake, that his little brother doesn’t catch him when he’s not wearing it.
— Photo ktylerconk/Flickr