We don’t have to follow our fathers’ example. Sometimes, we can follow our sons’.
I’ve always thought I hated baseball because it was too slow. The other day, my 8 year old son taught be a powerful lesson about love, parenting, and baseball.
He loves baseball, so he always wants to play catch. One day we were playing in the park, and every time he tried to catch the ball, he stepped out of the way so that if he missed, the ball wouldn’t hit him.
“Jett, you got to stay in front the ball. You’re missing the ball because you’re so afraid it’s going to hit you,” I told him.
“Why? I can catch this way,” he replied.
“Yeah, but it’s not efficient. Watch the pros, they don’t catch like that,” I said.
“Why? I don’t want to catch like that,” he protested.
“All right, whatever. I don’t care. Catch it however you want to,” I said throwing my arms up in the air.
Then I started mimicking him–stepping out of the way of the ball, flinching, and dropping the ball. Naturally, he started getting upset. At a certain point, he just wouldn’t throw the ball back.
“Jett, throw me the ball,” I yelled.
He just held the ball, so I threw my mitt down and said, “Okay, fine. We’re not going to play catch anymore.”
“Daddy, please play catch with me. Please, I want to play catch,” he screamed with tears running down his face.
So I came back and started firing the ball at him.
After missing the ball and chasing after it a few times, Jett said, “Let’s do something else, let’s bat.”
“Nope. You need to learn to catch,” I said throwing the ball faster than I’ve ever thrown it at him before.
“I don’t want to play catch anymore, Daddy. Can we bat?”
“No, there’s too many people around. You’ll hit somebody,” I insisted.
Actually, I was making excuses. I just wanted him to toughen up and catch the ball like a real ballplayer. It occurred to me that my step-dad and I used play catch and he’d do the exact same thing: he’d throw it super hard at me and I’d get out of the way and he’d yell, “Stay in front of it.”
I hated it and that’s why I hated baseball. At that point, I caught myself: I realized that I’m doing to my son what my step dad did to me. My son loves baseball.
Why can’t I just let him enjoy it?
So I softened up and said, “Okay, go get your bat. Let’s hit some balls.”
After we batted for a bit, we played catch again. I just tossed balls really soft, underhanded and invited him to stay in front it. And now, he could do it! It was a beautiful thing. I felt like I was playing catch with my 8 year old self. Being gentle with him was the way I wanted to be taught to play baseball.
Something healed inside of me during that game of catch.
Now, I love baseball. I love playing catch with my son. We watched Robert Redford’s film, The Natural, the other night. The film begins with the main character playing catch with his father and ends with him playing catch with his son.
I finally get it.
I’m so grateful for baseball because it is teaching me how to treat my son and how to treat myself. I look forward to every time I get play catch with Jett. We don’t talk — we just throw, and we’re bonding, with ourselves and each other.