Fatherhood, Softball, and the Greatest Lesson I Ever LearnedPosted by in Husbands & Fathers
A good friend of mine, who is a father of five kids, told me about oneof the greatest fatherhood lessons he learned. He has four daughters, all grown now, and they all played softball.
This story reminds me of something that is easy to forget in our “serious” world – it’s okay to let kids be kids, be it on the softball field or in the home. This is all new to them. As fathers, we should take the time to appreciate their innocence and love for life.
“Sometimes in life there are situations that are so unique they literally cause a paradigm shift in thinking. Every thing I thought about softball and parenting before this episode I threw out. My “7 and under” daughter’s softball team was playing their final game of the season. After this game, I would never view my children playing their early games in life the same way again (I hope you don’t either). All my many errors in behavior and thinking flashed through my mind in an instant during that game, teaching me one of the most valuable lessons I could learn as a father.
I had just finished bragging to my manager (wife) about how much I had taught my kid and how positive I was that her time had finally come. I knew my angel was ready to break out and have a great game. The night before this final game we discussed all the potential situations every All-Star outfielder should know. I was sure we covered everything. She knew as much as I did. The pressure of not knowing where to throw the ball was removed. She knew enough to play for the women’s gold medal Olympic softball team.
I prepared her mentally for the game with as many positive affirmations as I could think of. I told her how pretty she was, how coordinated she was and how naturally athletic she was. I even explained the neurology of the brain and how the mind and eyes were designed to hit and catch balls traveling over 100 miles per hour. She hugged my neck and assured me she was ready to play. All I had to do was sit back, relax and watch my All-Star take control of the game. I slept like a baby that night.
During the first inning my All-Star paid attention better than she ever had before. She was not using some of the ploys common to kids her age. So far, so good! Something was definitely different this game; something special was going to happen, I just knew it, I could feel it!
In the second inning her behavior started to get a little irregular. I assured myself all was well and yelled for her to pay attention. I re-positioned myself next to the fence in left field for better communication and coaching. She was losing concentration even though she assured me the night before she would not. I started feeling little droplets of perspiration trickle down the back of my neck.
In the third inning something very peculiar started to happen. She began staring at the glove on her fielding hand. It was not just a quick glance mind you; but a long stare with some serious meditation going on. She began twirling the glove around so she could see the front and back of the glove. I had never seen any athlete do this, ever! I had no idea why she was doing what she was doing. I wanted the coach to call time out and ask my daughter what she was thinking. Next, she began looking at the ungloved hand in the same hypnotic trance. I was thoroughly confused by this time. True concern for my daughter’s state of mind began to cross my mind. I was greatly relieved when my daughter began to speak. Finally she began snapping out of her trance.
While looking at both her hands she yelled something to me. I strained to hear what she was trying to say to me. I was frustrated because the shouts of joy coming from the opposing team’s parents muffled my daughter’s words. I strained harder to hear her words.
Instinctively I knew, almost like mother’s intuition but for fathers, that my daughter just had a softball spiritual experience. She wanted to share this wonderful experience with me her father. I could not have strained any harder to try and hear my daughter’s words. A year’s worth of dedication and hard work culminating in a mystical sports experience was unfolding before my very eyes. I was pumped to hear my angel’s words of enlightenment. Finally, I could clearly hear her magical words, which transformed me forever:
“Dad I need you to buy me another glove for this hand; then I’ll have a pair of gloves for both hands!”
Well that summed it all up! Dad, buy me another glove so that both hands will have gloves. That moment was a true revelation for me. My kids, I discovered, do not think like I do. Their world is a lot more fun. For children, life is chock-full of freshness and surprise…
Our world, the world of adults, is wondrously new to them and so they abound with innocence. As G.K. Chesterton once wrote:
…when we are very young children we do not need fairy tales: we only need tales. Mere life is interesting enough. A child of seven is excited by being told that Tommy opened a door and saw a dragon. But a child of three is excited by being told that Tommy opened a door. Boys like romantic tales; but babies like realistic tales — because they find them romantic.
From that moment on I have had more fun coaching youngsters, and more importantly, parenting my own children has improved as a result.
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