An errant Wiffle ball sent my son to the bench recently, and I’m still sore about it.
At four, Elijah is old enough to start learning the basics of baseball. He’s too young for league play, but I want him to get a feel for throwing and catching the ball as well as how to stand in the batter’s box.
He’s been able to hit pitched balls for a while now, but he’s still learning the hard truth that playing baseball inevitably leads to an “owee” or two. Maybe three. So when I threw a ball that hit his knuckles, not his bat, he yelped in pain and said he was done with baseball for now.
I tried to convince him to keep playing, but his mind was made up. The moment was minor in the big picture, no doubt, but I didn’t want it to go by without attempting a Teachable Moment.
Eli, I told him, sometimes you’re gonna get hurt playing baseball. It’s part of the game, and you’ll learn to shake it off and keep on playing. It didn’t work. Eli deposited the plastic bat in the toy bin and went inside. At least he didn’t kick dirt on my shoes like a hopping mad Lou Piniella might.
Still, I wasn’t sure if my message got through. I read so much about how we coddle kids today, bringing up a generation of bubble wrap toddlers ill-prepared to deal with what life has in store for them later on. Kids must fail, and fail again, before they learn to succeed and deal with disappointment.
I’m more worried about what life has planned for Eli tomorrow, not during his first days of college. We already heard that some of the kids at Eli’s school have called him a crybaby for how easily his tear ducts kick in. That’s nothing compared to the reaction he’ll get if he gets all dramatic on the playground after a ball hits him the wrong way.
Boys will tease, torment and seize on any weakness. More importantly, I remember fearing getting hit by a fastball, one reason my Little League career ended prematurely. The shame lingers, something I don’t want to pass on to my sons.