Monday, March 3, 2014

Big League Parenting

I went to a beautiful funeral service on Friday for the long-time mayor of our town. She was a lovely lady who lived a good life. There is so much about her that I admired-- the way she humbly used her leadership skills to help our town, how she poured herself into the unique interests of each of her five grandchildren, and of course there was the beautiful relationship with her daughter that I witnessed when I saw them around town, always together. It's how I imagined my mom and I would be.

One story from the funeral really stuck with me, and it makes me tear up to think of it.

One of her grown sons shared that when he was around 9, he was excited to finally get to play baseball on the "big" baseball field in town. He was accustomed to his games being at local elementary schools, on very basic, grassy fields, but the "big" field had real dugouts, an announcer booth, and even a raised pitching mound. He could barely control his excitement.

But though the little boy tried his best, his first game in the "big league" was a total disaster. In particular, his pitching was terrible, and he was inconsolable on the way home. Like many of us, he looked for something to blame, and the pitching mound took the brunt of his wrath. He claimed it had thrown off his pitching.

As I listened to this story, I thought about what I would have done as a parent. Would I have told Jack and Margaret to quit trying to place blame? Would I have told them to just get a grip? To work on sportsmanship and being a more gracious loser? Would I have used it as a teachable moment to have them consider that maybe, if they were this upset, this sport wasn't for them? I'm guessing those would have been the directions I would have taken, and they wouldn't necessarily have been wrong.

But that's not what happened.

And what that little boy's parents did had more of an impact on him (and me!) than any lecture on sportsmanship ever could.

In the silent church we all waited to hear how the story ended.

The son looked up from the pulpit, and instead of a fifty year old, I saw a nine year old again as he finished his story. "A while later I heard something in the back yard. It was my mom and dad, both with shovels, digging up the grass, making me my own pitching mound."

Wow.

I love this story.

In life we just want to be supported and understood. These parents used a simple, wordless action to say, "We love you. We hear you. We stand behind you. We believe in you. You can count on us."

Isn't it amazing how a seemingly small, unexpected action over 40 years ago, can still teach us so much? And I'm guessing that the end of the story wasn't an ending at all for that 9 year old boy, who now has three kids of his own.

38 comments:

Recovering Church Lady said...

What a great story. Sometimes I worry about the current kids who are inundated with "teachable moments" , when the true lessons are simply learned by experiencing the feeling of being truly loved.
Susie

Diane said...

Oh wow. Yeah, I'm not sure that's the way I would have handled it. I've had these same types of conversations with my two after their baseball games and I usually just tell them to "man up" and quit their whining. What an inspiration! Thank you for sharing.

tracy@sellabitmum said...

Oh I have chills. xo

Debby@Just Breathe said...

What a beautiful story you shared and it brought tears to my eyes. I think that was amazing parenting!

claire plante said...

That is such a beautiful and inspirational story. And I love how it provided an opportunity. Not a "must" but just an opportunity and another chance for trying. (And I think your list of responses provided that too in different ways.)

Love of love to you,
Claire

Anonymous said...

That's really lovely, Anna.

As brief as Jack's life was, I can tell from your beautiful writing that he had no doubts as to who was on his team.

Wishing you love and hope.

Dayna

Jenny said...

Love! Thanks for sharing!

Brad said...

Yes! Thanks for sharing this... it's exactly what I needed to hear today. Parenting is such an adventure and there aren't instructions to follow so it's refreshing to hear (and see) the approach of others. We're all in this together one way or another, right?

--
www.bradleycowan.com

Michelle said...

thank you for this today. I have an 8 (almost 9) year old boy. He is having some behaviour problems recently and while we may responding in one of many ways that are okay perhaps we aren't responding in the best way for him. this post has me looking at things differently and trying to find the best approach for my son. thanks!

Anonymous said...

When I was in high school I was very upset after I didn't get elected captain for the cross country team. My mother was driving my friends and I home and I may have said some mean things about the girl who did get elected (who was a x-country rookie and I was a veteran!). My mom yelled at me in front of my friends and made me feel worse. As an adult, and a parent, I have reflected on this moment and realized that what I so badly wanted to hear at that moment was, "I'm sorry. You feel bad. Things didn't go the way you expected." That's all I wanted to hear. I try to remember that when my own kids say things, or blame other people, when things don't go their way. I ask myself, "What do they need to hear right now?" Sometimes I am helpful, sometimes I fail. I think the parents of that boy did a very wise thing by building that mound. They took away an excuse. Maybe you'll fail next time, maybe you'll succeed, but you cannot blame the mound.

MaryS said...

Wow! What an unexpectedly wonderful ending. Thanks for posting.

MaryS said...

Wow! What an unexpectedly wonderful ending. Thanks for posting.

One crazed mommy said...

That's a beautiful story - what a wonderful memory for him to have after all these years! These are the type of things, as a parent, we need to remember - good lesson for all!!

Jennifer Marshall said...

Love that story! It reminds me of the time my family went skiing for a long weekend with close friends of ours. I must have been 12 or so. I left my skis outside of the door of our condo, not thinking twice about it. They were gone in the morning. I cried, scared of what my parents would say and how mad they would be at me. My dad didn't flinch and said, "You learned your lesson. They are only possessions. They can be replaced." And he has reinforced that value in me ever since.

Sybil@PeaceitallTogether said...

Wow! I know that I often respond with a "teachable moment" mentality, using each situation as an opportunity for another life lesson. After reading this, this first thing that came to my mind was...the best thing you can teach your kids is how to love!

Amanda Rodriguez said...

Wonderful story. Parenting is like this timeless thing. It changes and grows, but some elements just are always there.

Anonymous said...

That is a beautiful story. The pitching mound is unique, but I don't know that you would have just given Jack a pep talk. I think he had some challenges sort of finding his niche or his way with baseball, and you were so proud of his perseverance and spirit. Both you and Tim are very supportive and nurturing parents.

Rach said...

Wow. I'm sure I wouldn't have reacted as his parents did. It makes me second guess all I do and wonder where I can make a change in my parenting...

Alison said...

THAT, is the kind of parenting I aspire to.
Thank you for sharing this beautiful story, Anna.

Patricia said...

Beautiful story, and thanks for sharing it. It obviously had quite an impact on the Mayor's son, as he shared it so many years later. Did make me tear up too, and also, makes you think about your own parenting skills, and how to make them better..

idena said...

This is beautiful and lovely.

Lady Jennie said...

I'm crying too. I have so much to learn as a parent.

Lisa C said...

That is a lovely reminder to listen to your children, not just preach or teach them.

Thank you, as always for sharing.

hockeymomx2 said...

Goosebumps

Arnebya Herndon said...

I love hearing how other parents handled situations. It gives me something to aspire to, something to think about when I'm making my own parenting decisions. Even outside of parenting, to just think of a different angle, to think of what is best for the other person involved...I'm glad he shared that story so that you could share it with us.

Mandy_Fish said...

Wow. That got me thinking about how I would react to my 10-year-old son if he had told me a similar story. And no, I wouldn't have been outside digging a pitching mound for him.

Perhaps I should get a shovel?

Thanks for this.

Princess Kate said...

What a beautiful story. I still think about you every day. Peace my friend.

Anonymous said...

"We hear you" -- that's the big one isn't it. It's easy to say "I love you" but it's hard to really listen. And to listen without ego involved. In fact it's nearly superhuman. But we can try!

Mommy Mo said...

This brought me to tears....mainly because I am pretty sure I would not have been outside digging a pitching mound.

Jamie Reese said...

Love this!

IrishRN07 said...

Beautiful post Anna! Thanks for making me cry first thing this morning! :)
-Maureen

Elaine Alguire said...

Wow, that is just beautiful. Parenting at it's best right there. So glad you shared this with us. :)

anymommy said...

Lovely. I will think about this in my parenting for a long time.

Andrea Mowery said...

What a great story. I would have never thought of doing that to help my kid with a struggle. I hope that I have the opportunity to make a lesson like that stick with my kids.

Leigh Ann said...

What an amazing story. I know I am too quick to say something to smooth it over as opposed to real showing my support. What an inspiration.

Jen said...

Wow! What a beautiful story. Such a great example. :)

Katherine said...

My husband and I just received an email with this post attached from our daughter. It said "This is exactly what Mom and Dad would have done!"
My heart is full.

Anna - one of the highlights of my year was having my kitchen re-do posted on Better After and having you compliment it. What a small world it is. Happy Birthday Jack!

Kristin Shaw said...

As a baseball fan and parent, I loved this story. I can't think of a better way to have handled that, and that act of love is so worth reading about. Thank you!