Proud

tryouts

I have said before, and I will say again, that demonstrations of independence, bravery, and kindness by my children make me prouder than conventional achievement.  Recently I have had an opportunity to see Whit in particular wade into these waters past where he is comfortable.  It has been both nerve-wracking and fabulous to watch him swim.

A few weekends ago, I took Whit to baseball tryouts.  Little league tryouts.  I live in a famously liberal town.  Whit has never played baseball before in his life.  Never.  Both of us were entirely, absolutely unprepared for what we encountered in that school gym.  The boys had numbers pinned to their backs and went through their paces, one a time.  Sprinting.  Catching.  Throwing.  Batting.  All while a lineup of adult men – the coaches of the various teams – watched, scribbling notes on clipboards as they did so.  I looked around, bewildered, wondering if I’d mistakenly stumbled into spring training.

As Whit stood in line to do his timed sprint, the first of the various drills, I caught his eye across the gym.  He looked somewhere between terrified and mortified.  My stomach twisted.  For an hour and a half I watched him in the various activities, feeling relief and anxiety rise and fall like tides inside of me.

There was no complaining, there was no posturing, there was no giving up.  He just found himself in an unfamiliar and intimidating situation, put his head down, and did his best.

Tryouts reminded me of this fall, when, after an uncomfortable encounter with our head of school, Whit walked into the gate the next morning, looked her in the eye, and said, “Good morning.”  He did it again the next day.  And the next.  And each morning, walking next to him, I was pierced with both powerful pride and an intense awareness of how much that eye contact and “good morning” took from him.  And for many days I told him how I felt when I tucked him in.  He looked at me, eyes gleaming in the dim light of his room, and I could tell that he felt acknowledged.  That he felt seen.

These experiences remind me of some of my dearest wishes for my son:

May he always look life in the eye and not flinch.  May he always welcome what is to come with open arms.  May he know that to do the best he can is all there is.  May he not shy away from trying, even when he doesn’t know if he will succeed.

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14 Comments

  1. Posted March 28, 2013 at 5:26 am | Permalink

    a professional player once said: “baseball is a game of failure.” my son plays baseball, and each time he takes the field, stands on the mound, or gets into the batter’s box, my whole front body contracts with deep anxiety. i have learned so much about myself by witnessing his courage, grace, and tenacity. in the brené brown tradition, he dares greatly, my shame is often triggered, and my awe, respect and gratitude abound. hope whit enjoys the season.

  2. Posted March 28, 2013 at 6:11 am | Permalink

    So lovely. Trying out and the possibility of failure are things I have never been good at, which stems from a string of early successes that I was then afraid to break. So silly but true. It’s great that you have been able to install fortitude in your son. I hope i can do the same.

    admin Reply:

    I hope it continues to be the case that he has courage – we will see!! xo

  3. Kristin H. Macomber
    Posted March 28, 2013 at 7:35 am | Permalink

    Oh, oh, oh. Flashbacks. My big guy also tried out for little league at age 8, never having done t-ball or any of that. The good news is that 8 year olds are primed to catch up with most of their pre-coached buddies in short order. Like kids who start piano at 4 and those who start at 8; the eight-year-old can cover a lot of ground in a short time.

    And yes, while baseball is a game of failure, it’s also a place where you can go down swinging seven times out of ten and be considered a great hitter. It is such a curious blend of team effort and individual spotlight. Also a bit like piloting a 747; hours of no sweat punctuated by moments of sharp focus…failure, yes, often, and complete joy, every now and then.

    I went into the whole little league realm with lots of angst, having never had a child in any organized sport. And now, every time I drive by Tobin Field, even in winter, I remember those little league days as a sweet interlude in our lives.

    So get yourself a glove, and have a game of catch with Whit after dinner. Moms are as good at throwing pop-ups as anyone, and trust me, and it takes some practice to get good at those.

    admin Reply:

    I will take your advice and try to throw him the ball! xo

  4. Hilary Mead
    Posted March 28, 2013 at 7:36 am | Permalink

    Those pictures are amazing. Whit is the man!

  5. Kathie
    Posted March 28, 2013 at 8:37 am | Permalink

    Oh Lindsey! I know exactly how you feel. Watching my son at his first lacrosse team practice this year had my stomach in knots. He is in a different league now and many of the boys are bigger, and everything is more intimidating. I watched him get knocked down flat and get back up again, clearly hurting, but trying to be brave. After pracrice, the boy who knocked him down came over (the two of them are classmates) and put his hand on Sam’s shoulder and apologized for knocking him so hard. It was such a nice moment! I was so proud of how he handled getting back up to play. And frankly I was proud of the boy too for coming over to Sam after practice.

    admin Reply:

    Oh, what a thing to watch. I’m proud of him just reading that! (and I don’t think I’d connected that your son’s name is Sam – that’s Whit’s first name). xo

  6. Colleen
    Posted March 28, 2013 at 10:47 am | Permalink

    Amazing and wonderful. THANK YOU!! I wanna give Whit a big hug!

  7. Posted March 28, 2013 at 11:03 am | Permalink

    Tears. And so touched by Whit’s tenacity and your lovely acknowledgement of his innate skill. (And I did a double-take with that last photo–#34 could be Henry.)

    xo

  8. Posted March 28, 2013 at 11:16 am | Permalink

    I am not tenacious, and I tend to cave rather than fight. I wish better for my daughters. It sounds like you’ve set a wonderful foundation for Whit.

  9. Posted March 28, 2013 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

    What a beautiful story this is. Someday I expect this will be our kid, and I’m bracing myself for it already…!

  10. Posted March 28, 2013 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

    The idea of those try-outs makes me a little sick to my stomach – both for the growing professionalization of childhood sports and the helplessness I feel at all of the tests that my kids will face alone in the coming years. (More and more I find myself thinking about how much harder things are going to get when I’m not overseeing most of their encounters.) Good for you for setting such a good example for your beautiful boy and for letting him flap his own wings. xo

  11. Posted March 28, 2013 at 7:18 pm | Permalink

    Yes, this kind of achievement means so much more. Last spring my (straight A, introverted, bookish) daughter tried out for cheerleading, mostly to support a friend who wanted to try out. At first that was her only reason, but the reactions from friends (and, horribly, some family members)–which was generally, why are *you* trying out?–steeled some kind of resolve in her.

    She made the squad, and became determined to continue stretching herself as she made the transition to high school this year. She took a speech class (she hates public speaking) and joined the debate team. She joined the robotics team, where the very few other girls others dismissed her because she’s a cheerleader. I am so proud of her, and in awe of a strength I never possessed at her age.

  12. Gloria
    Posted March 29, 2013 at 1:18 am | Permalink

    I love this! Love it. I am a teary proud god mama!

  13. John Russell
    Posted March 29, 2013 at 4:21 am | Permalink

    His Great grandfather often said ” you never have to worry about falling down if your sitting on your butt all the time”

  14. Posted April 10, 2013 at 6:44 pm | Permalink

    This is an amazing, inspiring post, and such a testament to the values you’ve conveyed to your kids as a mom. Can you come live at my house for awhile??!!

    admin Reply:

    Oh, Lisa – what a nice thing to say. Thank you. Often feels like I’m slogging through mud, so I’m grateful for your positive interpretation 🙂 xox