heavy balls (and the young people who sling them)

“I defend my family with my orange umbrella
I’m afraid of everyone, I’m afraid of everyone
With my shiny new star spangled tennis shoes on
I’m afraid of everyone, I’m afraid of everyone
With my kid on my shoulders I try
Not to hurt anybody I like” – Afraid of Everyone, The National

 

I don’t do conflict or deal with massive change very well. Huge understatement at times. I was ruminating on this today as I thought back on what my eldest progeny did last night. His siblings and I hightailed it to Proviso West, a school I once played football at in a visiting role, right after school to see big brother compete in a track meet. My eldest shot up big time when it was time for him to do so and now towers above me at over 6 feet tall. It’s messed up. He is, to put it lightly, not a runner. We trekked to this high school field house to watch him hoist a heavy ball betwixt cheek and shoulder three times and hurl it forward as far as possible. He is on the frosh/soph shot put team.

He surprised us last summer by returning to the baseball field for the first time in a few years. He wanted to play a season just before he entered high school as a freshman. He was in an entirely new body and rusty and was never the most graceful fork in the drawer but I loved watching him and he exceeded our understandably conservative expectations by miles. Mostly, though, he had fun being a kid. He LOVES baseball. And politics. And science. And video games. And lots of subculture and memes and weird things even I don’t fully comprehend. As the oldest he has stepped into the role of part time caretaker with grace and calm and pride. When I’m too tired to end a backseat civil war between the little guys he simply, sternly, and lovingly says one of their names and they stop out of respect. His 6 year old sister tells him she loves him when he leaves the house. He took it upon himself to help his mom and I a while back and I’ve yet to hear him complain about the now expected roles of responsibility he has assumed.

It was with confidence beyond his years, and probably skill level, that he tried out recently for his high school baseball team after only playing like 12 games in the past 3-4 years. And it was with heartbreaking admirable maturity that he accepted the dejection of not making it. With the track and field season dwindling down he was asked to join the shot put team and suddenly it was a thing. With only 3 practices under his belt at a completely new sport competing on a team with completely new kids my boy had the guts to say, “Ok, I’ll just do that now.” At the socially precarious age of freshman in high school! And, because ego, I looked at the guy who helped make him (me) and wondered where it came from. The courage. Then I remembered going to 3 different high schools in 2 different states and making friends and meeting girls and playing sports and being my weird old self the whole time. I’ve definitely exposed him those braggart musings ever since he could listen so it’s neat to see things that stick, even if accidentally, over the years. That said, my boy is very much his own human being. I am glad for what little positive influence that I may have had but there is very little in him I can take credit for. I love watching my kids do anything. Time is fleeting. Relentless velocity. Ugh.

So then I wonder when I went from that brave little freak to this puddle of emotion who would do almost anything to avoid waves. I can count on one hand the people from then til now that I actually want to, or have wanted to, confront with zero trepidation or remorse, and still have fingers left to to both show those people what I think of them with one finger and peace sign everything else. When my boat gets rocked I scream like an infant in search of flotation devices and soothing reassurance. Maybe there’s more to lose after your inner Holden Caulfield relents to society? But I know and have witnessed people unafraid to cause a scene over waiting 4 minutes on a Saturday for a wine list. I feel uncomfy watching them stand up for their rights, even if I’m not in their party!

What I know is if I figure out where why or how I lost that unabashed bravado, I will let my oldest guy know so he can avoid feeling like his world controls him instead of the other way around. Because I know he pays attention, decides which parts of his surroundings he wants to adapt as his own, and forges his own path. Even when he’s not sure where it’s headed. He trusts what he wants and tries to make it happen and if he can’t he simply resets, finds something else, and does that. This proud dad’s hope is that this is where our paths diverge and he can continue this youthful ability to keep his world, his. Maybe one day, I’ll learn how to do the same from him.

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4 thoughts on “heavy balls (and the young people who sling them)

  1. Proud daddy, and so you should be! Your single sentence sums says it all: “I love watching my kids do anything.”

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  2. I think sometimes the same thing, believe it or not, I try to avoid the waves too. Maybe it’s the older we get, the less brave we get. That’s how I feel anyone. I bet it’s like with our students; we learn just as much from them, as they learn from us. Life is weird that way!

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