Jack’s coach wrote an email to me a Shani:
“I wanted to check in and make sure Jack’s enjoying himself. The assistant coach and I are coming up with ideas on how to get him that first hit. Once that happens his confidence is going to kick in and he’ll be hitting like crazy. Jack doesn’t seem down about it at all – he’s always so positive and such a good teammate. But I wanted to make sure.”
Obviously, we like this coach a hell of a lot. So this Wednesday we were really hoping Jack would get that first hit. But it was not to be. In fact, our pitchers really struggled, which led to lots of unexpected pitching changes and fielding switches. In the confusion, Jack spent 3 innings on the bench and none playing the infield.
The team lost, and he was sad about that, but other than that he seemed fine. Until bedtime.
Now…just a note. Every night after Jack’s lights are out, he runs a complete physical and emotional diagnostic on himself. He may have seemed fine as he ran around like a lunatic before bedtime, but now that it’s 9:50…
“Can you come up? My leg really hurts.”
“I have a bug bite and it itches soooo bad. I can’t fall asleep.”
“Today I was playing kickball and I got called out, but really I was safe.”
And now he was thinking about the game. And the season. And the lack of hits.
He called Shani up first. I could hear them talking. Shani’s chipper compliments and Jack’s sulky retorts. I couldn’t hear the words, but I didn’t need to.
This went on for a while. Then Shani tagged out and called me in.
“What’s up, Jack?”
“I can’t get a hit.”
It was all piling down around him. He could keep upbeat through a few games, but after 5-6 tries and still no hits, he couldn’t hold off the gloom any longer. There were tears. He was down on himself. Baseball is his favorite thing; it’s central to his identity and how he thinks of himself. It’s his place in the world.
I take a different approach than Shani. She lays on the compliments in a wave of cheeriness and warmth as thick as frosting. She’ll point out the things he does well. She’ll tell him to hang in there and it will happen. I try to be the pragmatic voice of reality. I suggest he practice more. I point out that the pitchers are more accurate, so he’s got to stop trying to draw walks and swing away.
But really, it doesn’t matter what you say. He can overcome any objection you throw at him.
Objection: “You walked in the first inning and scored.”
Rebuttal: “So…that pitcher was terrible.”
Objection: “You played that line drive in the 4th inning perfectly. That saved a run.”
Rebuttal: “We still lost. Plus I was on the bench half the game.”
Objection: “You cured cancer.”
Rebuttal: “Who cares. It’s not like people aren’t still dying on dengue fever.”
He needs both Shani and I. I took a management class where they said you have to be both nurturing and demanding. So together Shani and I hit both of these things.
NOW…to not end on a sad note. I will point out that the Science Olympiad was this Saturday. Jack was part of the team representing his school. The final event was water rocket launching. This is where you build a rocket out of coke bottles and launch it into the air with a water pump. Jack and two of his friends were our school’s water rocket team.
The competition is for which rocket stays in the air longest. So you put a parachute on your rocket. But these things are a bitch to get right. Out in the field we watched rocket after rocket fire high into the air, and then plummet down just as quickly. In the first round, out of 18 teams, only 2 parachutes actually deployed. Jack’s group went last and like most of the others, the parachute failed.
Come the second and final round, their rocket went launching into the air, turned to head for the ground…POP!
You would have thought someone hit the pause button. The parachute spread perfectly and the rocket froze in mid-air. Then it started drifting slowly…slowly…downwards.
Suddenly our section of the bleachers was emptying. Jack’s entire team of 25 kids took off in a mad, joyous rush out of their seats and charged across the field after the rocket. After a long, graceful descent the rocket landed in, of all places, a baseball field. Jack bound over the fence, grabbed the rocket and leapt victoriously into the crowd of screaming teammates.