My son was two years old the first time I took him to a major league baseball game. He sat still in his seat the entire game, in utter awe. Everything from that day forward was about baseball. He stopped watching cartoons for a period of time and only wanted to watch baseballs on tv, highlights, and clips from the games. He went to preschool every day and would tell his teachers the stats of each players. His teachers were good sports and encouraged his love for the game. I often think about how much easier it would have been to not listen or dismiss his new obsession.
Every day that the weather would allow my son was out in the yard hitting the ball off the tee, playing catch, and running the bases.
We lived and breathed baseball during those toddler years.
When he was four, I took him to Arizona for spring training. I was a single mom at the time and the trip was one I had to save up for, but the looks on his face as he met his favorite players were experiences that I will treasure forever. We enjoyed attending games together. We went to more games than I could possibly count.
So, when the time came that he could sign up for his first year of t-ball, we were all over it! He would sleep in his baseball hat, he loved being on the team so much. I look back on those nights of peeling his dusty hat off after he went to bed and wish I would have just let him wear it. It was so special to him in those moments.
The next four years was nonstop baseball. He played on multiple teams, we went to games, we attended playoff games, we went to a once in a lifetime World Series game, and we visited stadiums around the country. We were having a great time, my son was supported in a sport he was loving, and we were a baseball family.
Over the past two years, maybe when my son turned eight, the game began to change. The need to find a spot on a select team was becoming increasingly evident, the competitiveness to be picked for a spot was overwhelming for me as the parent so you can only imagine the feelings these young kids are feeling, and the cost was increasing. The need to be training and in camps during the off season was prevalent to keep up and maintain your spot on any team. It was becoming too much.
We are talking about 8, 9, 10-year-old kids practicing, training, playing year-round. The game and the ability to hold your position on a team was so competitive at 8 years old.
As the parents in our family, we were dedicated to supporting his dream and passion however we could, but we could see the light dimming.
When my son was ten, he came to me very hesitantly, “Mom, I don’t want to play baseball anymore.”
“Honey, it’s ok. Sometimes our interests change. Sometimes we change. I just want you to be happy,” I assured him.
“I still love baseball. I still want to go to games and see the stadiums, but I don’t want to play anymore,” he explained.
It’s a bittersweet end to a chapter for our family. My heart hurts knowing there is a piece of him that he has outgrown. I’ll miss that little boy who wanted to sleep in his baseball hat.
But he’s not that little boy anymore. He has grown. My heart is happy knowing he is able to advocate for himself and say the things he wants to do and does not want to do. I hope he never loses that ability and always stays true to him.
And as I reflect on our journey to here and the way the sport changed quickly for this age group, I can’t help but wonder, how many other young people feel like this?
How many other young people feel like this, but are forced to keep going or are too afraid they will disappoint their parents so do not say anything?
I watch the light in a lot of kids this age begins to dim as they become aware of the stressors and pressures around them. The need to preform is starting earlier and earlier for these young people and it makes me sad for their childhood. Once the game of baseball began to be more stressful than fun for my son, there was no point in pushing him to keep playing. He is ten. At ten, a child should not be stressed about having a spot on a team.
So how can we do better for our young people?
We have to start honoring them as individuals rather than viewing them as extensions of ourselves. Their wants, needs, passions, and path may be completely different from the one we were hoping for them or saw for them. We have to start coming from a mindset that this is their life, not ours. We are here as a source of love and consistency to guide them and teach them not to control and manipulate them.
Think about the different times throughout your like that you have felt lost or like you did not know who you were. Imagine that is how your child is feeling being pushed to do things that aren’t aligned with who they are. We have the ability to help them find who they are, honor themselves, and know their self-worth.
So, to my son who no longer wants to play baseball,
I cannot wait to see what’s in store for you. May you always stay true to you, and may you always know I will be cheering you on no matter where you go or what you do!
And to every parent that will go through it with their kids,
You got this! Just love them and support them. This is their journey, and what a blessing it is to be along with them watching them grow!