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The Magic of Baseball

Monday, April 19, 2010

My 12 year old son’s baseball season started recently. So, for the last couple of weeks, we’ve been going out back and throwing the ball around almost every day. Just me and him.
He’s decided that this year, he really wants to take pitching seriously, and is willing to put in the time and effort by practicing. I’m his catcher. We take the bases out back, measure off the distance and start throwing. He’s doing great. I think he really has potential. (I know, what mom wouldn't say that, but I'm serious here.) It’s not easy for me to get in the catching position though. I am 43 years old and a little out of shape. But at least I still have my arm.

So he and I go and we throw the baseball. Really throw hard. And we laugh. A lot. About really silly things, like how the way I crouch down to catch his pitches makes my butt stick out.
Will started playing t-ball when he was 5. For those first few years, he would stand in the outfield looking at the clouds and the butterflies. But I couldn’t wait for the day to come when he and I could play catch together, really play catch. It happened two years ago. I was still using my old softball glove from high school. (I am proud to say that I was Co-Captain of my high school varsity softball team.) The leather in the glove was a little thin and I sprained my finger when I caught a ball in the wrong spot. I had to get a new glove.

There’s a parenting metaphor in here somewhere between his changing skill level in baseball and his changing need for his mom. In the beginning, in t-ball, he needed a lot of teaching and patience. He couldn’t do it on his own because he was just starting out, didn’t know how to throw or hit. At home, he also had a very physical need for me, making his dinner, helping him get ready for bed, lots of time spent reading together.

Now, he’s on the cusp of surpassing me with his skills and his physical strength and, of course, his height. In baseball, we’ve become even in many ways. We can both throw the ball hard and accurate. But I can’t pitch. He still needs me on a daily basis but in a different, less physical, way. He needs my guidance, my encouragement and some urging (get your homework done, clean your room, hang your towel up). He wants me to hug and kiss him, but not when I pick him up at school. He can make his own dinner and when he showers and gets ready for bed, he locks the door. Though I still kiss him goodnight and tuck him in when he’s done.
In another year or two, as his skill increases and he goes to high school, I imagine he’ll need me less. He’ll be stronger than me and a better ball player. Hopefully, he’ll still want to play catch. He may even teach me a thing or two. I hope he cleans his room and hangs up his towel without me having to ask. And, by then, I’ll have taught him how to do his own laundry. He’ll still need his mom, but in a more cerebral and emotional way. And that’s okay with me. As long as he still lets me hug and kiss him. Giving our children their independence is probably one of the best things we can do for them.

So, for now, I’ll play catch with him whenever he wants me to. And when he throws the ball so hard that my hand stings, I’ll grin and bear it. And I’ll be happy to be sore in order to spend this kind of time with him. Just the two of us. He thinks it’s cool, and so do I.  He says he doesn’t know any other 43 year old mom with an arm like mine. The time we spend together is better than any words that I could say to him about growing up and becoming a teenager, and it is in these moments I experience pure joy--a feeling I wish I had more of. But pure joy is hard to come by, not with the trials and tribulations of everyday life: viruses, broken wrists, bad days at work, mean girls in fourth grade, a troubled economy. That's the magic of baseball though. If only for short while, it lets us forget everything else.

Jen Cullen is a 40-something pseudo housewife, divorced and re-married with 2 kids, one stepdaughter and no pets. She writes Life’s Dewlaps: Musings From An Underused Brain (http://lifesdewlaps.blogspot.com) where she unburdens herself of the many thoughts in her head. It’s not as ominous as it sounds but she likes to explore random topics ranging from using at-home hair color and playing baseball with her son to taking Milk Thistle to prevent hangovers and using arousal gel.


7 comments email to a friend print this page tags: family   jen cullen   mommy   sports   
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krgreenie wrote:
1) 4/19/2010 12:01:13 PM
I can relate to you wanting to spend time with your son-my child is grown now and I'm only 37 years old. I think I was way, way too young to reproduce because now I realize how much times like the ones you mentioned are so important. When I was younger, all I wanted my daughter to do was to grow up so that I could have my life back....That's a shame and I miss all of the fun we used to have and could have had, if it weren't for my selfishness on wanting my child to grow up too quickly. Now, I'll never have a chance to get those days back, and I regret it. I've wished that she could've come later in my life, when I was more experienced with life and could enjoy the little things with her. It is hard for babies to have babies, for whomever is listening out there. PLEASE WAIT to have children until you are fully capable to enjoy these wonderful experiences with your little loved one. They grow up so fast and before you know it, they are walking out the door to their new life, and there you are left wanting them and praying that they keep in touch and visit you once in a while.
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MaryCherry wrote:
2) 4/19/2010 12:31:45 PM
Aww, touching story. Just what is needed for a stressful Monday.
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kathryn g wrote:
3) 4/19/2010 12:53:33 PM
that is so adorable!
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VampyGirlKris wrote:
4) 4/19/2010 1:51:39 PM
Blogging and being more open about our personal lives seems to have become more and more popular on the internet when it use to be something we turned away from. It's nice to see touching stories like this and many others and find someone you feel you can relate to in a way. Hats off to those, like Jen Cullen, who are brave enough to reach out and see if anybody needs a hand or just some simple insight and a smile.
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jessilu2 wrote:
5) 4/19/2010 2:33:19 PM
This is a great story and very touching. I love baseball, it gives me a sense of freedom and joy that's undescribable. I hope one day my son will grow to like it too.
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elfjunkie242 wrote:
6) 4/19/2010 4:01:50 PM
wow this is a great story. its very touching how they just bond by playing and spending time together.
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WalkingOnRocks wrote:
7) 4/19/2010 7:11:29 PM
I live in Chicago and just started working in downtown Chicago where you bascially walk everywhere!!! It was hard going from driving everywhere to walking.. So sure I wanted to look nice and cute shoes on but oh how I was wrong everyday I put on a pair of cute shoe I paid for it later with my feet!!! One day while doing some shopping I came across these gel foot pad things and I was at the point that I would try thing and I love them.. So ladys I totally understand your pain literally!!!!
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