Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Shine Where You Are

My children will attest to the fact that I'm one of those mothers who is not short on words. I'm not one to sit back and allow life to occur or choices to be made without sharing how I feel about it. It's one of those things I'd kind of like to change about myself. I mean, I would love to say that most of what spills out of my mouth is golden words of wisdom, but let's face it--it's not. I think it might be more easily described as annoying than inspired, but I just can't seem to refrain from sharing my feelings when the people involved are ones I care about so darn much. I'm sure my children roll their eyes when I'm not looking, but then again, I can't help but think that some day something I say will ring in their hearts and minds and help them through something difficult.

The only problem is I often wonder if my kids get it--if they even begin to understand what it is I'm tyring to teach them or what point I'm trying to make. My guess is . . . maybe not. But then again, maybe they understand more than I think. For instance . . .

For the first time ever, Nate has been playing on a competitive 10-U baseball team the past six months. It's been a lot of things--demanding, exhausting, fun, involved--and more. Definitely a learning experience. As is common with many kids in many sports, Nate really wanted to be a pitcher (ugh! I just have to add that his mother really isn't crazy about the idea for many reasons, one being the pressure that is put on pitchers--not really looking for that for my son) since pitchers play such a major role on a team and are very involved in every play.

Here is a picture of his baseball team, the Davis Dawgs, after they won second place in the state tournament. I just have to say, these are the cutest darn bunch of 10-year-old boys I think I've ever seen.:) Nate is one the back row, third one from the left. His coach has his arm on his shoulder.

Instead, he's a center-fielder. Not very exciting. I have seen him some games making extraneous effort simply to stay focused and ready since some games the ball doesn't fly out there all that often.

Okay, so it's not this bad, but you get the picture. Center field is not where the heat of the action usually is. But pitching, on the other hand, pitching is right in the middle of it all.

So, Nate has worked and worked at becoming a better pitcher. He begs his dad to go out with him and catch for him every spare second he can, and he's even been desperate enough to wrangle me in to catching for him. In fact, a couple of months ago I asked him where he wanted to go and what he wanted to do for a date, and guess what he said? Go to the park where he could practice pitching to me (just what every mom wants to do, right?). We ended the date by getting Krispy Kreme donuts after watching a baseball team play for a while. We didn't know anyone on either team, but after my arm wore out from catching his pitches, that was his next choice. I mean, this kid is very self-motivated. He isn't afraid of hard work.

That's why it broke my heart when he came to me one night and in tears explained to me that he really wanted to pitch and he didn't feel his coaches were giving him a fair shot.

Whew! What to say. Another difficult parenting moment. I'm telling you, they are popping up everywhere, and I've learned sports brings them up even earlier and more often. Anyway, I wanted to give him sound advice, to empathize with his frustrations without blaming the coaches, to help him see the bigger picture. So, I of course, after offering a quick silent prayer for inspiration, started trying to help him understand that his worth on his baseball team wasn't less than someone else's just because the other kid pitches and he doesn't. I pointed out how fast he is and what a good base runner he is. I explained to him how important the center-fielder is as he is sort of the captain of the outfield. I reminded him how good his arm is and how many times he's made great plays from the outfield to get someone out on first base or at home.

This is Nate running the bases. He doesn't look like Speedy Gonzalez in this picture, but I'm telling you, the kid's got wheels.

Had to throw a picture of Nate batting in. He's pretty good at that, too.

Finally, I said something like, "Nate, have you ever considered that maybe one of the reasons your coaches don't use you as a pitcher is because you are so valuable as a center-fielder?" He paused to consider my question, so I took this as a sign to continue. "I mean, there are a number of kids on the team who can pitch well--even better than you can--but I've only seen one who plays center field like an all-star, and that's you. I know you'd like to be more a part of the action, but what matters more is that you perform the best you can where you are every time the ball comes your way. It's not so much where you play as how you play." I finished with this, "You just have to shine where you are, son."

He seemed to be comforted a bit by my words, although not completely satisfied. I knew it would not keep him from still practicing his pitching every chance he got, but he seemed to grasp what I was trying to say. I didn't think a whole lot more about it until about a month later.

Dan and I were riding with Nate to one of his baseball games when Dan turned to me and told me that he had been informed at work that day that he was not going to be considered for a new position, a promotion, he had applied for. It was obvious as Dan talked that he was disappointed with the news, and so, I of course, was trying to comfort him and reassure him of his worth as an employee there. Then, out of the blue, this came from Nate in the back seat:

"Dad, maybe it's like me with baseball. Maybe you are so good at what you do that they can't give you a new job because they can't find someone else to do yours as well as you do it. You just need to shine where you are, Dad."

Tears immediately stung my eyes. My 10-year-old had found the perfect thing to say, and even more importantly, he had learned something valuable and passed that knowledge and experience on to someone he loved. It was kind of a sacred moment.

He got it! He actually got it! Those words kept repeating in my head, and I found myself grateful, as I have been too many times to count over the years, for the inspiration I had been given to help Nate through a disappointing time. And then to witness him turn around and share what he learned with someone else--even his dad--was just a moment of pure joy and satisfaction to me.

And so, although I still say way too much way too often, I'm truly grateful for the inspiration that comes to moms when they really need it, and I need it almost daily. And I've decided to take the same advice I gave and shine where I am! After all, I may not be everything I hope to be, but I'm still valuable, and I just have to look at Nate to remember that!