Several weeks ago, just as basketball was ending, we were already talking about starting baseball. I assumed Toby would play, because I assumed he enjoyed it. The grandpa of one of his teammates said, repeatedly, that he really wanted Toby to play baseball for him, that he would be coaching this year, and he thought Toby could be not just good, but great. I secretly hoped that Toby could be a great baseball player, but I didn’t want to be unrealistic or set him with unreachable expectations, and so I signed him up to play. I don’t even remember if I asked him if he actually wanted to. At any rate, the first practice came along, and he refused to go. He was really upset, and he wouldn’t tell me why he didn’t want to play. Since I had already paid the fee, I kept pressing him to tell me why he didn’t want to play anymore. He finally said, “I suck at sports, every team I’m ever on always loses, and it’s all because of me.”
My heart broke for him, and I wanted to wrap him up in a big blanket and fix everything. I know that failure is inevitable, but I hated that he blamed himself for games that were neither won nor lost by just one person. I tried to explain to him that an entire team is responsible for both wins and losses. I told him that he was a good first base-man, and that I wasn’t just saying that because I am his mother. I tried just about everything I could think of to coax him out of his funk, but he was so worked up, he was in no mood to be coaxed. Then *I* started to cry, because all I could think was that I has screwed up my job as a mom, if this was how he felt about himself. It was a big ol’ weepfest.
Finally, we both calmed down, and I asked Toby if he would at least go to one practice, and if he still didn’t like it, I promised I wouldn’t make him go ever again. He said he would try. The happy ending is that he had fun at practice, and he remembered that he actually did like baseball. The unhappy ending is that even though I am convinced that I did the right thing by making him try one more time, my heart still hurts for him. I don’t subscribe to the belief that we need to coddle our children, always telling them “yes” and “no, of course it isn’t your fault”, because if they don’t learn how to deal with failure or learn to take responsibility for their actions now, then they will get an extremely rude awakening when they leave home and enter the “real” world. I can’t help but think, though, that I must have messed up somewhere along the line, because a 10 year old kid should not be blaming himself for every loss, ever. It seems like parenting is mostly trial and error, and hopefully, I’m getting the important things right.