Yesterday I went with Joey to his baseball practice. It was an extra Saturday practice where the parents and siblings played a scrimmage game with the boys on the team. Normally, Jay takes Joey to baseball--I don't have much to do with this particular extra curricular activity. But since Jay was busy hauling pea gravel to our play area all weekend, I agreed to take part in this scrimmage game so he could keep on with his work.
I wasn't too worried, even though it had been at least 15 years since I had played any form of baseball. After all, I've seen the Quartz Hill Angels play (I do go to the games) and I felt I could hold my own against this troop of 7 and 8 year olds. I mean, the pitcher barely comes up to my waist, how bad could it be?
In considering this, I forgot two important details. First, I gave birth just over two weeks ago and was pregnant for a long nine months before that. Second, I broke my wrist a year ago and it doesn't move like it used to. At all. Needless to say, the Angel's kicked my sorry rear...and it was REALLY sorry after running the bases only one time (yee haw, I got a hit, but it wasn't worth it!). Not one play was made at 2nd base since I was completely unable to turn my glove around to catch a ball. But the boys weren't interested in my pathetic physical excuses. They just thought I was naturally terrible. And I suppose that's OK.
But none of this was the point of this post anyway. What I really want to comment on is how great I thought his two coaches were yesterday.
When we lived in Northern California I took Joey to baseball more often because Jay traveled so much. I thought his coaches and team there were wonderful too. They were so kind to the boys and supportive, even when they played terribly. It was a good, positive experience for Joey and, although his baseball skills didn't improve tremendously, his confidence was good, which was much more important to me anyway.
We now live in a much less PC area. The crunchy granola undertones of Northern CA have been replaced with a bit more raw reality. For the most part, I like this, and I especially like how it translates into baseball practice. Now, don't get me wrong. These coaches love and support the boys too. They give them lots of praise when they do something well. But they also give them the straight scoop and tell them when they are messing up. There is no sugar coating, no beating around the bush. It is a good old fashioned "What the HELL was that?!" when they miss a ball they should have caught or throw to the wrong base. They follow up with an actionable correction to whatever went wrong instead of ignoring it or saying "it's OK, you're doing fine." And you know what? The boys are really improving! (And they don't seem emotionally scarred yet, either.)
I have been thinking about how this translates into the virtue of humility, which I so want to instill in my children (not to mention myself!). The best definition I have heard of humility is: "the ability to see things as they really are". I consider this often. We are humble if we can see clearly where we need to improve but also where our true strengths are. It is different from false humility, which is downplaying our strengths to appear modest, and it is also different from blindly stumbling through life believing we good enough as we are and we don't have to work too hard to be better since everything is all OK and just fine as it naturally is.
True humility, for a seven or eight year old playing baseball, is understanding that he might not be the best one on the team. That not everyone has equal skills. That he might have to bust his gut playing catch with dad in the backyard if he wants to be as good as the guy playing first base. It also might mean knowing that he actually is the best one on the team and learning how to handle this in a way that is not prideful and doesn't isolate his teammates. Humility is accepting that sometimes there is only one MVP and not everyone earns a trophy.
This is real life. Sometimes it's harsh. Sometimes we're not good at something we really want to be good at. Sometimes things don't turn out as we want them to. We naturally want to protect our children from this reality as long as we can, but if we protect them too long, do we risk the development of their character?
I, for one, am glad to see a little humility getting doled out on the baseball diamond...because he already has his mother to tell him that he's wonderful, pretty much no matter what he does.