Friday, April 26, 2013

Coffee Stains and Setbacks

Yesterday was the final day of baseball try-outs for my oldest son.  There were 47 eligible boys for 13 spots.

As Dad and Mom, we had tried to discourage him from signing up for the team that required try-outs. Auditions are for musicals.  Let's just stick with the league that lets everyone play. Or, (my advice) let's just audition for a musicals.
But this is what he wanted. As much as I want to shield him from all of life's setbacks, I cannot. Better he face a few with his parents close at hand so he knows that we've got his back.

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This was my status update as I waited in the car with the four younger siblings for our trying athlete.  The drama was mine, not my son's; the anxiety of waiting was getting to me.  Between my smart device and the rowdies in the backseat (the van was a-rockin') I should have been diverted from the events on the field.
But I was all too aware of what was occurring out in the windy sunshine.
I snapped the lid off my drive-through coffee, to better slurp up the whipped cream. Carelessly replacing the lid, I flipped the little drink door up and lifted it to my lips.  Coffee seeped out of the Styrofoam and all over my sweatshirt. Oh Sweet Mocha! See what organized sports make me do?
When I saw the herd of boys huddling in the outfield I knew the who-MADE-IT talk was commencing. I gave up trying to distract myself, and watched for the pack to dismiss.  Thanks to my now-stained clothing, I couldn't even get out of my car like the other moms and wait nearer the chain-link fence.
Instead, I warned the clamoring, tactless siblings not to ask or say anything to him about baseball.
He came, running lightly to the car, a small smile on his lips. I let myself hope that he was one of the chosen.

"Well?" He barely had the door open before I asked.
But now I could see that the smile was not only small but very tight; a taut lower lip around clamped teeth. A small shake of his head, "I didn't make it. It's ok. I'll still play city league."
And suddenly I was trying not to hate those 13 other boys.  They're not bad kids; their mothers are my friends. In fact, some of those mothers are my best friends. I can't hate their kids. But in the moment, I was sad for my son and I wanted to be a little angry; I wanted to hate something.
Maybe I just hate baseball.
My son really meant what he said: he is ok. There were no tears, just a bit of silence. He knows that his parents love him immensely no matter what his talents are.  Plus, his brother and sisters (for once) kept their mouths shut and offered no commentary. I looked in the rear-view mirror and saw one of the sisters rest her head on his shoulder.  "We had a strawberry lemonade. We had to share it. And we get to watch Little House on the Prairie when we get home."  Just catching him up on all that he missed in the last hour.  Suddenly everything returned to normal.  Questions about dinner(yes), ice cream (no), and movies (maybe) filled the spaces and soothed out the rough disappointment.
I know that I cannot shelter my children from sadness. To do so would be a disservice to them. How will they grow and experience grace if everything is easy?  Isn't it in difficulties that I have seen the greatest strength of my own life?  Would I deny them that?  This athletic-related drama is a very small distress; life continues. He is ok, and I am ok.
This morning, I don't hate anyone. I'm not even sad or angry or wanting to hate anyone (especially not those other boys). I don't even hate baseball. But until they allow random bursts of singing and dancing in the outfield, I still think musicals are way better.  Way WAY better.

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