This past weekend was one of the biggest of our small town’s year – Baseball Opening Day.
Each team’s players and coaches pile into pickup truck beds and, following a police-car-and-fire-truck escort, parade down the main drag of Hoopeston, Ill., which is lined with parents, grandparents and siblings who wave, cheer and snap photos as they pass.
Teams are introduced as they file onto the minor league field for the singing of the National Anthem; the presentation of flags by the American Legion; and the ceremonial first pitch being thrown by the top fundraiser salesman.
The remainder of the day is filled with the first matchups of the season, with every team playing its first game of the year.
This is the sixth year for Waylon, our almost-10-year-old, to play the game. We’re entering our third year of watching our almost-7-year old, Nolan, take the field.
What I’ve come to realize? Whether it’s a sporting event, a band performance, or a cattle show – when my child is performing, I’m a bundle of nerves.
On the exterior, I try to appear calm and confident for the kids. A steady support system. But on the inside? I wanna’ vomit. Or run and hide. Or both.
I was never like this when I competed as a child. Not even close.
So what in the world is that all about!?
We always tell the kids – no matter the event – if we can see they’re doing their best, we will be proud. We will only be disappointed if we believe they’re not giving it their all. And we mean it. Truly.
But, I won’t lie. I hold my breath with each pitch thrown to my batting child. I cover my eyes, more often than I’d care to admit, when a pop fly or grounder heads toward my son’s glove.
Maybe it’s because Craig and I, admittedly, weren’t exactly known for our athletic ability when we were kids.
As a 6’2” adult, I was often asked in my younger days if I played basketball or volleyball.
But I just didn’t have an ounce of athleticism within me. I apologized when I fouled an opponent in basketball (no really – I did). I prayed I would be walked when I was up to bat in softball. And I wished above all wishes that the volleyball would be spiked to ANYONE but me on the volleyball court.
Somehow, though, I want more for my kids. Am I trying to live through their experiences? Or do I just want to see my children succeed? I wish I could give a 100% confident answer.
One thing I do know with confidence: I’m not alone.
We’ve all seen “those parents.” The ones who lose their reasoning as they watch their kids on the field or in the show ring. Yelling at their son to hit that ball – or else. Gesturing for their daughter to get that calf’s head up or that foot back. Chances are, we’ve probably been “that parent” a time or two, ourselves.
But I’m willing to bet that many (all?) of us are that Nervous Nellie on the interior – maybe not even saying a word or wiping a brow from anxiety, outwardly.
It takes a conscious effort to remind myself – often several times throughout a game or a show – that we’re in this for more than the ribbon or the baseball championship title.
We’re in it for the life lessons being developed.
Ten years down the road, will we remember the score of the game played on that random Tuesday night in May? Heavens no. I may not even be able to tell you by the end of the week.
Will we remember how that spring yearling heifer placed at that small-town preview show? Maybe. Maybe not.
But what we will stand out most to us, as parents? And – most importantly – what will our children remember when they look back on this time in their lives?
Hopefully, it’s the friendships formed. That laughter and camaraderie between teammates, 4-H club members, and state and national breed association friends. The value of hard work, and seeing a goal through to the end. Winning and losing with grace and humility.
Life skills that will carry them through their lifelong relationships and careers.
That’s the important stuff.
So, if you see me gnawing on my fingernails at the ball field or show ring, I give you permission to remind me of what’s really important.
And tell me to quit biting my nails, too, while you’re at it. It’s a nasty habit. And I need to quit.