My eight-year-old, like probably every eight-year-old, wants to be a professional baseball player when he grows up.
While his chances are slim to none, he's definitely pursuing his passion. He's been throwing a ball since he could crawl; swinging a bat since he could walk. It's hard to find a photo of him as a toddler where he isn't in a batting stance at his tee.
(Photo: Fatcamera via Getty Images)
He plays catch whenever he can, dresses in a Blue Jays T-shirt every day of the year, and this year he made a triple-A baseball team. It was the highlight of his life to date and he can hardly believe his good fortune.
I can't tell you the number of times I've had to tell and re-tell him the story of what the coach said to me when he recruited my son to his team.
"He said you have a great swing and he'd love for you to join his team," I've told my son over and over. "I was so excited I could hardly believe my ears and I called Daddy right away to tell him the news."
My son's cheeks burn with pleasure and you can see him wanting to burst right out of his baseball jersey with pride.
Your goal should be to be a most improved player, not the best.
But the season opener is next week, and suddenly he is plagued with doubt.
"Do you think I'll be good this year?" he asked his brother this morning.
Josh gave him a long explanation of how he didn't know and he's not sure how everyone else plays so it's hard to compare. It wasn't helpful.
Then Ari shuffled into the kitchen to consult me. "Mommy, will you be proud of me if I hit a home run?" Ari asked me.
"Ari, I will be proud of you if you get a single. I'll be proud of you if you try hard and have fun," I told him. I could see he was struggling with opening game jitters.
"Do you think the coach regrets putting me on the team?" he asked.
(Photo: Prairerattler via Getty Images)
"Of course not! Every player earned their spot. The coach knows talent when he sees it, so you deserve to be there," I told him. "But your job is to try your best and learn. Your job isn't to be the best. Nobody is the best. They want kids on the team who have good sportsmanship and who want to improve. Your goal should be to be a most improved player, not the best."
I was hoping this would help take the pressure off and put him at ease. But I could totally identify with his feelings. How many times have I written an article and wondered if it was good enough? Worried about what people would think? How many times have I applied for a job or entered a relationship and wondered if I was good enough? I've been working on a novel and some children's manuscripts and every rejection I get is like a stab in the heart -- or worse, the smashing of my dreams.
I look at my boys and realize how important it is for me to set an example for them.
I keep on going, collecting rejection letters along the way, because I refuse to give up. Because I refuse to show my kids that it's OK to quit. With every "no" I get, I know that if I keep going, someone will eventually say "yes." I just have to be persistent enough to see the day.
Even if it hurts, even on days I want to quit, I look at my boys and realize how important it is for me to set an example for them. I read them my stories and tell them about my failures. The balk at every "no" and take pride in my accomplishments. Ari is even going to read one of my stories to his class on his Child Reads day. That means more to me than anything.
I'm sure the fact that I play baseball with him and have ordered lawn chairs and coolers for the season means the equivalent to him. We will be cheering him on no matter how he plays. He's there because he's passionate about baseball, not because he's the best. I wouldn't want him to be.
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Send them on a neighborhood scavenger hunt. We hear time and again that kids just don’t play outside like they used to, whiling away the hours exploring their surroundings. Well, give today’s purpose-driven kids a reason to wander about by orchestrating a fun scavenger hunt! Have them track down “treasures” that encourage even more activity, like jump ropes and baseballs tucked away behind community landmarks like the tallest tree.
Assign them to dog walking duty. If your family doesn’t have a dog, see if any neighbours would be up for sharing their Fido time. Playing with a furry friend will be so much fun, your kids won’t even notice how far they’ve walked or how many sprints they’ve logged during an energetic game of fetch.
Set up a fun obstacle course in your basement or backyard. Not sure where to start? Parenting magazine suggests a rousing game of “Wobble Hobble.” Give your kids water balloons to place between their knees, and have them race to a finish line without dropping it. This clever game gets their hearts pumping while boosting their coordination and balance skills at the same time.
Give them a fun new dance or sports-based video game, like Just Dance 2 for Wii or Kinect Sports for the Xbox 360. While active video games can’t replace the benefits kids receive from getting physical outside (like healthy doses of fresh air and vitamin D), they’re certainly an improvement over their sedentary video game counterparts.
Instead of sitting at home eating chips while playing board games or watching movies on family night, try something livelier, like bowling, mini-golf or even a nature hike if the weather is cooperating.
Ditch the car more often, and make it a habit for everyone to walk whenever possible. Between hikes to school, the grocery store and the community center, the whole family will be logging major miles in no time.
Develop their green thumbs. Give your kids some seeds to plot, grow and maintain, either in your backyard or at a nearby community garden, recommends Parenting magazine. All of that digging and planting will have them breaking a sweat before they know it!