Code Word

“Mom, can we play a game?”

That’s usually code word for “Quality time is my favorite love language, but I don’t know about that yet, but I do know that sitting with you for a prolonged period of time is really important to me.” Jacob loves, loves, loves to play board games. I’m sure it’s a mix of the mental strategist in him that loves to have his brain spurred on to challenges and the part of him that yearns for quality time, sitting still in one place with someone. He loves, loves, loves to play games. Faithfully his Daddy sits with him each and every morning before he heads off to work to play a game with him. The days, far and few between, when Daddy needs to leave earlier than 7am and can’t squeeze in the time, there is profound effect on Jacob. His heart yearns for that one-on-one quality time.

But today when he walked up to me and asked “Mom, can we play a game?” I could tell from his eyes that something deeper was going on. I asked him, “Buddy, what’s going on? What’s the matter?” Thankfully he is able to put into words the feelings he has. That is one thing I’m proud of- that our family is being built on the sharing of our thoughts and feelings. He couldn’t come right out with it and needed to first ask if he could have that one-on-one time. But as soon as my eyes locked with his, I could tell he wanted to be known. The worry. The stress. The fear of failure. The fear of being a disappointment. Today marks the first day he will pitch in his AA baseball game. The coach gave him the heads-up that in today’s game at some point he’ll put him on the mound. Wow. In watching this season unfold, I’ve seen more than ever before how much of baseball is a mental sport. There is a mental toughness athletes need to have to play baseball. You need to be okay having everyone watching you when you’re up at bat…..I mean everyone….every player from both teams, the coaches, the parents in the bleachers….that’s a lot of pressure and focus on one athlete. You need to be able to stand up to that. That takes courage and mental strength- to walk up to that plate and be in the mindset of attacking the ball. And now today he is going to take on the challenge of pitching. Standing there on the mound, trying to focus on the 1,2, 3 steps of pitching. Trying not to let balls or walks or runs affect him. Being able to focus on pitching regardless of things happening or being said. He is hoping with all his might to throw strikes. But chances are that many balls will be thrown. And that’s okay.

We were able to sit down in the living room and talk through all this with him. He had so much buried deep inside: deep, unnerving worries that started messing with his confidence. Worry that he’ll disappoint the coach. Worry that if he doesn’t perform well, he’ll never get another chance to pitch. Worry that he’ll throw a wild ball and injure the batter. Worry that runs will be scored on account of him. Worry that he’ll throw balls and no strikes. Worry that his teammates will be disappointed. So glad we were able to sit with him, hug him and tell him ‘it’s all going to be okay. We are so proud of you for being willing to take on the challenge. We offered to him to let him tell the coach he’s not quite ready yet for that pressure. He said, ‘no, I really want to try.”

In 15 minutes he steps into a world that requires a great deal of bravery and courage and mental toughness. Being on this team is such an incredibly good growing experience for him. Though it makes my mama-heart worry for him, I know this is shaping him to become an even more amazing person. He is learning the skills of intense focus. The skill of being able to tune everything out. The skill to say “no matter what happens, I will continue to persevere”. To realize that even if he doesn’t throw what he wants, there’s always another opportunity. That bravery and courage of his, I am so proud of. So very, very proud of.

I’m so beyond thankful that he could feel all of that welling up within him. He was in touch with his feelings. Perhaps to some that’s not being masculine. But in my book- that’s the best kind of guy in the world! A guy who can be tough and courageous and yet at the same time be able to verbalize his feelings and be well aware of what’s going on in his heart. My stomach is tied up in knots for my boy today. I couldn’t even eat lunch in light of all this. I’m nervous for him and proud of him all in one.

Can’t wait for today’s game to start. 8 minutes and counting.

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