Raising Good Sports
If there is such as thing as a sports gene, I don't have it. I have never played organized sports or event took much interest in them. Still, as a single mother of two boys entering their prime sports years, I felt I should do my best to introduce my sons to this seemingly universal male fascination. I know it's a stereotype, but I assumed all boys were supposed to be sports fanatics. They were supposed to be consumed with the desire to throw and chase various-size balls across various-shaped fields. The trouble was, as far as I could tell, my sons were not.
As any modern parent would, I blamed myself. It must have something to do with the absence of an adult male perspective in our household, I reasoned. I began to worry that my boys were missing out on some fundamental knowledge that fathers have passed on to their sons through the millennia. Even more foolishly, I then set out to provide them with that knowledge. Although I didn't know a shortstop from a tight end, I encouraged my boys to play ball and to sign up for organized teams. My sons, however, were too busy hammering together their latest invention or digging another hole trap for unsuspecting friend -- typical boy activities to be sure, but no sports.
Last spring, I had a breakthrough. I was finally able to persuade my older son, Paul, then age 11, to play Little League baseball. Never a fast mover, Paul had always appreciated more relaxed pastimes: chess, horseshoes, and, thanks to my weekly stitching club, crocheting. Horseshoes not being offered by the local recreation center, I thought baseball -- which seems to entail a lot of stnading around waiting -- would be just the thing.
At his first game, I watched with growing anxiety as Paul, playing first base, drifted into a daydream as batter after skinny little batter tried in vain to get a hit. By the time a ball finally came his way, he was in another world completely, and the throw flew right by him. After this scene was repeated in subsequent games, paul ended up spedning a lot of time in the dugout. gentle soul that he is, Paul didn't complain. Instead, he brought his crocheting to work on.
Looking back now, I probably should have said something. Because as soon as Coach Flaherty saw the afghan-in-progress, he told Paul to put it away. I believe he said crocheting in a dugout was unsafe. The very fact that I would have called it resourceful made me realize how far I had to go as a sports mentor.
I suppose all this should have been a sign that my sons were going to have an unusual relationship with sports. Indeed, we soon discovered hat Paul's special baseball skill was something he did off the field. At the end of the season, the boys were asked to sell raffle tickets to raise money for the team. Every day after school for two weeks, Paul hit the pavement. When the fund-raiser was over, he had outsold all his teammates and won four tickets to Fenway Park in Boston to see the Red Sox play. To him, it was as sweet as hitting a grand slam.
Paul and his brother, Andrew, had been to a couple of baseball games with their 12-year-old cousin, Anthony -- the type of kid who sleeps with his baseball glove on -- but this was my first game. Driving into the city, I listened to the cousins talk about the teams playing that night. What amazed me was how much my boys knew. Players' names, strengths, and statistics rolled off their tongues with ease. Did I miss something? Here I was feeling guilty about not being man enough to pass on the mysterious ways of sports, and Paul and Andrew didn't seem to need me at all.