I cringed as I watched the dad before me.
His son was up to bat, and his hands gripped the fence tightly in front of him. We had already observed his antics the previous time Micah* came to the plate, his yelling and the look of disgust over his face when his son propelled his entire body toward the ball, bat still, instead of just swinging.
You know the type. The dad who feels his son’s performance is a reflection of himself, even if we all are only watching a T-ball game full of five-year-olds.
So when this dad moved forward to watch Micah attempt to hit the ball, I cringed in anticipation of how he might react.
I wasn’t disappointed.
Micah surprisingly hit the ball off the tee, and we cheered in excitement. After all, the team rallied, and we were only a couple of runs behind. We could actually tie this game up.
But this little boy didn’t seem to understand the weight of his hit. No, instead of running to base, Micah decided to swing his arms around like he was a helicopter, bob his head from side to side, and kick up his legs slowly as he lolligagged over to base.
Everyone in the stands was laughing. Everyone, that is, except for Micah’s dad. The dad yelled through the fence, “RUN, MICAH! RUN!” And then he turned away in frustration when his son was thrown out by a mile (which rarely happens in T-ball).
I wished the dad could lighten up. I wished he could realize these kids are little; who cares if they don’t take the game seriously? Nobody thought he had failed as a father because his son stunk at T-ball. There would be plenty of time for truly competitive sports later.
I’m not sure if this father had any realizations that day, but I surprised myself with my own a few hours later in the car. I shared it that night as Matt and I met in the bathroom getting ready for bed.
“You know,” I said, “I really didn’t like how Micah’s dad yelled at him during the game. I’m sure he made Micah nervous.”
“Oh, I didn’t notice.”
“Really? I thought he was pretty obnoxious. I’m surprised you didn’t hear him.”
Matt had served as the on-deck coach that game, so he was preoccupied. But now knowing that he hadn’t even noticed Micah’s dad made me doubt what I observed a little.
“Well, anyway, he really bothered me…but I have to admit…I kind of wanted to yell, too.”
Matt and I laughed, and at almost the same time, we both yelled out versions of “Just RUN, Micah!”
Because it’s true. My mind was thinking almost everything Micah’s dad’s mouth was saying. Perhaps knowing my own thoughts is the reason I had such disdain for him. And while I didn’t and still don’t agree with how this particular dad reacted, I felt like a hypocrite for having this disdain. After all, my thoughts weren’t any better; I just happened to keep them to myself.
During my drive in the car I thought about the different times in my life when I had acted the right way but not thought the right way. The times when I didn’t gossip but hid judgmental thoughts in my heart. The times when I didn’t complain at work but criticized my boss over and over in my head. And the times when I cringed at parents who couldn’t relax knowing that I, too, would’ve felt a little embarrassed if my kid rounded the bases like a helicopter.
I know the right way to act, and, most times, I choose the right behavior. I just don’t always choose the right way to think.
After my drive in the car, I was reminded of the fact that I have been reminded of before: I have a long way to go. I don’t want just pure behavior; I want pure thoughts. When I laugh at little kids on the ball field acting like helicopters, I don’t want thoughts of “Geez, Louise, kid! Just run!” interfering. I don’t want critical thoughts filling up space in my mind (I need those spaces for memory!). I want to be good and think good, too.
So, please, Micah. Help me out. I have a long way to go as a person, and you have a long way to go as a ball player. Can we meet in the middle? How about a nice jog to first base next time? I promise I’ll only think good thoughts about you.
*The name of this little ball player has been changed to protect the innocent.
Can anyone relate to my problem, or am I just evil?