I called my son into the living room and confirmed that this is what he really wanted. He said it was.
So I hit “send” on a note to his baseball coach to let him know that the season was over for my son. The team still had two games and the playoffs left to go. But No. 42 would not be joining them anymore.
My son’s team, the Plumbers, were in a tight game a few weeks ago on a surprisingly chilly May evening. The boys — 6-, 7- and 8-year-olds, have one of the smaller teams in league: no behemoth second graders, just a group of scrappy little guys. My son stood at the plate. Back elbow up. Knees slightly bent. The other team’s pitchers were wild, already five of our guys had been hit. The bases were loaded. And the pitch came in. It was way inside, and smashed into my son’s hand.
Like his teammates before him, he collapsed into a crying mess. His coach came running over from third base and tried to encourage him as he walked over to first base. He wouldn’t stay out there so they brought in a pinch runner, and I came over to the dugout. He was inconsolable.
I was sure he’d be good to go by the next game. I got him some extra pads for his hands. A security blanket. We went to the batting cage and all seemed great. He was driving the ball with authority. At practice, he was great.
Then it was game day.
He walked into the dugout and was in tears. He refused to play. Eventually he played half an inning of left field.
That would be the last time he made it onto the field. The next game, he couldn’t even make it into the dugout. He spent the entire game off the field, playing with the little sister of one of his teammates.
I reached out to everyone I knew who might give me some advice. Dads with kids as young as 6 and some with kids almost out of high school. They all said, he’ll be ready when he is ready. I didn’t push it.
So after a rainout and a few scheduling conflicts, I thought he was ready to play again. When I told him to get ready, his face sunk.
I knew he was scared. I asked him if playing was making him unhappy. He said it was. Forcing him to try would just make him sadder. He is 6 (and three-quarters), and he deserves to be happy. Me forcing him to play isn’t doing that.
I love watching him play. He has a wonderful and powerful swing, the kind usually reserved for lefties. He is so willing to throw himself around to get a ball. We even got him catcher’s gear so he could try that position. And through coaching and practice, he can actually catch the ball well.
I never got a chance to play Little League, so it was important to me to see him play. It just became “not right” for him.
When I sent that email, my son was relieved. We are still going to have catches in the backyard and the park. I’ll still throw him batting practice. But he won’t be on the team, at least not this year. And if that makes him happy, then I’m happy, too.
A version of this appeared on Great Moments in Bad Parenting.