Life in the batting cages
I decided to take a vacation with my boys during spring break. I carefully chose our destination. Disney World? No. The Great Smokies? No. We chose the ever-popular Weakley County spring break. Yep! I figured my boys needed a lesson in making their own fun. So, I decided they would do their vacationing in the woods outside Dresden. Only one problem. Rain. It rained on Monday and we played board games. It rained on Tuesday and we played board games and watched a little TV. It rained on Wednesday and my defenses were down. I lost all sense of reality and common sense. I totally let their minds be consumed with every form of artificial technological entertainment that has ever been invented. Movies. Game Cube gaming. Computer games. They had double vision by 5. It was not a good day. On Thursday, I knew we had to get out of the house so we invited two friends to play laser tag in Union City. I don’t know what laser tag is, but the idea of chasing people and tagging them with a laser seemed far superior to picking lint out of the carpet or hanging from the ceiling fan yelling, “Look, Mom, one hand.”
While my boys were running through the laser tag area, I had the chance to observe the indoor batting cages. And that’s where I received my spring break education. I watched a myriad of boys, girls and adults of all ages march through the batting cages in search of the great hit. Some seemed to be having a lot of fun. Others seemed to be having less fun.
We’ve all heard the criticisms of parents who are too “caught up” in their children’s athletic endeavors. We read the news stories about fights between Little League parents, about dads trying to live their “athletic dreams” through their boys. I’m convinced that most people don’t want to be overly critical of their child’s performance. Most rational people freely acknowledge, “Look, they’re just little kids. Let them have fun.” But sometimes rational thinking is hard to embrace when you become a parent.
I witnessed one mom who couldn’t stop giving advice. “Watch your stance.” “Choke up on the bat.” “Scoot up closer. Are you afraid of the ball?” When the boy missed several balls in a row, the sigh and downward gaze of his mom was chilling to observe. “Look, get your mind in this thing. Keep your eye on the ball. Choke up a little more. Stop being afraid. Follow through with the bat. You’re not following through! Do you realize that you’re not following through? If you’re going to hit it, you’re going to have to follow through!” And that’s when I was through. I knew she didn’t mean to be overly critical. I knew she loved him. She got caught up in the moment. She forgot that it was just a baseball and a bat. She forgot that it was just an indoor batting cage. Somehow along the way, a game was turned into something more. She needed a reminder that the real treasure in the batting cage was a little boy who needed her encouragement. Soon after, my little boys tumbled out of the laser tag area. They enthusiastically told all about their big adventure and the heart-pounding fun of chasing each other. I started to ask, “Who won?” But then I remembered, it didn’t matter.
Editor’s note: Lisa Smartt’s column appears each Wednesday in the Friends and Neighbors section of The Messenger. Mrs. Smartt is the wife of Philip Smartt, the University of Tennessee at Martin parks and recreation and forestry professor, and is mother to two boys, Stephen and Jonathan. She is a freelance writer and speaker. Her book “The Smartt View: Life, Love, and Cluttered Closets” is available at The Messenger, The University of Tennessee at Martin bookstore or by mail for $10, plus $2 shipping. Send checks to Lisa Smartt, 300 Parrott Road, Dresden TN 38225. She can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Published in The Messenger 4.9.08
Lisa Smartt, The Smartt View