Monday, April 14, 2008

I am Mommy, hear me roar

So as you all know (because I've mentioned once or forty-two times), Stephen started T-ball this year. For the most part, we've had fun with it. But things are starting to take a turn...

I haven't always been impressed with the coach. But I told myself (and Sweet Hubby) that we don't know what it's like trying to teach 12 5-year-olds the intricacies of a ball game. And really, are the details really all that important at this age? But there have been more than a few things happening that make me raise my eyebrows. Like the team mom, the coach's wife, yelling "Son of a b!tch!" from the dugout loud enough for the kids to hear. And the coach on more than one occasion telling his child and one other child that he was going to beat them. And the coach's child shoving Stephen and calling him chicken or stomping on his foot at second base. And the grown-man wannabe coach who laughs at and teases Stephen when he has to go to the bathroom for the fourth time during practice. It's enough to make me queasy, really. And angry. Things like this are exactly the reasons why we're choosing to homeschool. Why in the world would we pay to have our child subjected to it?

Stephen's even getting discouraged by it all. He told me this weekend that he didn't want to go to the game because of "Braaaandon" (which by the way, is not his real name, but it is what Stephen calls him and because of the way this kid has treated Stephen, I've never corrected him). He just doesn't understand. Stephen is loud and bossy and boisterous and exuberant. He's been known to shove one of his brothers a time or two and heaven knows he can yell when he's mad. But he and I both know he would never do that to another child. He's just not the kind of kid to lash out physically. So neither one of us can really understand where these other kids are coming from.

So it's obvious we had a decision to make, Sweet Hubby and I. Sweet Hubby's instinct was to tell Stephen to shove the other kid back when Stephen first got shoved. My instinct is to "turn the other cheek", not seek revenge, and the be the bigger "man". I realize there's a fine line between being confident enough to not fight back and being wimpy and not fighting back, and then consequently being picked on all the time. How do you teach that to a 5 year old? Does a 5 year old even need to learn this? There's a big difference between a 5 year old and a 10 year old learning to handle and defend himself. Honestly, deep down, there's a primal, immature part of me that wants to punch the coach in the face for not handling his own kid better and for not demanding that these kids learn respect and sportsmanship first, before learning how to hit or throw a ball. But I'm clinging to what I know is right, and what we're wanting to teach our children. There are, after all, always watching.

Beyond giving Stephen guidance on how to handle all this, we also had to decide if we were going to continue subjecting him to it. Here's the back and forth we had about it:

There's only a month left in the season.

But there are at least 2 games each week.

If we let him quit, we won't have to teach him this lesson right now when we think he's too young.

If we let him quit, we might be inadvertently teaching him that just because we don't like the people we have to deal with, we can just walk away.

If we keep him in it, someone (us as parents or Stephen) might do something they will regret.

If we keep him in it, we might have the opportunity to show God's love to someone else by the way we handle another bad situation.

Obviously, Sweet Hubby and I are both conflicted about it. But some good has come from it so far. Last practice was when Stephen got shoved. I wasn't at the practice, and on the way home I was asking Stephen a series of questions, trying to get him thinking about it all. Here are parts of our conversation. (Sweet Hubby and I are red, Stephen's blue.)

"So how did it make you feel when Brandon pushed you?"

"I didn't like it."

"Have you ever pushed Zachary?"

Long pause. "No?"

"Yes you have, and do you think Zachary felt the same way you did when Brandon pushed you today?"


"God wants us to do and say things that build people up and help them. Not tear them down."

"Why did Brandon push me like that?"

"It has nothing to do with you, Sweetie. Brandon has a lot of foolishness bound up in his heart and maybe his mom and dad aren't helping him get it out like your mom and dad are."

"Why doesn't Brandon's mom read the bible with him?"

"Well, we don't know that she doesn't. But some people don't do things the way we do them, and that's okay. But that also means that we're given opportunities to show God's love to them so that they know about it, even if they don't read the bible."

"I'm glad you read the bible with me."

And then I melted.

I can kind of see how the hard month that we had with Stephen's behavior and the issues we're having with t-ball are all coming together for Stephen (and I) to have a better understand of what we're supposed to do. And that what how we're raising these little men is actually paying off.

So here's the decision we reached (believe it or not, I actually started this post last week before we made the decision). We're going to have him finish out the season. We're not even going to give him the option to quit. However, one of us will be sitting in the dugout with him at all times (I suspect that that's where most of the misbehavior takes place, and believe me, it's not just Brandon misbehaving) and during practices, Sweet Hubby or one of his grandfathers will stay near him on the field to try to make sure the kids don't lay a hand on each other (any of them, not just ours). Sweet Hubby is as much on board with this as I am, but at first he bristled at the thought of trying to protect Stephen like this. He made the old argument that Mommy and Daddy can't always be there to protect him. I gently reminded him that he's FIVE and if he were 10 or even 7 or 8, that we would be having a different conversation. I think he finally realized that some of us aren't equipped to handle this kind of thing in our 20's. Why in the world would we expect a five year old to be able to?


KatieBug said...

What a testimony to teaching your kids about the bible! You guys are showing the boys (not only yours but all the boys on the team) by example what it means to be kind and respectful. What a lucky kid Stephen is to have such supportive parents!

We have not done any sports yet partly because of those reasons and partly because we don't have time and are cheap. :)I hope when we do get into them we can make the same kind of choices you guys are making.

Mommy Daisy said...

I think you've made the right decision. I can see that you weighed all the options and prayed hard about this one. It's tough being a parent, but you and your husband are great ones. And you're wise beyond your years.

Kate said...

You're my hero! I think you excellently balanced the need to be loving and standing up for yourself.

Just so you know, I'm taking notes for when I have kids. =)

jenn said...

Sounds to me like you guys made a good decision. I coached jr high school girls for a few years and ever though this is different, a coach should NEVER act the way Stephen's does. I'm disappointed that there are coaches like that out there who really can ruin the experience of sport for a child early. The smaller they are, the more fun it should be so they actually enjoy it and want to continue. But with all the support Stephen is getting from you guys, there is hope that he will still want to play next year. Here's hoping for a better coach!! :)