Seven Deadly Sins
I've been living in full-scale Soccer Dad Mode recently. AJ is simultaneously involved in basketball and baseball right now, on the heels of a short break following soccer season. We're talking about five games/practices a week and coupled with the morning and evening trips to school, the two of us spend a lot of time in the car together.
These short drives serve as a forum for wide-ranging discussions, information from the playground, his mom's house (where he spent all of Sunday in his pajamas playing video games. When I suggested this was perhaps a waste of a good day, he replied that his teen-age step-brother did it too, so it must be okay) and whatever is on his mind.
What was on his mind last night was a new video game he was playing when I came to pick him up. "You have to commit seven deadly sins in a fortnight," he said. As I searched for a reply, he added, "What's a fortnight?"
That was not the last of the questions.
"That's when you have too much of something."
"That's when you desire something that someone else has."
"Oh, I thought that was lust."
Cue Jon Stewart "Wha wha wha what?" Face.
"No honey, lust is when you desire the someone, not the something."
"Let's go back to envy."
Envy is a difficult thing to explain to an 8-year-old. Of course they want the video game their friend has, or the bed that looks like a race car. "It's okay to want things for yourself," I said. "We can call them goals and to reach them, you have to work hard."
Coincidentally, this is an ethos that he has recently begun to understand. We're in a new Little League district, owing to the move, and he wasn't even sure he wanted to play this year. I refrained from talking him into it, but I did want to know the reasons why not. There were a couple. He didn't want it to interfere with basketball, which he loves. And he didn't have a good time playing baseball last year, called it "boring" because the coach always made him play in the outfield.
I assured him the former wouldn't be a problem. The latter, more difficult. I couldn't tell him that his coach last year was an asshole and that he was far from the only kid who didn't enjoy the season. Instead, I asked him what he thought would make baseball more fun for him.
He wants to pitch. And he wants to win.
Well shit. I've got a Daddy Speech for that.
What I had to do was make the connection for him between success and desire. If he wants to pitch, he has to earn it. He has to practice, take instruction and apply it. In short, make a commitment to this goal. You don't achieve anything by wishing it so. And that goes for everything.
I often rail against the Self Esteem Movement. We're all worthwhile, blah, blah, blah, and we are therefore all equally entitled to praise and worship. Bullshit. Praise without cause does not give kids self-esteem. It gives them license to skate. It ingrains the knowledge that no matter how lowly one performs, he will be passed through because, god forbid, we demand excellence from anyone. Self-esteem comes from within, from effort, from knowing you've done all you can. I'm not about to sugar-coat AJ's deficiencies and I'm sure as hell not going to defend him to teachers/coaches/psychiatrists if he runs afoul of what is expected of him.
I told him, "You want it. Go get it." So he did. And hit the fan.
I'm not sure there's anything better in life than having your son say, "Daddy, can I pitch some to you?" I mean, that's what I'm on the Earth for. I squatted down on the front lawn and chased his errant throws. I gave him a few tips and he started throwing it over the plate. thinking I needed to simulate game action, I went into the garage and brought out a standing fan, about the perfect height for an 8-year-old, and put it in the right-hand batter's box.
Perhaps I shouldn't have gotten so confident so soon. Damn hubris.
He hit it twice, turning it from a working fan into a prop we now use for pitching practice. Still, he threw it pretty well. Not well enough to pitch for the Rookie Diamondbacks just yet, I don't think, but well enough to keep working on it.
"I pitched pretty good, huh Daddy?" he asked.
"You did son, but you'll do even better after more practice."
"I know, but I was good."
I suppose we'll get around to talking about Pride soon enough.