Stretching for Our Children - Benefiting Ourselves

On a Sunday afternoon together, my eight-year-old and I went to the park and found three or four of his friends, plus one dad, in the middle of a baseball game. Naturally, he wanted to join in. The question was, did I? No. First of all, I would have much preferred to sit on the sidelines, to cheer them all on, to play a background, supportive role. This is a role that I know well, that I'm comfortable in, that fits me like a glove. Second, I particularly hate baseball. I have for as long as I can remember. My throw isn't strong, all my childhood memories of being at bat involve striking out, and there's nothing I like less than exposing myself in public.

Everybody else assumed that I would play. They needed more players, I was probably as good as the least experienced of them, and, anyhow, why would anyone choose the sidelines when the could be in the middle of the game? This in itself would probably not have persuaded me. But my son and I had gone out with a specific agreement to play together, and this ball game was the obvious choice. So I took a deep breath, put on a glove, and headed for the outfield, thinking, "The things that I'll do for my children!"

My first time at bat, with my son at the mound, I amazed myself by making contact with the ball and actually getting successfully on base. Hey, maybe this game wasn't so bad after all. Next inning, as first-base-woman, I caught a throw and made an out--another first in my memory. My throw back to the pitcher still wasn't great, but I was starting to feel a lot better. At bat next time, I made another hit. Maybe I'd just been terrified in junior high school and it had affected my batting. Then out in the field the highest pop fly of the game came straight in my direction--and I made the catch! By the end of the game I was feeling pretty pleased with myself, and very glad that we'd come out to play.

The moral of this little story is that we often stretch to do things for our children that we would never consider doing for ourselves--often benefiting mightily as a result. I would never have played baseball that afternoon if it hadn't been for my son. I would have chosen something nice and safe, an activity well within my comfort zone. And I never would have found out how good I could be at this game, and how much fun I could have.

It can be hard to find the internal impetus for exploring outside that comfort zone--but wanting things to be right for our children can be an incredible motivator. There are many different kinds of stretching. A mom who's always been quiet and cooperative feels compelled to challenge an institution that's not doing well by her child, and discovers that she can make things change. A dad who's never missed a day of work stays home with a new baby and finds a part of himself that had never been called forth before. A shy mom makes friends so her child will have someone to play with. A sober dad gets into pillow fights with his little daughter because it gives her such delight. Other stretches are small, almost unnoticeable, but cumulative. In the day-to-day tasks of parenting, we discover that we have more patience, more resilience, more love than we ever thought possible.

In a way, in comparison with such changes as these, my little try at baseball was insignificant. But the same principle is operating: when we stretch our picture of who we are and what we can do, we end up bigger.
When my husband asked at dinnertime that evening about the highlights of the day, my son promptly replied, "Playing baseball!" I would have to agree.