Wednesday, May 21, 2008


Twice a week, now, I throw four children, a blanket, cleats, and two small gloves in our mini-van and drive a couple of miles to Dogwood Park for a ninety-minute T-ball game. In April, this seemed like a great idea. Six-year-old Priscilla and five-year-old Benjamin could play on the same team together. The warming weather with all of its out of doors potential was practically begging to host bike rides, long leisurely strolls, and sporting events. But a “next month” adventure seems a whole lot more feasible without the reality of today’s logistics to exhaust you and make you ultimately second-guess a seemingly super decision. Thus is my thinking every Wednesday and Friday afternoon while I am single-handedly rallying my troops to get out of the house in a timely manner, while searching desperately through clothes hampers and cluttered closets for a missing green tube sock, or while trying to pep talk my two-year-old into whining a little bit less once we get to the field and lay out our gear for an hour-and-half of confinement. And that’s nothing compared to the nerve fraying aspects of the six-inning, non-score keeping, showdown between our team and the their team, itself.

“Stand–up Ben!” I yell again and again and again, “Keep your glove on, buddy!” But he does neither, choosing rather to make “dirt angels” by lying flat on his back in the outfield while flapping all four of his limbs simultaneously. His coach is exceedingly patient, lifting him gently by the shoulders and then placing him in the proper fielding position – legs bent, hands on knees, eyes on the batter. For less than a minute Ben stays focused before playfully nudging his younger teammate who in turn nudges him back until both of them are laughing and then full-on wrestling while the ball passes by unnoticed and I burn with embarrassment. The two other moms I sit with are sweet and empathetic, “He’s adorable,” they assure me as the three of us watch their own sons strike the fiercest of batting stances and not pick up gravel to sprinkle over their heads, which is the activity Benjamin has moved onto since I pulled him aside to firmly remind him about keeping his hands to himself.

Priscilla, in the meantime, is soaking up praises for being a surprisingly sufficient ball handler. “Way to hustle Prissy!” yells coach and she beams. “That a girl!” I echo, “Good catch!” I don’t mean to wish that only she was representing our family on the Fox Photography Little League team but ashamedly that is exactly what I pine for as time drags on unmercifully and Ben becomes ever more sidetracked by his instinctively silly impulses. I assume by now he cares little about this game or the opinions of anyone watching it and so I turn my attention to his sister who cares obviously a great deal about both. After the final inning’s conclusion, Priscilla makes a beeline toward my lap; she’d like to hear in more detail about how proud I am to be the mother of such a t-ball aficionado. It is then I notice Benjamin and the telltale quivering of his lower lip. “What happened?” I ask alarmed. “Are you hurt?” And I find out then that he is, that he is heart-broken by my silence. Because I had nothing, not one single positive thing to say about his own outlandish performance my distinctively vibrant wildflower was wilting. Assumptions, I discovered, can be deceiving.

I found the following quote by Philo of Alexandria on Father Stephen Freeman’s excellent and thought provoking Glory to God For All Things blogsite: Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle. Meaning, of course, that your curt and surly neighbor may be suffering through a divorce, an illness, or a stubborn wave of depression. We all have hidden baggage that can weigh down the best of intentions – we all disappoint at one time or another. And yet my memory is often shortsighted when it comes to the raising of children who lose their tempers, their manners, their library books. How quickly I forget my own deficiencies. “Be still!” I demand of a wired little boy whose veins pump electricity through his sparkly squirmy body. “You are kidding me!” I mutter disdainfully within earshot of his daydreaming older brother who has misplaced the pair of sandals I intended for him to wear all through the summer, which is spiteful of me, really, since I was much less hard on myself when I broke my cell phone, then replaced it, only to promptly leave the new one somewhere secret and mysterious. “Where do you think it is?” asks my obviously confused husband. “I’ll come across it,” I assure him unconvincingly.

She doesn’t want to wear that big old puffy coat because later in the day, she’ll get all sweaty but this morning it seems chilly and I insist she put it on; I don’t budge because …well, heck, I couldn’t even tell you. There are hordes of other sweatshirts and jackets available but the problem is I usually speak first and think later. The word “no” has set up its permanent and unyielding residence on the tip of my tongue. After my daughter leaves our house in a huff of tears and anger, I step outside forlornly to stare at an empty bus stop where things could have started differently had I put myself in her shoes for a moment. “It’s starts here,” I pray silently, “doesn’t it? In this home with these precious sons and daughters I am to cherish and honor and try my best to not take for granted. Please forgive me; I’ve been awfully self-absorbed.” Then wouldn’t you know it, the clouds turn sparse and gauzy allowing sunlight to penetrate an overcast beginning. “She’s right,” I concede as I remove my outer layer, a black down vest too thick and constrictive for springtime, “it’s not that cold out after all.”


neil said...

Yep, sounds familiar. My three-year-old is also very squirrelly, and he thinks it's all fun and games. I think he's actually proud of it, but for me, it's always easy to get surly and try in vain to make him behave the way I want him to, the way I think is suitable for the activity at hand. Of course, there is discipline, but so much more often, the issue is my lack of patience instead of just enjoying the little boy that he is. He's actually a ton of fun!

My wife and I heard a Presbyterian pastor say once that kids are the most important house guests we will have. That is stuck in my head as I try to figure out how to parent generously.

Thanks for sharing your stories.

Molly Sabourin said...

I like your quote about our kids being house guests and very important ones at that. "What if someone were here," I often ask myself, "watching my interaction with the children. Would I be so short or distracted or impatient?" I try to parent in private the same way I'd parent in public - I try, and fail, and then I then try again.

kelleylynn said...

Molly, so true that we try, and fail, and try again...keep up the good fight!
This was so appropo for me since returning from vacation. All was the beach, and now we are "back at it" where I find myself aggrevated, irritated, get the point but why? I just had the time of my life with my children - what's so different now?
Lord have mercy...

Marsha said...

I nod in agreement with so much that you say. It's hard to acknowledge and affirm each child in their own way, especially when it doesn't exactly match up with my ideal way LOL.

May God help us!

Fr. James Early said...

Wow, Molly! Your posts are always very good, but this one is a grand slam! I used to think that kids come hard-wired to say "no" all the time. But then after many years of having them, it hit me (whack! Just like that!) that they learn it from us! Duh! I too have a tendency to say "no," almost as a knee-jerk reaction. May God grant me rather to hold my tongue and think before speaking (James 1:19)

Fr. Stephen's blog is the best there is! I consider my day incomplete if I have not read his daily wisdom. And that quote from Philo is something all Christians out to memorize and take to heart. I think I will make a small poster of it and put it over my office door.

May the Lord bless you and your family richly!

neil said...

In his book about his travels to Mt Athos, Scott Cairns writes a story about a visitor asking a monk what they do as monks. The monk replied after some consideration, "We fall down and we get up again." That sums it up, right?

I'm sure you're a wonderful mother, even for thinking this stuff through.

peace to you and your family.


neil said...

BTW, be kind to yourself, as well. You're not exempt from the battles that are common to the rest of us!

Ser said...

Oooh, Molly, I love the ending of this piece. So beautiful and hopeful.

It was so nice to see you in Chicago, too. I wish it could have been for longer, but it was so much fun to see everyone.