One of my surprisingly vivid childhood memories comes from my days as a short and mildly uncoordinated centerfielder for my Little League team. I would spend the majority of the games standing in the outfield eating my baseball glove and counting dandelions. Very little could snap me out of my outfield boredom trance. I would realize that it was our team's turn to bat when a guy in a different colored uniform would be standing next to me in the outfield. Yup, I was oblivious to the world. But I did notice Super Coach.
Super Coach, as he was known by all the Little League parents, was a Little League father and coach, as well as a walking advertisement for his son, the Boy Wonder. Super Coach's team virtually never lost a game and Boy Wonder was always awarded the game ball. There was nothing the Boy Wonder couldn't do. Super Coach would move him from shortstop, to first base, to pitcher, to catcher, all in the same game. He was comfortable at every position on the field; Boy Wonder: undeniably the best.
I've realized that a good parent never looks to make his kids "the best," but rather looking out for what's the best for his kids.
I was only an OK outfielder and couldn't hit nearly as well as the Boy Wonder. So as I stood in the outfield waiting for the day I would make that amazing play that would make me a hero, I was almost positive that the Boy Wonder would meanwhile send a homer whizzing over my head and make me look like a loser. I resented the Boy Wonder for his almost superhuman athletic abilities. I think we all did. But I started to notice that Boy Wonder paid a price.
Although Super Coach was a great strategist and had endless knowledge of the game, he had little sensitivity and poor people skills. While trying to mold his son into the perfect athlete, he forgot that the Boy Wonder was a little boy with feelings. Very often the Super Coach would be seen screaming incessantly at his players. But what bothered me the most was that no matter how hard the Boy Wonder tried, it was never enough for the Super Coach. Everyone applauded the Boy Wonder and his monumental feats -- except his own father.
Is Wanting your Kid to be the Best Good for your Kid?
One incident in particular made a huge impact on me. There I was again, left-center field with a mouth full of glove. The game had been very exciting until that point and I was more alert than usual. The crack of the bat shook me from my daydreams, and I watched as the third baseman fielded the ball cleanly and threw it to the second baseman to hold the runner at second. The Boy Wonder had hit a double. Super Coach smiled with satisfaction and sent the next batter up to the plate. Our pitcher wiped his brow and looked behind himself towards second base.
The Boy Wonder stood slightly off the bag, smiling and adjusting his batting gloves. As soon as our pitcher began his wind up, the Boy Wonder had tagged up and was taking off for third. Our catcher reacted immediately and nailed him at third. The Boy Wonder tried to slide, but it was too late. Super Coach turned beet red and charged onto the field. The Boy Wonder was already in tears: he knew what he was in for.
Super Coach approached the Boy Wonder and scowled down at him. "Who told you to steal?! Who told you to steal?!", he shouted. The Boy Wonder tried to respond, but when he opened his mouth, nothing came out.
I felt sick to my stomach, and then I felt angry. As Super Coach screamed, the Boy Wonder cried. The Boy Wonder was not at all superhuman. In fact, he was very human, and very much in need of some unconditional love. I felt sorry for him and I wished it would stop. But it didn't. Super Coach continued to carry on, but the Boy Wonder had had enough. He ran to the sidelines where his mother took him by the hand and led him to their car..
I never saw Super Coach or the Boy Wonder again, but I often wonder what happened to them. Super Coach spent so much time living vicariously through his son and training him to be the best, never allowing him to be a little boy or loving him for who he was. It scares me to think of the effect of Super Coach's behavior.
Episodes such as these have given me a sneak preview into parenting: I've realized that a good parent never looks to make his kids "the best," but rather looking out for what's the best for his kids.