It’s literal and figurative, I suppose.
These days, a couple of times a week, you can find me seated behind the backstop at my 10-year-old’s Little League Fall Ball games. He has come to love baseball and spends countless hours in front of our house, throwing the ball back and forth with his dad. Many of his neighborhood friends and classmates are on the team and the families have become a neat little community. We look forward to hanging out with them during games, sharing laughs and witty commentary.
But it has also become a time for me to sit quietly behind that backstop, just watching, taking things in. I often have the score book and a pencil in hand, keeping track of the action and pitch counts. But mostly what I do is watch.
Separated by that fence, I watch my 10-year-old becoming his own person. I settle in at the various fields in my camping chair, and, like a passenger aboard an airplane who’s been instructed to check the exits, I check the route to the field. To see what gate is locked or open. To find the quickest way out there, should my son need me.
But the thing is, he never does. In fact, it’s when I’m sitting behind that backstop that I realize – a little more each game – that, really, it is just my time to watch. His coaches are there to coach. His teammates are there to encourage. The umpires are there to advise. It’s me sitting back, letting others step in.
It’s just another reminder of the path that lies ahead, another burst of independence and growing up along the way. Like the student planner in his binder that he updates and attends to every day. Like his request for me to not wait at the bus stop anymore. Like wanting to ride to his buddy’s house a few blocks away – alone.
And so I watch.
As he comes in to close a game and, for the first time, hits a batter.
As he swings at pitch after pitch, striking out, and heads to the dugout to quietly shed tears.
As the rain pours down in the darkness and the overhead lights illuminate the field, he struggles to grip the wet ball and throw a strike.
My legs want to spring into action, to be mom – to leap a fence if necessary – to run to the field and say to that batter —and him— “Are you OK?” To throw my arms around him in the dugout and say, “Nice swing. Next time.” To walk to the mound and stand by his side and say “You can do this. You know you can.”
Instead, I sit.
I consciously fight the mom urge.
I let his coaches coach.
I let his teammates encourage.
I let the umpires advise.
I just sit in my camping chair as my heart bursts with pride, watching this young man play the game that he loves out on the baseball field.
And I know that when I’m there, on the other side of that fence, I simply need to be his biggest fan.