“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant.”
Robert Louis Stevenson
When our tee ball team gets tired, they lose all focus. Some of them can’t muster the energy to stand so they sit smack down on the base. Some of them droop their torsos and let their arms hang long like butter noodles. Some get wild with laughter and have snorting contests. Some cry.
When you think about it, these tiny humans have been in preschool or kindergarten all day and by 6 or 7 in the evening, most of them just want their Capri Sun and orange slices from the Snack Mom and to curl up in the backseat with a blankie.
It was the last inning of the second game in my son’s first t-ball season. The sun was low enough that it made colors look surreal, and it cast a long shadow as one 5-year-old, whom I’ll never forget, loped up to the tee. He had spent the previous inning filling his baseball hat with dirt from center field and, at some point, he had begun to cry, so the red soil in his hat and hair now streaked down his face in pinkish streams.
I didn’t know this particular boy and I don’t recall him making contact with the ball on his previous batting attempts. Judging by his tears, he would have preferred to be somewhere else, but his dad was the coach, so there he was. He scanned the crowd and looked down again when he caught my eye. Something about the look on his wee little boy face made we want to go over and give him a cuddle and let him watch the game with me from the other side of the fence until it was all over.
His dad held out the batting helmet, which he slid on. It knocked his glasses crooked and didn’t quite fit right so it perched on top, and, with his small frame, he looked remarkably like a bobblehead.
He pushed the helmet down as far as could and took the bat from his dad, who was kneeling to give him some last minute instructions. The boy’s attention was focused exclusively on home plate, as he tried to cover it with dirt by kicking with his tiny cleats. That’s when a spectator from our team yelled out, “Heads up, team! This kid’s a real whacker!”
The little boy jerked up his head to find the source of the voice. It was a stranger. A stranger who expected that he would hit this ball hard. A stranger who expected that he would astonish everyone with his mighty swing. A stranger who thought him to be a genuine, bona fide athlete.
This was not a boy who had likely thought of himself in such a way before, and you could see it happen, even from behind: A shift took place. Where once he didn’t believe he could hit the ball, he now all of a sudden did.
Now I wish I could say that he swung that bat and slugged the ball right out of the park. (He didn’t). But he did stand a little taller and suddenly and maybe for the first time, thought of himself as a true ballwhacker indeed.
That man had planted a seed in his mind. And the cool thing is that we have no way of knowing where that seed eventually ended up. All of a sudden, this awkward little kid starts to think of himself as a guy whom the crowd is watching; a guy whom the players on the other team had better be wary of.
Sometimes I think that’s the most important part of parenting: just planting seeds. You are smart. You are calm. You are peaceful. You are a beautiful. You are a risktaker. You can do this. You sure have a gift for music. My, my, what a whacker you are.
The seeds you plant have to be sincere – otherwise it’s manipulation, and the kids can tell and it’s no good. Also, you have to assume that many of the seeds will get washed down the gutter with the next rainstorm. Still, it takes so much of the pressure off to think only about scattering them and not about where they might someday end up.
Life is so messy, after all. There are all kinds of big and wonderful, bright and shiny moments where I am really at my best, but there are also a lot of moments raising kids that maybe I didn’t exactly make a good, conscious decision. I just went along. When I have so much to do, and it all gets overwhelming, I can think of it as just planting a few seeds, which comes naturally to me when my head’s on right, and I can do it right from where I am. If I plant enough, some of them, somewhere, are bound to stick. It is this thought alone that gets me through, some days.
Susie Michelle Cortright is the founder of Momscape.com – an online parenting magazine devoted to helping parents celebrate life with children – as well as Susies-Coupons.com. Read more of her essays on her blog: SusieMichelle.com.