I have just witnessed my 11-year-old play his very last Little League baseball game. Not just his last game of the most ridiculously long season this side of the Majors, but what was most likely the last game of his non-illustrious baseball career. He claims to hate everything about the sport. He hates that the games last almost two hours, taking him away from more worthy pursuits like Wii bowling and memorizing the lyrics to the entire Michael Jackson canon. He hates that he has to wear a cup. But mostly he hates the pressure of batting.
This kid, who jumped at the chance to dance in a pink tutu in front of his entire elementary school in the end-of-year talent show, is petrified to bat.
I understand his fear. I shared it as it a kid, and was a third-grade-softball dropout after only three practices. But when my son asked if he could quit baseball within minutes of getting in the car after Opening Day, my husband and I agreed the answer was no. He had to make it through the season.
"But you guys signed me up for baseball, this was never my idea," he reminded us on the ride home. "It's not really quitting if I never wanted to do it the first place, right?"
He had a valid argument, but we weren't in the mood for a philosophical discussion. We just wanted him to go to the next game with out an emotional meltdown.
We told him we didn't care if he got a hit all season. We told him this had nothing to do with the actual sport of baseball. It was about finishing what's he'd reluctantly started. We patiently explained that we didn't want him leave the sport scared and that he'd feel accomplished when he stuck with it until the end of the season.
We told him we didn't want Judges to be quitters. But it wasn't like we'd never quit before.
It was painfully obvious when my daughter was five that it was time to leave ballet lessons behind. She wasn't really enjoying them and it was pretty obvious the Nutcracker was not in her future---not even as a mouse. My oldest son's bass guitar career "went gentle into that good night" last fall---my constant nagging him to practice wasn't bringing out the best in our relationship. And just a few weeks back my daughter, now nine, asked me if signing her up for swim team cost money. When I replied yes, but that it wasn't a lot and she didn't have to worry about it, she told me she had an excellent way for me to save money next summer.
And the list could go on.
But somehow this baseball issue seemed different. It was precisely how much going to the games upset him that made me want him to see it through"a weird take on exposure therapy.
It was like I was trying to test the Nietzsche's adage, "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger." But given that the famed German philosopher also said, "God is dead" and "We should consider every day lost in which we have not danced at least once" (see: ballet lessons) it might have made sense to look for inspiration elsewhere.
But we've made it through the season. And it didn't kill him. But I'm not confident he's any stronger either, except in his desire to never play baseball again.
And that's okay by us. Watching him squirm at every at-bat was almost as hard on his parents as it was on him. But it didn't kill us either.
How do you decide when it's time to pull the plug on one of your kids' activities? Are there times when by letting your kids quit, that you actually do win?