Eight

Eight.

Three more than five. Two less than ten. It doesn’t seem like much of a milestone. Eight is still little, right?

From the time Wyatt was born, he has needed me more than Dylan and Alyssa did. He was sick a lot. I worried about him a lot. Checked on him a lot. Helped him a lot. I’ve always been protective of him.

He’s still small enough to pass for six. I can still carry him, still hold him in my lap. He still holds my hand when we go places.

Sometimes it’s hard for me to remember that he’s not so little anymore.

Last weekend when he wanted to jump off the diving board for the first time, he looked so small and alone standing there. “You’ve never been in water over your head,” I said, “Are you sure you want to jump?”

He was sure.

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I didn’t try to stop him, but I wanted to, and after it was over I felt bad about it. I told myself that I needed to let go a little. Worry a little less. Have a little more confidence in my boy. After all, Wyatt knew all along that he could do it.

For his birthday on Friday, he asked to go to a baseball game, so we got tickets to see the AA Flying Squirrels. We also arranged for him to have an opportunity to throw out the first pitch of the ballgame. He played kid-pitch ball this spring, and he has been practicing pitching for months. I was sure he would be ecstatic.

We sprung the news on him on the way to the game, but his look of excitement suddenly turned to worry.

To me, it was about the experience — getting to go down on the field, stand on the pitcher’s mound, and throw to a real, live ballplayer.

But Wyatt was only concerned about making a good throw in front of all those people, AND real, live ballplayers. He is used to pitching at about 40 feet and this would be 60. He has never pitched at that distance — he is tiny! I was pretty certain he wouldn’t be able to get the ball to the catcher, but that never occurred to me when we were happily making plans.

All the way to the game, I worried. No one wants to be responsible for their kid failing. On their birthday. In front of a stadium full of people. What was I thinking?

It was a double header, and Wyatt was throwing out for the second game.

When the (grown) man threw out the first pitch of the first game, the ball hit the dirt several feet in front of the plate, and he laughed it off.

I said to Wyatt, “Did you see that? It doesn’t matter if the throw is perfect. He is a grown up, and it didn’t go to the plate, but he still had fun.”

He said nothing.

Wyatt loved the game. He got to see the team close up, meet the mascot, and the whole stadium sang him ‘Happy Birthday’ while he stood on top of the dugout. He also caught a hot dog in mid-air.

Wyatt ballgame collage

When it was time to go on the field though, he was apprehensive. While we waited, he practiced his wind up. He studied the crowd. He stared at the ground. I told him again that it would be okay. “Don’t worry about getting it to the plate,” I said, “just have fun. Lots of people don’t get it to the plate.”

He didn’t say anything, he just looked worried.

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When they called him to come onto the field, my stomach was turning flip flops. He looked even smaller on the mound than he did on the diving board. But, he didn’t look that worried anymore.

When he went into his wind up, the crowd started to cheer. And as soon as the ball came out of his hand, I knew I had underestimated my boy again. That ball went straight to the catcher. He made it look easy.

I had no idea that he could dive, and I didn’t know he could make that pitch. Both times, I had tried to prepare him for failure instead of encouraging him to succeed. Because, even though he is eight, I often still see a much smaller child.

Standing on the mound, with (literally) thousands of people watching him and cheering, I realized that though he is small in size, he is a very big boy. While I sometimes still carry him, and he sometimes still sits in my lap, it’s because he allows it, not because he needs it.

I realized that Wyatt can do a lot more than I give him credit for. (And apparently, he is good under pressure!)

So, from now on, I’m going to work on saying “you can do this,” instead of “are you sure you want to try?”

I will push him forward instead of sheltering him from failure.

I’m not going to underestimate his abilities or his courage.

I am going to believe in him.

I should’ve been doing that a long time ago. After all, he is eight, and much bigger than I knew.

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