Thursday, May 30, 2013

Let Them Be Shōgakusei A Little While Longer

Years ago when I lived in Japan, a friend of mine returned with a sad face after attending an elementary school graduation ceremony. The problem, my friend commented, was that the graduating kids showed up to school wearing the uniforms they would wear in middle school. It was pushing too soon, my friend thought. Her comment was “Let them be shōgakusei (elementary school students) a little while longer.”  

I thought about that last week as I watched the graduation of my younger son from elementary school. My son finished off the year with one of his classes performing “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” attending a sock hop, a graduation ceremony followed by a final walk through the halls. The post graduation festivities included a lunch with friends and an evening pool party. Two days later, my younger son wanted to go back to elementary school.

My wife and I had expected such a reaction. As the day had drawn nearer, our son had admitted her wasn’t ready to move on. Only the realization that his friends were leaving too, ready to move on to middle school, kept him going.

I’m not sure my wife and I were ready either, as if watching him leave meant we no longer had a younger kid in the house. It was easier watching our older son move on. He seemed ready to move. Due to our cross-country move from Portland to Atlanta back when our older son was in third grade, our older son lost three months of school. We petitioned the school to have him repeat (something which he has still not forgiven us for). He studies as if he’s trying to catch up. My younger son seems content where he is. My wife and I were also content.

“Let them be shōgakusei a little while longer.”  I couldn’t agree more.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

When Good Pitches Go Bad

In a season where I’ve watched my 11-year old pitch well, and then struggle and pitch good, there had been one thing missing. A meltdown. He’s had them before. He’s 11. It’s expected.

I just didn’t expect to see it a little over a week ago.

In a game where his teammates played great and they had a chance to beat the top team in the league, my son had his worst game of the season. Facing a group of kids that he’d fanned the week before, he couldn’t find the strike zone. The last time I saw him pitch this poorly was on a night several years ago where my wife got so upset with the calls behind the plate that she blessed out an umpire after the game. (I will probably be in the doghouse for bringing that up.)

After the game was over, my son held it in until reaching the car before collapsing into a mound of tears. He refused to leave the car when we got home. I left him alone, returning ten minutes later, and found him on the steps in the garage that lead into the house. I sat down next to him, and he leaned on me and continued to bawl.

I tried to console him, saying that his favorite player, Craig Kimbrel, was now blowing saves. He responded that he doesn’t like Craig Kimbrel anymore because he found out the Kimbrel’s favorite team is Alabama. I told him that the Braves starting rotation, who has pitched well this season, really blew it in Detroit. He didn’t care.

Still, part of me was proud of him. In previous seasons, he would have gotten mad in the dugout. He kept his emotions in check until he was away from his teammates.

My son was able to move on, regaining a bit of his smile. He spent a night with friends, which improved his mood even more. He’s practiced hard at home and ready to pitch again. One thing has changed however.

His new favorite player is Evan Gattis.