My son got hit in the face with a baseball the other day.
This would have been terrible on its own, but the fact that it happened right in the middle of me scolding him for being a pain in the ass made it even worse.
It’s not easy being a disciplinarian when your kid is crying in pain.
My tendency, when he acts like that, is to get tough. When I feel like he’s developing bad habits, I want to nip them in the bud with some harsh discipline. Mom and Buried questions this approach, because he’s still only six years old, and because the past year and a half has been eventful for him, to say the least. She also questions it because it makes for a tense, unpleasant household.
Part of it is definitely a result of him simply being six, part of it is a result of me simply being me, but most of it is a result of my frustration at my own inability to be a good parent. Detective Munch and I still get along, but we’ve been butting heads more than normal lately.
I’ve been losing it on him too easily. But at the same time, he lacks discipline! And it’s on me (and Mom and Buried) to make sure he learns the right lessons. Sometimes that means being tough on him. I just need to get better at picking my moments.
Saturday’s Little League game was a perfect example.
He was acting up in the field, goofing around, spinning in circles. He’s six, everyone on his team is six, and playing the field at that age is boring. Not too much happens out there! Add his behavior to the fact that it’s a struggle just to get him to go to his games – despite the fact that he asked to join the team and he always enjoys it after he’s gotten to bat a few times – and it’s frustration city for Dad. So when he came off the field, I sat him down and began scolding him.
I was handling it pretty well, doing my best to stay calm and be patient while explaining to him the consequences (no screen time or games the rest of the weekend) if he didn’t shape up. He wasn’t listening to me, as usual, and my temperature was starting to rise.
And then he got hit in the face with a baseball.
The kid at bat hit a screaming line drive down the third base sideline, way foul, right into the crowd where we were sitting, directly between Detective Munch’s eyes. And not only did I immediately stop thinking about his recent behavior, I immediately lost any disciplinary leverage I’d had!
Which actually turned out to be a good thing.
My concern for his well-being overwhelmed my frustrations with him, and as I was making sure he was okay, and icing his little nose, something amazing happened. This kid, who reacts to a stubbed toe like he’s been shot in the gut, recovered in record time – from a line drive to the face! I was right next to him, and while at his level they still use those soft baseballs, it was a hell of a lick to take. He had to have been in some major pain, but not only did he calm himself quickly, I was able to encourage him to get back in the game for the last inning, whereupon he made some plays and even got a hit!
I don’t know that I’ve ever been more proud of him (well, maybe that time he was two and I got him to repeat some of the jive-talking from Airplane), and when we got home, not only was it screen-time galore, I also got him an ice cream cone and generally kissed his ass for the rest of the weekend. The little dude deserved it! And the scary incident has forced me to reconsider my disciplinary philosophy. It made me realize that maybe Mom and Buried was right.
I probably need to switch up tactics a bit, to back off with the stick and focus on leading with the carrot. Because as much as I want to make sure he becomes a good sixteen-year-old, I may be getting ahead of myself in already expecting him to act older than six.
Even when he’s being tougher than I am at 40.