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Anger vs. Happiness

May 14, 2014 Leave a comment

bulldogsmileOn Monday, at his baseball game, Benjamin had a great first at-bat. In his division, now, kids have started pitching, but only until they throw four balls to a batter. Then they go back to the pitching machine. In Ben’s at-bat, he quickly got two swinging strikes before the coaches reminded him that he needs to not swing at bad pitches. He managed to get a 4-2 count (that sounds odd) and they switched to the machine. He fouled off two pitches and then lined a single up the middle.

During his second at-bat, he struck out. After the game, I excitedly talked to him about his first at-bat, but he complained about the second. He was upset because he felt a pitch was too low and shouldn’t have been called a strike. He was angry because he felt cheated. I explained to him that is part of baseball and he has to shake it off. I resisted the urge to agree with him (because I did). He continued to mope. It reminded me of when he was smaller.

I use to lie in bed with him at night and talk to him about his day. He would almost immediately start telling me about the bad things that happened to him at day care (a kid stole a ball, he couldn’t play with S., etc). He focused on the bad things. He was three and four and he only focused on the bad things that happened to him. I spent a lot of time coaxing the good things about the day from him until, one day, he started focusing more on the happy memories of a day.

There was no resolution for his mood after that game. I think he just stopped thinking about it and cheered up by dinner. However, it got me thinking more about stuff I struggle with. Why is it easier to focus on the negatives in a day than on the positives? Why is it easier to be angry than happy? I mentioned this to someone else and he laughed that Buddhist monks and philosophers have been wrestling with that for hundreds or even thousands of years.

I’ve really struggled with this myself, lately. Losing my job has put me into a disposition towards anger and sadness. I want to lash out at the people responsible and I almost crave talking negatively about them. When I’m in a better mindset, I understand this is business and there is little the people I hold responsible could do. Still, I want to be angry.

Side but related note, he came home from school the other day and told me that if you force yourself to smile, the muscles trigger your brain to be happier, according to his teacher. I am so thankful I have him and Matthew around so that I don’t have to force the smile too often.

Yet, there are plenty of positives I can find in all this. I’m not going to go into them here, because they are complex and drift off the point, but they are there. However, I continue to chose to be angry and that doesn’t help anything.

I think the average human needs to feel something. They need those emotions running through them. It helps them feel alive, I think. But why is it easier to chose anger to fill that need for emotion? I tend to think it’s a low hanging fruit. I tend to think happiness is something that only you can truly bring yourself. It is far easier to let other people make you angry than it is to get others to make you happy. I’m not a philosopher, but that’s just my thought.

And even though I feel like I understand this, I still seem to choose anger. However, I don’t feel like a hypocrite when I try to curb these tendencies in Benjamin. I want him to know that he can choose this. He doesn’t have to be a victim of a bad ball/strike call or a bully on the playground. Happiness is something he can choose. He can focus on the positives and dismiss the negatives. It might be too late for me, but I want him to know he can choose to be happy. For the most part I am winning this war with him, but I can only hope I can start winning it with myself.

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What does a ball hitting the bat look like?

20140427_124822His uniform seemed like a lead shroud hanging from his thin frame. His hat pulled low, concealing wet eyes. Glove tucked under his arm as he drags himself into the car. He is heartbroken.

My heart breaks for him, also. I’ve been there and it feels like there is nothing worse, not at that age.

Five at-bats. Five strike-outs.

Not even a single saving ping of a foul ball, and my poor son seemed broken.

Baseball sucks. He hates it (and he hasn’t even realized yet that I’ve doomed him to be a Mets fan).

This isn’t the “good” heartbreak that baseball dooms all her fans to.

We talk, we analyze, we get ice cream. He laughs and smiles again and plays video games with his brother.

My heart continues to twist, impaled on that metal bat he dropped in frustration. I want to let him quit…There are still ten more games.

A few days pass, we talk more. With each day, he wants to talk less about it. I feel helpless to help him. Rain pours and prevents me from trying to help him. It seems like he doesn’t want to even try anymore.

Finally, I drag him out. I tell him to set his feet as I told him, but forget everything else I told him. In talking I realize that I am too deep in his head. His coaches (all four of them) are too deep in his head. His friends running the bases are too deep in his head. His own little brother’s success in baseball is too deep in his head.

I know he hears them and they fight with his own, once confident voice.

I throw two dozen balls to him…he misses.

Every.

Single.

One.

His brother takes a turn and he hits half the balls.

We step away from the plate. We have a catch and I let him talk about his video game. I’m dying inside.

I ask if he wants to bat again. He reluctantly says “yes”.

I get a box to help him visualize his strike zone. I get a second bat and have him hit the head of it with his bat. I move it around so he can adjust his swing. He has fun with that.

I take the bucket of balls and back up 15 feet. He misses the first six.

Then I remember his analytic mind. I ask him what he thinks a ball looks like when the bat hits it. He says he doesn’t know. I tell him that we should find out.

“What does a ball hitting the bat look like?”

He hits the next one 50 feet to the driveway.

“What does a ball hitting the bat look like?”

The next ball hits my car.

He is smiling.

“What does a ball hitting the bat look like?”

The next ball almosts hits me.

I back up another 20 feet. He looks nervous again. I go back to five feet in front of him and throw a ball over the plate. He realizes the longer pitched ball is his advantage. I go back to the full distance.

“What does a ball hitting the bat look like?”

The next ball goes back into the driveway.

He hits half of the next two dozen and he is beaming. We call it quits for the night.

Next game. First at-bat. He fouls off a pitch before striking out, but clearly his swing is better.

Next at-bat.

First pitch.

His brother sits next to me, eyes closed, too nervous to watch his older brother.

He hits a slow roller up the third base line.

Safe.

It might as well have been a world series winning home run.

Inning ends with him at third and he runs over to me with a huge smile on his face. Tells me he did it. Tells me he timed the pitches from the pitching machine. Tells me how he is watching the ball hit the bat. Tells me how he isn’t thinking about hitting when he is hitting.

Home run.

Final at bat.

Foul.

Swing and miss.

Foul.

Hard fly ball to left field. Outfielder doesn’t get there.

Ben is almost dancing on first base.

Three-for-five.

Back in the car. I pull my hat low, concealing wet eyes.

No Socks, No Shoes, No Pants?

June 24, 2013 Leave a comment

13 - 1This afternoon, while on vacation on the Outer Banks, we decided to walk out to the point that is near the Cape Hatteras lighthouse. From where you park, the remote beach has to be at least a mile or two walk. While we walked, the boys played in the surf and got their shorts wet. Matthew started to get upset because the shorts started chaffing his legs. With the long walk back to the car ahead of us,I told him to take his shorts off, leaving him in underwear.

On the drive back to the condo, Ben turned around and said, laughing, “Well, at least Matthew can go into the store with us. It says ‘No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service’ but doesn’t say anything about pants!”

I think Ben is going to be either a comedian or a lawyer.

The Economy is Rough on Everyone

June 29, 2012 1 comment

As I mentioned previously, Ben has an entrepreneurial spirit and made several attempts to squeeze money from both friends and family through his various themed stores.  His latest store was a rental shop, where, for the low price of $1.00, you could rent a LEGO piece, such as a Stormtrooper helmet or a Battledroid for a day.

However, in these tough economic times, even the killer store ideas fail and below is what now hangs on the toy room door:

I Love that Guy!

June 12, 2012 1 comment

Lately, Benjamin has been OBSESSED with Star Wars Fighter Pods, tiny little rubber figures of the different Star Wars characters.  Last night, while at Rite Aid, I noticed they were selling the small packets of the Fighter Pods.  I picked up a couple for the boys and gave them to Ben and Matt when I got home.

Later on, after I tucked them in, I overheard Ben talking to Matt: “I can’t believe daddy bought us new Fighter Pods for no reason!  I love that guy!”

Very sweet, but I do find it curious that he uses the same phrase and inflection in his voice when talking about his turtle.

Chocolate Taster

May 4, 2012 1 comment

A couple of weeks ago, Benjamin and I some how got into a conversation about jobs and how food companies have tasters to ensure quality (yes, this is the level of conversation I have these days with Ben when we aren’t talking about Star Wars).  So, he says to me, “Daddy, I bet you would really like to be a chocolate taster!”

I laughed and told him “No” due to the fact that I would get really fat because I wouldn’t be able to stop eating it.  We laughed about it for a while then we really didn’t mention it afterwards.

Last Friday, we went to a baseball game and this really heavy man sat down in front of him.  Ben quickly turned to me, from three seats away, and yelled, “Daddy, do you think he is a chocolate taster?”

Yikes!

Categories: Benjamin Quotes Tags: , , ,

Manager

March 9, 2012 Leave a comment

image

It was just an email trying to sort through what I thought, correctly, was a mistake.  Ben needed more time at a tee and Matthew had not played tee ball and they were trying to put them both in the next division. Yes, I had already said to being an assistant coach when I signed them up.  Next thing I know, I am the manager of the team.  As I went to bed that night, all I could think was “What the hell just happened?”

I thought about the madness that swirled around the  manager from last years team.  I thought about those ten kids running off in all different directions…and then all back towards the same destination, very quickly.  I thought about how my own son was driving me insane trying to get him the listen to instructions.  I thought, what had I just gotten myself into?

I had expressed similar feelings on Facebook that day and the responses from most of my male friends were ones of condolence.  They know.  However, one friend who knows of my love of baseball called me out on it and mentioned that this is probably what I secretly wanted.  I think that I may have to agree with that.

While sorting through logistics and trying to arrange things with assistant coaches is a bit of a pain, I do look forward to this now.  I think that all along I have always wanted to try this and all I needed was someone to push me on it.  Now I don’t know if I’ll be singing the same tune in six weeks, but right now, I have a general feeling of happiness about it.

A conversation with Benjamin also brought somethings to light for me:

“So, you are going to be the big boss of the whole team?”

“Yes.”

“You get to tell everyone what to do?”

“Yes.”

“You are the boss?”

“Yes.”

“Awkward.”

A fear I do have is that I may not know how to treat my own sons on a team of ten kids.  I don’t want to favor them, but I want them to love the game the way I do and this is a great opportunity.  I want them to have fun and learn the basics.  Ben really didn’t like it last year and I feel like this is my best chance to have him learn to love it.  I feel that Matthew will pick it up nicely, but we’ll have to see.

I have high hopes for this endeavour, even if I am extremely afraid.   In the end, I just hope the kids have fun, which is the most important thing.  However, I hope I also have fun, without having to be committed.