The Grinch

Grinch_growing_heartMy wife likes to compare me to the Grinch. Not because I hate Christmas, but because, according to her, my heart grew three sizes when my son was born.

I have never been a very affectionate person.  I don’t say I love you enough to the people I care about.  I am not much of a hugger, an arm-around-the-shoulder or cheek-kisser. It’s just not in my nature.  Maybe I just assume everyone around me knows exactly how I feel about them so there is no need to express it physically or vocally.  The word “love” slips out of my mouth less frequently than so many other four-letter words that when it does I almost feel the need to apologize. 

I was worried my son would be like me, a heart noticeably small.  Certainly, there are traits I own that I would gladly see reflected in my son.  My undersized heart is not one of them.   Not only did I never want him to wonder whether or not I loved him, but I also didn’t want his future wife or children feel distant from him.

This past Sunday, my fears were assuaged.

sean-do-782269-unsplash.jpgThe headset crackled with my son’s loud laughter.  He was only a few rooms away but he always insists we use the headsets when we play video games together.  It’s our favorite way to spend lazy, rainy Sundays together.  

“Okay Dad, I am gonna switch teams now so you won’t be able to hear me anymore.  I love you.” With those words, the mic goes quiet for a split second before gunfire erupts in my ear as he begins to mercilessly kick my butt once again.

At that moment though, I was no longer concerned with winning the game.  I was too busy beaming with fatherly pride.  My son, who is often more teenager than first grader, just told me he loved me without any prompting.

It may seem like a small moment, but it was important.  It was confirmation that my efforts to be more vocal about my feelings were working.  It was some sense that, in spite of the million mistakes I make daily as a parent, I was at least getting something right.

I don’t know if my heart grew three sizes when my oldest son was born or not, but I do know, hearing him say “I love you” makes my smile three times wider.

“Love, and you shall be loved. All love is mathematically just, as much as the two sides of an algebraic equation. ” Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

 

Tee Ball

My oldest son plays Tee-ball.  Well, he’s four years old,  he doesn’t so much play Tee-ball as he does draw in the dirt with six other boys wearing the same color shirt. I decided to help out and coach the team this year considering it’s his first time in organized sports.  Although the word “organized” should probably be in quotations and taken very lightly.

I’ve never coached anything in my life so it’s been a new experience for me but very balls-baseball-close-up-1308713rewarding. As the coach, one of my responsibilities during the game is to walk the kids up to the Tee when it’s their turn at bat.  I help them with their stance and then yell, “Run!” when they hit the ball.  Then I immediately follow that with “No!  Other way!  Run to first!” as they take off in the entirely wrong direction.

It’s the middle of the second inning of our second game.  The infield is filled with impatient four-year-olds and the stands are filled with beaming parents and playful siblings.  The sounds of bats cracking, parents cheering and coaches yelling carry over from adjacent fields.
I’m standing at home plate motioning for one of our younger players to come bat.  It takes a moment but soon he saunters from the dugout, bat in hand.  As he walks toward home plate, he carefully scans the stands behind me.  Suddenly his eyes grow wide and he sprints the final distance.
“Coach Justin!”  He exclaims as he tugs on my shirt, “My Nanna is here! Can I go say hello and give her a hug?”   He grins and his focus alternates between me and the stands as he waits on my response.
At that moment I have two choices.
Option 1:  I’m the coach and this is a ball game.  There are 10 other kids on the field waiting for us to hit so I say, “Why don’t you just wave at her and then after you hit you can see her.” This is the practical choice the responsible adult choice.
Option 2: I’m a dad and this is simply a four-year-old boy who wants to hug his Nanna, so I say, “Of course you can! Run out there!”
Let’s just say Nanna did not have to wait for her hug, instead, two Tee ball teams stopped in the middle of a game to let a little boy hug his grandmother.
Sometimes the world is beautiful, especially through the eyes of a four-year-old.