When he was seven years old, he knew every major league baseball team and could tell you what teams were in the American League and which were National. He enjoyed watching baseball on television and liked to imitate the players. When he dressed for little league, the way he wore his uniform had to resemble the players on tv. The way the shirt was tucked, the socks, the hat. Curt is my oldest son. Once, when I was helping coach a Little League team he was playing on, I saw him make an unassisted triple play. Little League rules of course. He was playing second base. With runners on first and second, he caught a fly ball,(out #1), tagged the kid running from first (out #2) then stepped on second base since the runner had left there without “tagging up” (out #3). I witnessed the play from the outfield and began leaping up and down. I had never seen a triple play in person, and haven’t since. “He plays years beyond himself,” I remember thinking. “He’s so mature.”
Just before the start of one of his little league games, I was again marveling at his maturity on the field. He was playing second base again. It was a strategy used by some coaches when you have an excellent fielder. And Curt had a great glove and could cover a lot of space. When batting, children at that age often swing “late” which means the ball would go to the right side of the diamond. If you had a great second baseman, they could get a lot of kids out from that position. I was watching him warm up.
He’d blow a bubble with his gum and suck it back in without making a mess. He’d pound the pocket of his glove as he started to crouch in the ready position. The coach would hit the ball to him, he’d field it cleanly and toss it perfectly to first base. With that, just like a big-leaguer, he’d adjust his cap, then continue smoothing the ground around him with his cleats. This would help against a ground ball taking a “bad hop.” I began to daydream.
I pictured him in a high school uniform. An all-conference player. Photos in the newspaper. Sports writers gathering around him after games…what a ballplayer. “Look at him out there,” I thought, “he’s ready for the big leagues.” I put him in an age-box. His behavior meant he was really older…somehow. It’s what I do to myself. Put myself in an age box and keep reminding myself of just how old I am. Just let him be a kid. Just let me be…me.
Then he did something uncharacteristic of that moment. He looked up and spit straight into the air. That round ball of expectorant came straight back down…and landed in his right eye.
Holding in my laughter, my eyes welled with tears. That’s my boy. Perfect comedic timing, which he also had at a young age. But he wasn’t trying to be funny. Which made it even better. He wiped his eye and continued warming up with the team.
What does it mean to “act your age?” And why do we get so serious as we grow up? Lately, I’ve found myself in groups of younger people and I keep reminding myself I’m the eldest in the room. I don’t like me when I do that. I suppose I’m self-conscious. Not any more.
In 2019 I will no longer define myself by categories of behaviors, intelligence, physical attributes, skill, ability, inability…or AGE!
I will have fun, help others succeed, dress nicely, laugh, play, work hard, live well, and most of all- be fully me. But I cannot be fully me if I’m thinking about my age when it comes to behavior. Forget the age thing. Curt may have exhibited the behaviors of a young man ready for the majors, but the key is that he was having fun doing it. Spitting on himself is something seven-year-olds do…and fifty-seven-year-olds do!
Join me in relaxing. Join me in being ourselves. If we like the way we are, keep going with it. If you don’t like some of the things about you, change them. It’s possible. I’ve done it many times. Start with changing the language about yourself. (Read my blog Say This Instead Of That)
You’re older than me and I love that. You’re younger than me and I love that too. I hope you can spend 2019 being fully yourself. In the moment, regardless of your age. Dance with those younger than you and dance with those older. And if you spit on yourself – just keep playing. Your team needs you.