I am the proud father of 4 kids – twin 9 year old boys, a 5 year old girl, and my youngest son is about to turn 3. While we try our best as parents to minimize competition between the kids, especially in regards to time/attention/affection, it is impossible to eliminate it in external circumstances like school and sports. I recently went through an experience with my sons that ran the gamut from heartbreak to joy because of competition and I would love to share it.
My twin boys play on a baseball team together and one – I’ll call him Cal – is clearly the superior athlete. He is simply stronger and more coordinated than the other – I’ll call him Junior – and he spends a lot more time practising. Despite Junior’s lower interest in practising, he still wants to be Cal’s equal when it’s time to take the field for practices or games.
Yet the disparity in talent is apparent to the team, coaches, and spectators and it is understood that Cal is simply a better player than Junior at this point in their lives. The season is coming to a close and the team’s coach informed us that Cal has been named to the league’s All-Star team, which will allow him to play in a special game at the end of the season with the other All-Stars.
He allowed us to tell our sons the news so that we could try and handle Junior’s reaction when he found out that Cal made it and he didn’t. As we feared, Junior was very upset and refused to talk about it. I expected it but was sure to let him know that he could be upset about being excluded but that part of being a good team-mate and brother was to congratulate his brother on his success, which Junior reluctantly did.
The damage had been done, though, and Junior sulked around the house for the rest of the afternoon. That evening was the semi-finals of the league tournament, and Junior was still in a mood when we arrived at the field to warm up. The coach approached him and asked him if he was ok, to which Junior replied, “I’m just tired”. The red circles around his eyes from crying told another story but the coach let it go.
Cal attacked his warm ups with the usual intensity while Junior ambled through, making minimal effort. I pulled him aside on the way to the dugout and told him he was a better teammate than that and needed to give his best effort, regardless of what else was going on. He looked at me with daggers in his eyes but agreed to try harder. The game went back and forth for the first few innings before the opposing team pulled ahead.
Our team faced a 7-3 deficit when we came to bat for the final time and it looked like our championship dreams were fading. After the first hitter made an out we ran off 4 hits in a row, scoring two runs to trim the lead to 2. As luck would have it, with two men on and one out Junior was in the on-deck circle. I had a horrible feeling that the batter at the plate would make the second out and Junior would be at the plate with the season in the balance, where a failure would be especially crushing given the events of the day.
To my delight, the next man up got a hit to score two runs and Junior came to the plate in a tie game with one out, so even a double play wouldn’t end the game. After taking the first two pitches, Junior calmly stroked the third one into right field for a double that put the team in the lead! I immediately choked up and my eyes filled with tears. I was so relieved and happy for him that I couldn’t even speak.
The very next hitter sent a line drive into the gap, and Junior raced all the way around from first and slid into home plate with the go-ahead run. By this point the tears were streaming down my face but I couldn’t hold them back. I was so thrilled for him that something that began so negatively had swung around completely and he had overcome his emotions. It was a fantastic moment. My sons’ team ended up scoring another run and winning the game 7-5 but I didn’t even care. I was so happy for Junior and proud that he bounced back the way he did. Cal had done his usual great job at the plate and in the field, and of course I was proud of him too, but those performances have become the norm for him.
Junior had stepped above and beyond his normal self and I was ecstatic. I get goose bumps just thinking about it. As a parent, you don’t always anticipate these things happening and it’s rare that your children have such an immediate opportunity to turn things around in such a big way. I am so grateful to have witnessed Junior’s achievement, and even though it is a small accomplishment in the grand scheme of things, the lesson about persevering and overcoming is one that he can take with him for the rest of his life.