Posted by: Kate | June 3, 2009


He’s still just a little boy. It’s easy to forget that, sometimes, when his vocabulary leaps ahead of his years, or he smoothly reads new signs and books intended for older kids. But he’s still just four, and four doesn’t provide one with great, vast stores of emotional resilience and perspective. He simply hasn’t had a critical mass of life experiences yet, to prove to himself that, if he just waits long enough, things will cycle back around to good-enough again, to fair, to the way he wanted them to be.

It’s noteworthy, how vulnerable he is to disappointment and frustration, because he is the most Zen, patient four-year-old I have ever have the privilege to know. He will routinely opt to snuggle with Mama on the couch, or in bed for a late-sleeping morning, rather than play with his thousands of Matchbox cars or torment the cat or escape out to wreak havoc upon the neighborhood. His sister has always been reasonably independent and well-behaved in terms of not burning the house down, but she was never quite trustworthy enough for me to stay in bed after she was up. He accepts “no” with equanimity the vast, vast majority of the time, and uses the word “OK” just as often as his sister uses the words, “But, Mom…” He’s affable, but at a certain cost. The boy’s cord, I think, was not fully, entirely cut, because he still boomerangs back to Mama at any given opportunity.

It raises conversation, around the house, about whether “Mama’s boy” is an inherently pejorative phrase. Whether it is a bad thing to be. Because boy, oh, boy, is he. He’s not a whiner, unless he’s tired or deeply upset, and tantrums are few and far between, but if something hurts his feelings, skins his knees, or upsets his sense of the way things are going to happen, he makes a beeline toward his mother. Not to tattle or complain, just to get some comfort and talk it all through.

But anyway, a sensitive and laid-back critter, he is. Such a contrast to his intense, hair-trigger, volatile sister, and yet they love each other beyond expression.

So t-ball, with its team uniforms designed to homogenize and instantly age my sweet baby, has been a wonderful thing for him. The chance to belong to a group that does not involve family, to listen to authority that is not Mom or Dad, and to be encouraged to just shake it off and get ready for the next play when things go badly – these are necessary things for the boy. He hears the same at home, even from his Mama – trust me, I am not the fluttery, protective, make-it-all-better type – but the clearer signal he gets from his brain is that just being near a parent makes his world a little safer, and the words we use are secondary at best. There’s also the factor of peer pressure, in a positive sense: when most of the other kids aren’t running for Mama, except for that crybaby annoying kid who melts down every other inning, then you’d better believe that he is going to be just as tough as the rest of the pack.

He’s learning, then, and though a part of me would love to keep him soft and sweet and precious forever, a bigger part knows that he needs to be able to function out in the cold, cruel world without an immediate, constant safety net. So it’s a good thing.

But every once in a while, the home-brain wins out over the big-tough-t-ball-brain. Like on Monday night, when he was assigned third base, and watched as ball after ball ended up in the near-infield, intended for the pitcher to field to the first baseman. He had gotten to play at first base in the first inning, and that was fun, lots of catching and throwing and action. And, at second base, there was always the chance that the ball would slip past the pitcher and he would be able to sneak in and grab it, amongst the crush of spastic, ball-grabbing little boys who have turned the sport into Tackle T-ball. But at third, there was very, very little action. The coaches are still trying to train the kids to throw to first as a reflex, instead of stopping to look around the field and figure everything out, and none of the batters send anything remotely near third base.

And after about eight batters (because, in t-ball, there are no, well, strikes or balls; everyone hits once and that makes half an inning), he lost his tough-guy shield. “I just want to catch the ball, and no one is hitting it to me,” he sobbed, and needed a two-minute break to go stand at Mama’s spot on the fence and sniffle. Mama tried to find a happy medium between snuggling and “now is not the time, go back to your base,” and I’m still not sure that such a balance actually exists.

He did make it back to his base, with no further action – or meltdowns – for the rest of the inning, and it so happened that, to end the game, he got to be the last batter, which means that he hits the ball and then rounds all of the bases, occasionally overtaking or even passing the baserunner ahead of him. So there was redemption, and he is excited for his next game.

But oh, was he crushed, to realize that not every position gets a lot of action, and sometimes you have to just smile politely and wait it out. It’s a hard lesson for any of us, I think, but even worse when you’re four.

I know, you’re right, it’s a stretch, from assigned topic to actual post content, but I don’t have any crushes, at the moment, and am, for various reasons, disinclined to go into the long-past ones. So instead I focused on a different sort of crushed, and it’ll have to do.

It’s madhouse Wednesday again… check the list to see who’s joined in this week:

Ohbytheway, we’re up to 26 comments for the giveaway… hurry on over, if I get four more (and check the list, there are some names I’m honestly a little surprised not to see over there, did you forget?) then the prize count goes from two to three…



  1. Tommy’s playing t-ball this year for the first time. We had a similar incident when a very intense little boy was being a ball-hog and playing tackle t-ball. Thomas calmly came over to me to tell me his problem, and even though I wanted to march out onto the field and tell the kid to cut the crap–I just told Tommy that he would have to basically deal with the other kid’s playing “style.”
    Not easy, but they do have to learn to roll with the punches. Just so long as they’re not real punches.

  2. But it’s such a good use of the word CRUSH. I mean, isn’t that a meaning? Love it. May make the husband read it as this idea of a “mama’s boy” is one we’re discussing as we think about future children…

  3. Walking that fine line is so hard, isn’t it?!?

    FYI, I finally played along with the Madhouse!!!

  4. That post made me very teary. If I wasn’t at my desk reading this, while the kids are out at recess, I’d probably have a bit of a meltdown. (It’s a PMS thing, not an everyday thing).

    LouLa reminds me of Jacob in so many ways, but she is also a lot like Emily. In her needing Mom, she’s definitely more like Jacob. If her friends are around, she’ll try to suck things up, but there are times when she looks at me and just melts, with her heart breaking all over the place. It is so hard to give her comfort, but to also not go overboard. There is no happy medium.

  5. My daughter at 3rd base was disaster – she ended up picking flowers or just sitting on the base itself or talking to the runners.

    My son played baseball this year (1 step up from T-ball level) and was sooooo bored he told us he’d rather do soccer. So, it was decided next year there will be no baseball. My husband and I don’t know if we’re bummed out or not.

  6. Aww, don’t wish independence on him too quickly. Enjoy the mama’s boy in him for a little longer. Too soon he’ll be a hulking 22 year old cutting tiles in your shed for someone else’s back yard and the snooxy hugs will turn to bear grips and bum slaps. Sorry, didn’t actually post on Crush this week but I have an oldie that fits the bill at

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