I was struck by this; on its face, it seems almost monstrous to withhold your cheers, an offense that, decades later, would seep out in therapy: He just sat there, my son would say, his voice wavering. He never said a thing. But then I remembered my own playing days: the exhilarating nausea of standing in the box, fighting the voices that insisted I’d strike out or get a hit. Maybe Matheny was right: Why add another voice? So when my son started tee ball, I said nothing when he came to bat. At first, it felt malicious; for God’s sake, other parents were rooting for him. But he never reacted or complained, and seemed happy after every game. Three seasons later, I’m still mute: I don’t tell him that he “can do it,” call his name, or commend his “good job” when he does the opposite. And though it might be coincidental, when he fails — which in baseball is most of the time, even for the best players — he’s unfazed. He smiles shyly, pounds his glove, and gets ready for what’s next.
My fellow Little League parents and I are raising children at a fraught moment: When our kids emerge from their hideously expensive colleges, they’ll battle hordes of sentient, Chinese-built robots for a dwindling number of low-paying jobs (or so I’m told). So we push them into Little League, guitar lessons, acting classes — anything that might allow them to escape the worst of our dystopian future.