The story of a Little Leaguer named Hayden Walton who was killed by a pitch yesterday could be put in every parenting book as the prime example of the hardest part of parenting. The tragedy is the very definition of the roots vs. wings conundrum -- giving our kids a chance to do something that will enrich their lives but could be dangerous.
Apparently the 13-year-old took a pitch straight to the chest, took two steps, then collapsed. His heart never recovered, and MY heart breaks for his family. But I can't help hoping that when they've had time to process their grief, they'll be able to step out and speak on behalf of kids' baseball, that they'll encourage parents to encourage THEIR kids to stick with the sport or any sport for that matter, that this won't be something other parents use as an excuse to shy away from letting their kids take risks.
The fact is, what happend to Hayden was a freak accident. Commotion cordis, the condition that claimed his life from the pitch hitting him in the heart, doesn't happen often in life period not just Little League -- there are only 128 reported cases. And yes, baseball has its dangers for kids. But everything is dangerous, isn't it? Walk outside of the house, and you could get stung by a bee. Heck, the sun's harmful rays could cause skin cancer.
As parents, all we want to do is shield our kids from anything and everything. I still remember the first ride home from the hospital after my daughter was born, when suddenly my easy going husband, the apotheosis of the unflappable Southerner, slammed on the brakes every . . . five . . . feet. . . .lest something get too close to hurting his baby girl. Now picture the way his adam's apple leaps when she climbs to the tippy top of the giant climbing apparatus that's half spider web/half jungle gym at our town park . . . and then starts bouncing.
Roots and wings, ladies and gents. Roots and wings. That's what keeps him from running pell-mell across the park and screaming with that Southern drawl, "Get down from there right this instant, Missy, and back into your bubble." That's what lets him see the enormous joy on her face as she bounces, what allows him to hear the shrieks of laughter erupting from her lips, seemingly coming from as deep as her belly.
The story of Hayden Walton and how he was killed by that pitch is horrifying for us as parents because it in it we see "there but by the grace of whoever we believe in go I." But right now, as his parents grieve, along with the hugs and prayers and other condolences that Americans are sending them, I would like to send along a giant thank you on their son's behalf. Because Hayden Walton's parents had the courage to know that letting kids experience enormous joy is as important as feeling safe ourselves.
Will Hayden Walton's experience change the way you parent? Or will you follow his parents' shining example?
Image via mistycabal/Flickr