It was the bottom of the 8th inning and the home team, the Scranton Wilkes-Barre Railriders were down 4-2 against their opponent the Buffalo Bisons. Even though this was a minor league baseball game, the action throughout was consistent and the playing level, quite impressive. Sitting with my father and step-mother, surrounded by families with small children, everyone around me seemed to be having a great time.
Even the 7 year old next to me who offered me his Dipping Dots Ice Cream mixed with Pepsi was grinning ear to ear. What could make a kid happier than a night of baseball and hotdogs while with his sister and father, sitting just a feet away from home plate?
Then it happened, a section over and about 10 rows back. “You suck #41”. And then, it happened again. 2 hours and 30 minutes of enjoying the purity of America’s past time suddenly shifted in a negative direction. You see, it wasn’t so much the fan who was yelling at the opposing teams pitcher so loud that we heard him a section over that startled me. It was when the 7 year old, who wanted to offer me his ice cream mush a few minutes before, started to repeat the man’s statements word for word. It was loud enough that there was no doubt in my mind the players on the field heard him. What was his father’s response to this outburst all while his son was sitting on his lap? Nothing! Nada!
Some people around us laughed and some shook their head in disbelief. The therapist inside of me wanted to slide a few seats over and say “Dad, you have such an amazing opportunity, this is such a teachable moment. What about using this moment to talk to your son about good sportsmanship, about how to respond to someone else’s negative comments, or to find a positive aspect of someone who may be different than you?”
But I with better judgement prevailing, left it alone. 15 minutes later the game ended and they went home like all the other fans. Not only did the home team lose but I also thought this dad and his son lost as well.
Then I remembered that when I sat down next to them, the dad smiled at me and we exchanged a few positive words with each other. When his son was making a mess with his ice cream, he smiled at him and made a playful comment. While his kids were playing Paper, Rock, Scissors during the boring parts of the game, he didn’t interrupt them and tell them to sit down and just watch the game. In fact, each interaction I witnessed before those final minutes of the game between the father and his children were quite positive.
Remember, there is always a teachable moment.
I wanted to so badly use this family as an example of how adults, without realizing it, can be immediate influences on children for both good and bad. To me it was bad enough that the adult fan a few rows over acted this way and no one stopped it. But a child, acting this way in front of his parent and then not seeing the father stop it, seemed even worse. Remember, there is always a teachable moment.
Then it hit me. What if the dad whispered into his son’s ear asking him to stop and I didn’t see. Perhaps he was planning on speaking to him once they got in the car or even alone without his big sister around so he wouldn’t be embarrassed. I honestly don’t know if the father did any of these things or if he really just blew this opportunity of teaching his children how not to be sore losers.
I realized that I was actually the beneficiary of a very powerful teachable moment. I realized that its vital to let go of someone else’s actions or in this situation, perceived lack of action, that seemed to have an easy fix to make everything in the world right again. We are so concerned with the outcomes in life that we lose the ability to just be in the present and focus on all the good things that surround us. Just like the batters who were ahead in the count 3-1, sometimes you just need to sit back and let the next pitch pass without reacting even if it has the possibility of being a strike.
Jason Wasser, LMFT is a Florida Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Certified Addictions Professional and a Certified Neuro Emotional Technique Practitioner. He runs a full service Family Therapy practice in South Florida that sees kids, couples, adults and families from all backgrounds. He also is a speaker and coach who has spoke for organizations and retreats across the country.