When I became pregnant with my son, I vividly remember thinking of all the lessons I wanted to teach him. “Treat others with respect,” “follow instructions,” and “never give up” were choice phrases I repeated to him while waddling around with my huge belly. When he was born, my husband and I hung positive statements around our home, hoping that someday they would resonate with him.

Throughout my pregnancy and in the first days of his life, I was very focused on him reaching his fullest potential in life. Much to my surprise, I didn’t know that he would actually teach me how to navigate the world. They say children are the biggest teachers in life, and that statement couldn’t be any more true. This spring I learned firsthand how a four-year-old could change my life for the better. Having my son involved in T-ball taught me five important life lessons.

Quitting is never cool

A study in Switzerland found that kids who participated in sports clubs had greater well-being and were generally happier about their lives. Knowing this, I knew I wanted to expose my son to sports at an early age. When my son turned two years old, I knew I wanted to put him in sports. We started with soccer at the age of 2.5—that didn’t stick. We moved to Taekwondo—he hated it. Now he plays T-ball and he’s much more interested. I can see his eyes light up when he talks about hitting the ball.

There are some days he’d much rather sit on the couch and play with his tablet, but he’s understanding that being active is always a good thing. On days when he wants to call T-ball quits, I tell him how important it is to show up for his teammates. T-ball demands a team to work together for a common goal and if one person isn’t playing their best the team suffers. In life, partially at work, it’s vital for everyone to work at full capacity. No slacking. Thankfully, I’ve mastered this lesson, but seeing him play for a team sport was a welcomed reminder that having sportsmanship in every aspect of your life is a valuable skill.

The author's son on the field. Image: courtesy of Deena Campbell.

Don’t worry about what others think.

My son’s first game was pure comedy. All the kids were running around trying to catch the ball and none of his teammates stayed in their proper spots. Throughout the craziness, my son remained unconcerned about others’ thoughts. When it was his turn to bat, he didn’t wonder if he got it right; he simply hit the ball and began to run. Albeit, he skipped first base and went straight to second, he wasn’t shaken by the thoughts of crazed parents telling him where he should and shouldn’t be. He marched to the beat of his drum, and that's a lesson we can all learn from.

Find time to play

News flash: raising two kids makes it incredibly hard to find moments to relax and unwind. My days are spent planning their schedules and cooking meals for my family. When I have a moment to myself, I usually spend it resting and catching up on the sleep I've missed. But watching my son play in the dirt during games, reminded me to slow down and enjoy my surroundings. Instead of focusing on the task at hand (in his case, it was watching the ball), he opted to kick rocks and play with mud and dirt with a large stick. His timing may have been off, but taking time to slow down is a skill I need to hone. Finding time to woosah and engage in self-care is vital for parents, especially moms.

You don’t always win, and that’s okay

T-ball is slightly different from regular baseball. With T-ball, no one strikes out; there’s no scoring and force-outs; tag-outs and fly-outs don’t exist. The sport simply focuses on hitting the ball and running. But even in this watered-down version of “real” baseball, my son is learning that sometimes you don’t always hit the ball on the first swing, and it’s totally fine. Sometimes you might crash into your teammate and other times you might run the wrong way. And that’s okay, too. Life isn’t always perfect—and I’m learning to remember that.

Celebrate yourself

One of the things I admire about my four-year-old is that he has his own way of doing things. He’s strong-willed and if you give him a task he’ll find ways to do it the way he wants, not how you want it. His determination is also filled with moments that really showcase his personality. This was evident when playing with his teammates in the outfield. Every time he caught the ball, he would pause for 3 seconds and shout, “I caught the ball!” At that moment, nothing else mattered. He caught the softball with his glove and he wanted the world to know. His actions reminded me to celebrate my big and small wins., even if no one else cares or is bothered by my actions. Moving forward, I plan to commit to celebrating who I am and loving myself.

I’m not sure if the positive affirmations I said to my son in utero are resonating with him, but I do know those affirmations regularly speak to me. And, watching him play T-ball is making me a stronger, more resilient person.