Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The Little League Parent Pledge

My son has been playing Little League for years. He really likes baseball and even though it can be a major time suck and occasional pain in my keister, so do I. I love watching the kids play, seeing them come together as a team over the course of the season, watching them improve, take risks, fail, and succeed. I like meeting new families and reconnecting with old friends.

Given my over-all warm and fuzzy feelings about Little League, it might surprise you that I've got some rants in my pants about it and I'm about to unload a little bit. Because one of the things I like the most about baseball is a little something I call the "The Statement of Parental Non-Assholery" that our League requires us to make at the beginning of every game. That's not it's real name, by the way, officially it's called "The Parent Pledge".

You want to read it? Here it is.
The Parent Pledge 
I will teach all children to play fair and do their best. 
I will positively support all managers, coaches and players. 
I will respect the decisions of the umpires.  
I will praise a good effort despite the outcome of the game.
It's great, right? What could anyone possibly object to in that statement? For me, The Parent Pledge is basically saying (and by the way, this is also known as Wheaton's Law): Don't be a dick. But there's always a couple of coaches who don't think it's important and try and skip it. And there's always a couple of parents who roll their eyes about how dumb it is, and act like they're too cool to say it. That's funny to me.

It's funny because they're usually the ones who need it the most. You know who they are and you know exactly what I mean. I have this theory that the Parent Pledge is really sort of an asshole litmus test and is actually code for something else.  If you roll your eyes and think you're too cool for The Parent Pledge - then guess what? You failed the test and you're probably an asshole.

You know how sometimes you hear people say things and you realize that if you listen carefully, there's a whole lot going on between the lines? (This is an example of what I mean.)

Reading between the lines of the Parent Pledge, here's what I think it actually means;

I will teach all children to play fair and do their best.
I will not let my kid act like a cartoon weasel. One who doesn't listen, does whatever he wants, talks a bunch of trash, and taunts other kids when they lose or mess up.
I will positively support all managers, coaches, and players.
I will remember that all the grown-ups here are volunteers who do not need to take a bunch of crap from parents, when they're working their tails off for free to teach and mentor our kids.
I will also remember that parents who sit on the bleachers making snide comments about "players" are actually saying hurtful things about other people's kids, and that's a dick move.
I will respect the decisions of the umpires.
I will not lose my shit and start screaming at the 14 year old umpire who just called my kid out when he was actually safe. Because that is straight up crazy and anyone who does that has anger issues and should consider making some life changes.
I will also not argue with or heckle the umpire over the outcome of a game involving 8 year olds. IT'S A GAME. You care more about it than the kid who was just at bat. Be like Elsa and let it go.
I will praise a good effort despite the outcome of the game.
I will never make my kid feel bad because she didn't get a hit, made an error, or because his team lost. Making him feel bad about himself and about baseball is a great way to make sure he stops playing sports altogether and transitions directly into a sullen teenager who never looks up from his phone.

Hey while I'm at it, I'll create a secondary pledge. This one is just for me, recognizing my own weaknesses as a baseball parent. While I don't yell at the umpire, I do other annoying things. So here's my pledge:
  • I will try not to embarrass my kid by looking like I'm going to throw up from nerves every time he's at bat or about to pitch. 
  • I will cheer only slightly less enthusiastically for the kids on the other team who make great plays. Unless I know them, in which case I will cheer loudly for them and not even feel one bit bad.
  • I will not complain about having to drive my child to every practice and game, even though they're all half way across the county during rush hour. 
  • I will make a concerted effort to wash my kid's uniform before each game, even if I have dig it out of a pile of stinky grossness in his closet.
  • I will utilize advanced level strategic planning skills to ensure that dinner is in the crock pot, homework is done, the dog is walked, and my kid is there in time for warm-ups. But I mean, that shit is not easy.
  • I will entertain bored siblings for hours and hours and hours while my other kid plays ball.
  • I will nag him relentlessly gently remind him not to forget his bag and glove. Sometimes twice.
  • I will not get mad when he forgets it anyway and then blames me because it's not there.
  • I will volunteer to do things I don't really want to do (because the people who always manage to get out of doing that required stuff have poopypants). That means carrying heavy things and cleaning up the field and bringing snacks and gatorade and whatever else needs to get done. 
  • I will make sure all the coaches know how much we appreciate their time. I will also make sure the coach's spouse knows how much we appreciate what their whole family does. 
  • I will give my kids money for the snack bar because it raises funds for the league and I know how much they love it (but it drives me crazy because we both know they're the exact same snacks from Costco that we have in our pantry that they claim they don't like).
  • If I see other grown-ups (be they parents, coaches or umpires) behaving in a way that is not consistent with the Statement of Non-Assholery, I will keep my fat mouth shut and vent about it later so as not to make situation weirder. Because muttering under my breath, glaring at the offender, and exchanging "Are You F*cking Kidding Me?" looks with other parents is really not helpful. Not that I've done that. (Except for last week and now I feel shame). 
  • I will try to be a good person and not an asshole, remembering to set a good example for my kids, both on and off the field. No matter what.
Signed,

Lydia B. Coupon

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