My biggest kid is 7 and 1/2. Big, but not really that big yet. He is in love with baseball at the moment - that's all he wants to do 24/7. Play baseball, read about baseball, surf baseball stats online, watch baseball.
Yesterday we went to the park with ball and bat, but when we got there there were BIG KIDS playing. Big kids that said "goddamnit!" and hit the ball over the 6 foot fence. Not teenagers, mind you, but big kids. Big Pants was dying to play with them, but they were so…big.
I told him he should ask if he could play, too, even though I was terrified they would say no. I explained that if he wanted to be a Big Kid, he had to ask himself. They would never respect a little kid whose Mama asked for him. I used the same logic to refuse to tie his shoe in front of the big kids. If you wanna be big, you gotta act big.
It took a half an hour to work of the courage, but he finally asked, and they said yes! My heart was in my throat when he got his turn at bat. First pitch - a swing and a miss. Second swing - he hit it over the fence! The big kids looked at each other like Oh. My. God. He ran his bases, and slid into third, prompting more "Did you see that? He slid!"
Now, I'm not saying he's an unusually athletic child. He just tried his absolute hardest. Here's the best part of the story though: the older boys went easy on him. They wouldn't let him strike out, they never tried to tag him out, and they stopped swearing. I noticed the pitcher stepped closer when my son was at bat and threw it very gently.
I was proud that my kid earned his stripes with the big kids. Now he won't be so afraid to ask to join a pick up game, and that means I won't be pressed into service as a pitcher so often.
More than that, I was impressed as hell with the big kids. I'm naturally leery of groups of boys age 10 or older, but these kids proved me wrong. They were sweet to my kid, and sweet in a way that wasn't condescending. I wanted to call all their mothers and tell them they did something right.