While most of Cub Nation was experiencing schadenfreudian delight at the untimely demise of the New York Mets last weekend, I was experiencing something a little different: learning what not to do as a parent from Mets manager Terry Collins.
For those of you that missed it, the Mets were in a must-win situation in Game 5 of the World Series on Sunday night, down 3 games to 1. The Mets’ Matt Harvey had pitched eight scoreless innings and his team led 2-0, with just three outs to get. Collins had already made his mind up that he would bring in his team’s closer to get those three outs. When Harvey heard he was being pulled, the cameras caught him vehemently lobbying to stay in, saying: “No way. No way. I'm not coming out.” Earlier in the season, Harvey had gone through some controversy related to how many innings he was willing to throw, having missed the previous season due to reconstructive surgery. Some fans thought he was soft and was putting his own well-being before the good of the team. Finishing the game himself would put some of that controversy to rest, and would end his season on an emphatic note.
About that time, the fans joined in too, chanting “We Want Harvey.” So Collins had a decision to make: do I make what I believe is the right baseball decision, to bring in a reliever whom I’ve counted on all season to succeed in such a situation, or do I listen to the emotional plea of a young man who wants to finish what he started, and the fans who want the same? He relented, and sent Harvey out to pitch the ninth. It did not go well. After giving up a walk and a double, the lead was down to 2-1. At that point, he brought in his reliever, who gave up a run on two innocuous groundouts. The Mets went on to lose the game in 12 innings, and the series 4 games to 1. After the game, Collins bravely took full responsibility for his call, and said “I let my heart get in the way of my gut. I love my players. And I trust them.”
So how did I make the jump to parenting? Because I saw myself as a parent in the way Collins talked about his players. I love my children, and I trust my children. I want to make decisions as a parent that will make them happy. And there will be times when I will be tempted to make a decision that may bring them happiness in the short run, but will be detrimental to their well-being in the long run. I may be hesitant to follow through on that decision out of fear for how my children will respond. I may even get second-guessed after the fact. But it’s the right thing to do.
So in the same way that baseball players need their managers to make the best decision for the good of the team (and by extension the fans), so do children need their parents to make the best decisions for the good of the family. And in both situations, those decisions may not be received well, by our children and by others. The “We Want Harvey” cry of the fans is not unlike the response of our kids’ friends or their parents, who will also want to sway you from whichever decision they may disagree with. The “I’m not coming out” from Harvey is like the “Oh yes I am going to that sleepover” from our teens and tweens. It’s our job as parents to, at times, make unpopular decisions, and we should expect disagreement. But we are the parents! We have to trust that we’re acting with the best interests of our children in mind, and trust that it will benefit them even if they don’t like it right now.
With the benefit of 20-20 hindsight, we now know that Collins shouldn’t have “trusted” his pitcher, not because Harvey’s a bad player but because the manager needed to keep the bigger picture in mind. Just as winning a championship for your team always has to trump a loyalty to a certain player, putting your children in a position to succeed in life has to trump their short-term self-interests.
Love your kids with all of your heart, love them till they can’t take it anymore. But never stop making decisions with your gut. Here’s hoping Joe Maddon does the same.