Thursday, July 26, 2012

Practice Makes Perfect

Sher at the Bat
Thunk! Thunk! Thunk!

What IS that noise? I look out the family room window. A light snow has fallen overnight, and the grass has a fine coating of glistening white. Not what you would call baseball weather. Yet there he is, 11 year old Sheridan, pitching his heart out, the ball hitting the shed door, over and over. Thunk! It’s months until the playing season will begin, but that matters not a whit to Sher. If he’s going to be a pitcher then, by gum, he’s going to practice. Every single day. 
Toddler Sheridan--Skeeball Mania Begins
Rehoboth Beach. Summer of 1996. Young teen Sheridan has decided that this is the year he will master skeeball on the boardwalk at Funland. While the rest of us scatter to the merry-go-round, the helicopter ride, the horse-race game, Sheridan exchanges his dollar bills for a pocketful of quarters and heads back to what is, for him, THE contest. Over and over he aims the balls into the rings on the wall. 250 points wins a large stuffed animal. He is years past coveting this prize, and yet he wants to win in the worst way (he’ll later give the stuffed friends to his younger siblings). Skeeball Champion Seyfried has one word of advice for all the wannabe winners: practice.

Sheridan @ Grace
Dinner's been eaten and dishes are done. It’s Sunday evening and time to relax, regroup and get ready for the week ahead. But wait—where’s Sheridan? He has collected his music and gone down to church to play the organ. Mind you, he has already logged several hours at the keyboard and pedals today, as organist and music director at Grace Lutheran Church. But it’s not enough—the organ is a very demanding instrument, and Sheridan is determined to play it very well. To that end: practice and more practice.

A certain number of things come easily to me, and so, those are the things I do. The rest, I avoid like the plague if at all possible: bicycle riding, parallel parking. Speaking Spanish. Card games.  When I hear “practice makes perfect” I shrug, reassure myself that nobody’s perfect, and go back to my fairly unskilled and unfocused life.  My lack of self-discipline stands in sharp contrast to my dedicated and hard-working son. When, several years back, Sheridan valiantly attempted to teach me piano, I sabotaged my own efforts by stinting on practice time. Clearly I didn’t, I don’t, want to excel badly enough to put in the required hours. Better to limit myself to what I think are my natural strengths. Better not to try so hard. 

Sher never, ever criticizes me—he’s far too nice for that. But I’m sure I am an alien species to him, someone who is unwilling to practice, even when practice would lead to success. I’m grateful for his patience with his lazy mom. Maybe someday I’ll be inspired as well, and learn something new the hard way—with practice. 

Meanwhile I settle. I settle when, like Sheridan, I could soar.  

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