So me and my son go to the local park to play baseball. Just like any other day we see kids playing basketball and fooling around. Right off the bat, a kid who was playing basketball and yelling “blood” (guy, friend, homie) asks “can I play with you guys”? “Sure” I say. We walk to the baseball diamond with gloves, tennis balls, and bat in hand. We start to play with this little boy named Dominic, who by the way he carries himself you’d think he was a teen (but he’s actually 7 or 8). We practice throwing the ball around and hitting with the bat. My son shows Dominic how to hit. I pitch to him and he surprisingly asks me to throw it faster and hits it. Another boy, Dejuan (12) comes to play with us. He knows Dominic already. We play together and one other boy comes to play who at first is much more serious and unwilling to play. His name was Anthony. Instead of throwing the ball around, we practice hitting and pretending to steal bases. My boy is having fun and so are the other kids. Eventually Anthony joins us too, adding that he’s going to bring the other boys who are on base “home” and swinging the bat confidently.
Its amazing how quickly kids can gel with each other. They don’t even have to know each others names and they’ll just make up a game; up until a certain age. These kids were al young enough that they didn’t care and were having fun. The littlest one reminds me of the kids I grew up playing around. No parents hovering around them, no rules, and just time to explore whatever. Eventually they kids begin to veer off to other parts of the park, and I think to myself “my son is fine”. He didn’t need me there to feel secure or to help him break the ice with other kids. So I picked up the bat, tennis ball, and mitts and I yelled to him “Voy a la casa! Venga cuando terminas. Ok?” To which, he yelled back “Ok”.
And that was that. For only the second time, I left him alone outside to go play by himself (he’s 10 and a half). Now, at this age I went to play by myself all the time. I would go outside my apartment and play basketball with the neighborhood kids. I would walk to the store or to a nearby burrito jointt. I would take my bike and ride for hours, just exploring my neighborhood or playing with friends. I don’t remember my mother or father ever following me to do this. In fact, many times I was home alone or they told me to just go “play”. We did live in a neighborhood with much less shootings, robberies, etc. But now that I’m a dad, I feel scared for my child and at times I almost don’t want to let him go by himself, here in hood where we live or in the burbs. There are the normal fears, like him getting into a fight with some older kids and strange muthafuckas who prey on little kids for god knows what. But I also fear cops who shoot brown kids. That kid Tamir Rice was only 2 years older than my son when he was killed.
I walked back to our house, sat on the porch where I could still hear faint noises from the park and waited. I wasn’t terrified, but I looked at my phone to see how long he’d been gone several times. I sat there and I tried to be cool. I tried to convince myself that both he and I have to learn this lesson. Me to let go of him, and him to be self sufficient, because I learned it at such a young age. I did this as a little boy, and he can do it too, if I just let him. 20-30 minutes later he came walking back to the house and I breathed a sigh of relief, but tried to act cool asking him “como fue”? To which he replied “it was ok”. I smiled, hugged him, and told him I was proud of him. He told me about trying to hang with the big kids and how they cussed a lot. And that was it. Harder for me than it was for him. Have you as a parent ever felt this way?