Curveballs & Straight Jackets


“Don’t blame him for the shirt and jacket—they’re my fault,” my husband frantically whispered to me as we stood in a dark parking lot.Saturday had been one of those days. Those days when every single moment seemed accounted for—sometimes twice. Drop-offs and pick-ups and lessons and rehearsals and, well, you know what it is like. But it wasn’t just Saturday. We had been running like this for weeks. All of which lead us to the frantic whisper as we did one last transition to a different car.

Cole climbed in and I tried to casually stare down the problem. The jacket was black, the tie was fine, shirt tucked in, I wasn’t sure what was wrong with his homecoming clothes. I waited.

The two of us were quiet for a few miles. Then “Hey Mom…after tonight, I need a new shirt.”
“Oh?” imagine a super casual and vague tone, “too small?”

“Yeah. When Dad asked me to try it on a few weeks ago I didn’t realize I needed to button it.” I gripped the steering wheel in order to prevent my hand from reflexively slapping my forehead. Twice. Weeks ago on another divide-and-conquer Saturday I had asked my husband as I was running out the door, “And honey? Could you and Cole check his dress clothes for homecoming?” Which had, apparently, translated into “Cole, please go try on your dress clothes and tell me what doesn’t fit.” Which was, reportedly, returned with, “They’re fine, Dad.”

“Okay,” still super casual tone.
“I tried on one of Dad’s shirts, but it’s still too big.”
“Well–that’s great problem solving.”
“Then we found this jacket in my closet. And as long as I don’t button it, it covers the sleeves of my shirt.”
“Which is weird, though, because the shirt is a 12/14 and the jacket is only a size 10.”
Now all attempts at a casual glance are abandoned as I am openly driving and staring, driving and staring, driving and…


What jacket? The last time we bought him a jacket he was four. A navy blue linen blazer to be worn at my brother’s wedding. But the jacket he now has on is neither blue, nor linen, nor a 4T.

Drive and stare. Drive and stare. “Mom, I didn’t understand what the P meant on the tag.”


omg, omg, omg.
I know that jacket. I know that jacket. It is mine. A black wool blazer from my teaching days. In the 90’s. During the previous century when shoulder pads were in and you bought jackets as large as possible. Except I’m still short. So it was still Petite.

I’m laughing so hard I can hardly breathe.

“That’s my jacket. It was in your closet from second grade when you wore it for your school project on Winston Churchill—stuffed with a pillow in front.”

Now I hold my breath.

How is he going to react? What is going to be his response? Disgusted? Horrified? Shamed? Embarrassed? His reaction could have changed the whole evening.

It did.

His outburst was louder than mine. Even bigger laughter. “That is awesome. I can’t wait to tell my friends!” No anger. No moping. No demands to go home or go to a store. Just pure laughter.

As parents we try to prepare our kids for every eventuality. We want them to know how to handle life. But the curveballs? There’s no way to practice for those. We just have to hope and trust. Hope that all the other life lessons come together in a way that draws on their resiliency, their strength, and their sense of humor. Trust that they can handle the unknown.

It’s tempting to wish away the curveballs. To cross your fingers that they’ll never come. But we need them. Because the curveballs become our stories—they tell us who we are. They go on to be family lore, and begin at the intersection of disaster and laughter.

curve balls

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