Recently, I learned I have issues. Lots of issues. Nothing like parenthood to take a few well hidden traits and put them on display for the world to see. How did I learn such a thing?
Yes, soccer again. Never have I realized my son’s first sport would have so many hidden lessons for me. So, let me give you an update on soccer.
My son still does not like it. We are on game 5 and I have made no progress. I pump him up before a game, and promise him some wonderful things if he would just play at least half – just 2 quarters and I would be happy. I dress him in his uniform, he is ready to go and enthusiastic, and as soon as his foot leaves the van and lands on the grass he looks up at me and says, “I don’t want to play soccer.”
Ycghlehgalhggaghahgahgahga;gha;gh;a, I sputter.
Then, a full adult mother says this back: “You gave me a pinky swear you’d play! You promised! I bought you that green bear from the yard sale and you said you would play!”
My five year old looks me straight in the eye and shrugs. The all essential gesture of the male species. He is also looking at me like I am a little high strung.
The coach and the team try to coax him out but he refuses. Of course, now they are short one player, and none of the other kids on the team have a problem playing, so they have to struggle through. So, because I want Jake to learn all about teamwork, and sticking things through to the end, and commitment, I tell him we are staying for the whole game to root on the team. I close up the comfy lawnchair and stand by the goal for a front row seat. Jake decides to go sit in the van where it’s comfortable and this is where I lose it.
I follow him, take his bear away, and tell him he did not stick with his half of the bargain. I will not give the bear back unless he plays soccer.
And then the kid breaks down crying, tantrum and all, while all the other parents sneak glances at me with horrified faces. Not very kid friendly – I know. So, now I am gritting my teeth and telling him to stop crying and I will give him the bear back.
Boy, do I need a book for this job.
I get him back on the field and halfway through the game, the little girl playing goalie decides she is too hot and too tired and cannot do it anymore. She walks off the field, and Jake is sitting on the grass by the goal, playing with his bear and picking flowers like Ferdinand.
Immediately, me and the assistant coach tug on the goalie shirt and very loudly and excitedly tell him he will be the one to save the whole team by just standing in front of the net and blocking the ball. So, Jake is now the goalie, and he is standing there quite confused, blinking in the sun, and here comes the ball right to him. And I am shouting like it is the Mets playoff against the Yankees “Go, Jake, get the ball, get it!” He blocks the ball by standing there looking confused and I do a victory dance and the coach does a victory dance and you would think he just scored the winning goal himself. Jake begins to look a bit pleased at this attention so he decides to stand there a bit longer.
I got him through a full quarter of the game standing in front of the goal. We all celebrated and I took him for ice cream and asked him if he liked being goalie. He said yes, but he didn’t want to play soccer anymore because he did not like soccer.
I had a conversation with a friend today and I explained this stressful soccer existence. She looked at me like I had grown two heads and asked, “Why don’t you just let him quit?”
Enter my lightbulb moment. Ding.
Quit? Why, that’s too easy, isn’t it? Doesn’t he have to learn all the things in competitive sports? Doesn’t he need to learn teamwork and commitment and get exercise outside? When I asked her about this she shook her head. “He’s five. He just doesn’t like soccer – no big deal.”
OH MY GOD. No Big Deal.
Just let him quit. When I went home and told my husband this idea, he immediately agreed. Then he informed me I was extremely enthusiastic on the field when Jake was just standing there. A little TOO enthusiastic. Embarassingly enthusastic.
Of course, I was stunned. I am not a competitive person. Am I? Just because I yell and shout in my living room over most baseball games does not make me competitive. Just because I have Scrabble tournaments and my husband refuses to play with me anymore does not make me competitive. I flow. I am artsy. Everyone says so. I always compare myself to Cher in the movie Mermaids. She’s cool.
Then it hit me. Yes, I have issues. Just because my five year old son doesn’t want to play soccer does not make him a failure or a quitter. Just because he didn’t run onto the field like the other kids and play does not make him difficult. I will have other opportunities to teach him these lessons, but maybe from soccer I can take away another important one. Try. If you don’t’ like it, you may not have to do it. This is not required like school. This is fun, and if he is not having fun, I need to accept it and move to the next activity.
I know everyone has different views on this. But I think finally receiving permission to ALLOW my son to NOT like an activity and stop gives me a freedom I never thought I had. Almost as if I have to keep reminding myself the only rules with being a mom right now are MY rules. Not everyone elses.
And I am looking on the bright side. I still have my little one, and I am grooming him for baseball.