In the spirit of trying new things, our six-year-old daughter asked to try a soccer class at the YMCA. She isn’t the most coordinated (she comes by that naturally), so I wasn’t sure how she’d do at soccer. But I figured if nothing else it was an hour that would guarantee me some laughs.
When we arrived on the field, I bent down, gave her a quick hug, and told her I’m rooting for her. I always try to pump my kids up when sending them off to school or a sport by reminding them I’m on their team. I handed her off to the coach and selected a quiet spot back from the sidelines. It was a lovely, crisp, early autumn day in Boston. The coach spent a few minutes getting to know the kids and warming them up. Within a few minutes she was already dividing them up for a game.
At the start of the game, there were a few loud parents, as I had expected. They were the ones who dressed their kid up for the first day in real soccer gear with cleats and jerseys and those shin things…not that there’s anything wrong with that. I’ll admit it, I was a little excited about the loud parents. It was like, Alright here we go. (rubs hands together) Let’s see some action. I’ve been hearing about these people for years, and I was almost regretting my spot in the back where I couldn’t see what was happening at center stage.
My attention was quickly turned back to the field, where my daughter sped around actually kicking the ball. Say whaaaa? She even went up against a boy larger than her and almost scored a goal! Then she did score a goal! For the wrong side, but still! She was so proud and excited, she did a little gig. The spectators sitting near me on benches in the second row all laughed and clapped. I looked over to see a woman who was bent over in a fit of near-hysterical laughter over my girl’s end zone dance. I heard a few “Atta girls” from the sidelines, and I began to relax and join the laughter. It was a total Steve Martin ala Parenthood moment.
I appreciated the camaraderie. Those parents on the sidelines buoyed me up, and I’ve been riding on their shoulders ever since.It was a soccer game, but sometimes a soccer game is more than just a soccer game, you know? There are so many times I feel like I’m being divided from other parents on the basis of weird categories I don’t even understand, and that day it was like we all united, if only for a brief minute, in the hilarity that is pee-wee soccer.
The truth is that I’m not just on the kids’ team; I wanna be on your team too. We’ll call it team “Laugh at our children’s mistakes.” [NB: I’m also team “What’s that shit on the floor of my car?”] We’ll even laugh at our own mistakes! I’m not going to promise I’ll be the best teammate—this morning I paused to note I was scratching my head with a fork while I waited for the leftovers to heat in the microwave—but I will promise to root for you with enthusiasm. And I make a mean celebratory whiskey sour.
After last week’s lesson was over, when I gave our daughter a high-five for effort and asked her how it went, she said, “I regret my choice. I wish I hadn’t signed up for soccer.” Womp womp. A few thoughts simultaneously occurred to me. First, she said ‘regret.’ She is so totally six going on thirteen. My mom wondered, “If she says regret now, what is she going to say when she’s twelve?” Precisely. I have nothing to add to that question, I’m just putting it out there. Second, not wanting to play soccer is how I have felt my entire life, so it seems bizarre that I would push her into the sport given that she at least gave it an A+ effort on her first try.
This week, I asked her to try again.I’d love to be able to wrap this post up with a bang and tell you that we came back for an encore performance. But by the end of the lesson she was clearly not having any fun still. I’ll fast forward a bit to the end and tell you that we let her choose an alternative. Luckily the Y was nice enough to switch our credit to another class. She chose swimming, and I’m happy to report this is a sport she does really love. I can’t wait to see how she improves her ability this year. And if nothing else, I should be able to get some laughs from all those
belly flops dive attempts.