Debut as a Soccer Mom

Sometime in the fall last year, Calvin started talking about soccer. All. the. time.

By December, the only thing he would tell me he wanted for Christmas was a soccer ball. Done. The other toys and winter weather kept him from devoting a lot of time to playing with the ball for a few months, but he was very happy to have it.

In February or so, I received the spring program of sports and activities for our town and noticed a sweet little Saturday soccer program for 4- and 5-year-olds called "Me and My Ball."

Perfect, I thought - Cal will get to start soccer (his apparent dream), he'll be able to go run around and kick things for an hour each Saturday for two months, his dad will take him (woohoo!), and it will be a nice diversion for all of us in the last weeks of my pregnancy.

That's what I get for thinking. I should have known better after the swimming lessons - these things I think will be fun diversions for the kids end up being WORK for the parents trying to get the kids to have fun.

I should have also clued in a little bit when I was hyping the upcoming first practice by saying, "And you'll get to learn all the rules, and how to play the game really good..." and Cal replied, "I already know the rules. You can't use your hands. And I already play really good."

Nevertheless, we bought little shin guards, he got another ball and a t-shirt at his first practice, and we were set. I went to the first couple "practices" to cheer him on. While he sat on my lap on the damp grass, too hesitant to join the mob of kids on the field.

He doesn't like the skill drills, no matter how fun the coach makes it sound. It's mostly because Cal likes to do something perfectly if it's in front of other people, and he couldn't "get" the skills fast enough before the coach moved on.

The ball the soccer league gave him at the beginning looks just like the other fifty balls on the field, and it was disturbing to him (and most of the other 4-year-olds) when they pooled the balls for a game and he no longer had sole possession of the ball that we had written his name on.

So we decided to take his own ball the next time, which is a different color than the others, and gave him the explanation that sometimes everyone shares all the balls but he'll always get his own back at the end. That kinda alleviated the ball angst. (Why they give personal balls to preschoolers at the beginning I cannot fathom...Why not as a consolation prize at the end of the "season," after they've shared the whole time?)

He doesn't like that the coach changes almost every time - they just have a big group of kids, no formal teams at this age, so they count off each week and go with a different coach and different mix of kids every time. Calvin will stage a sit-in for the first twenty minutes or so over not knowing the coach. (He bonded with the first one by telling a swell knock-knock joke and has only had that coach one time since.) And last week he said mournfully, "But I still don't know any of the kids there." I think he kinda feels like it's starting over every week, instead of seeing the same friends each time. Understandable. He thrives on structure and familiarity.

I stopped going after the first couple of times, because (aside from the issues of standing for an hour on a soccer field in late pregnancy) when I went, Henry would also come along and it was more of a draw for Cal to take his ball and his brother to the nether regions of the field and play a grass-picking, piling, rolling ball sort of game with him. So David gives me the report each week.

Out of the six weeks (hours) of soccer so far, Cal has been on the field about one hour total. For one thing, it takes him fifteen to twenty minutes to warm up to the idea and get brave enough to go out and do his thing. Then once he does go out there, where they are playing ball-stealing games and having dribbling races, if he doesn't "win," he benches himself.

The death knell came this last week, I think, when Cal finally got the nerve to go out and play near the end of the hour, only to get knocked down within 30 seconds by one kid tripping into him and then kicked in the face by another kid running by. Bloody nose, hurt pride. David cleaned him up and said, "How about we go get the car washed?"

Don't get me wrong - I totally knew going into it that four years old is still a little guy, that we're not exactly the soccer family, and I have no problem with Cal being hesitant to join in. We honestly haven't pushed him.

Well, OK - at first I was a little tense about the situation and spent a lot of time encouraging, cajoling, bribing him to go out and give it a try. But it stressed him out and stressed us out and even the money we paid to enroll him wasn't worth that - this was supposed to be a fun first exposure. So we came around to the conclusion that at least we would go and watch, even if he didn't feel like playing. Trust me, compared to some other parents out there, we are really laid back about it.

I just decided that signing him up this year was a flop, and I would take full responsibility for it - he just isn't quite ready to join in like that, and that's OK. Far be it from me to pressure a kid. And there is also the side of his personality that lends itself more to individual sports than team sports. We'll try golf or tennis or rock climbing sometime...

I was just a little disappointed because the way he talked about soccer and wanted that soccer ball for literally months, I thought it would be the highlight of his life so far, instead of the dreaded hour of every week. I made a note to myself that we would wait until being on a team was his idea, and until then we'd just play soccer with him ourselves. Or let him devise grass-picking, piling, ball rolling games with his two soccer balls and his brother from now on. Lesson learned.

But then we hear him telling his preschool friends and church teachers, "I play soccer. I have shin guards and everything! I love soccer." The best was when he pulled his cozy coupe over to the backyard fence, climbed up on top of it so he could see over the fence, and kicked up a conversation with the bachelor neighbor who was setting up his new BBQ grill: "I play soccer. I'm really good. I love it. I know all the rules, and I have two soccer balls, and I go to practice..." In fact, he tells most anyone about his enduring love for the game and his skills and that he plays soccer.

It's like he has lived an ENTIRELY different experience. I just don't get it.

Maybe he has post-traumatic stress syndrome, and has simply blocked the weekly teary-eyed shin guard wrestling episodes, and forgets his own, "I hate soccer! I don't want to go!" tirades.

Or maybe when he is sitting there on the sideline watching the kids he is really having an out of body experience, and feels himself out there, being the star of the game.

Whatever it is, signing him up for soccer apparently has made his life so far.

Which is good, because I think we'll wait another four years before we do it again.


Ice Cream said...

I think this is so normal for oldest children. They just have to do everything perfect. Don't count it as a loss. He got out there, didn't he? Anyway, I've been there, done that too (pregnant with my fourth) and I agree that it is sheer madness to spend the money and take the time just to sit there saying, "Come on, just try it. See all the other kids? Go on."

the lizness said...

thank you thank you THANK YOU for not being the mean soccer mom! :)

Unknown said...

It's all about the image, eh??

Beck said...

My kids are unenthusiastically in soccer, too - and they often seem to have that weird disconnect between their actual experiences playing it and the way they talk about it later on.

Scribbit said...

I know exactly what you mean, the summer sports schedules are always a trial for us here, I usually end up having them take swimming instead.

The Amazing Trips said...

I love this!! This reminds me so much of myself!! This is exactly how I am with cooking. It's important to have ALL the right equipment (which I do), I'll scour William Sonoma catalogues - spending a small fortune on various knick knacks that will help my culinary talents. I'll watch the cooking network and talk with anyone and everyone about how much I enjoy GOOD food.

But put me in front of a stove ... and I'm a blubbering mess. In my mind ... I COOK. In reality, I can ORDER OUT. Really, really good.

NOBODY said...

I love that he benched himself. :)

someone else said...

The really cool thing about the soccer ordeal is that it gave you a wonderful story to blog about. It was like reading about my grandkids who have gone through various stages of love/hate moments with playing soccer.