Luis has always had a knack for kicking things. From my womb to a soccer ball, he’s made his interest known. Yearning to give him a healthy start in team sports, I recently opted to enroll him in a soccer league for 3 & 4-year-olds. It’s the natural next step for a little boy who loves to play soccer with his mommy and daddy. Right?
In preparation for the first practice, I made a trip to Academy with my toddler. He pointed at a black soccer ball and exclaimed, “I like that one, Mommy!” I smiled and thought, “Well this is gonna be easy.” We moved on to shin guards and after perusing the different colors, we settled on a pair that were lime green because, as Luis said, they looked like they belong to Gecko from PJ Masks. Cue naïve mom thinking “what a breeze”. Because he wears a size 8 toddler shoe, we couldn’t find cleats in his size. When we got home, I ordered them online. Easy peasy. Ball…check. Shin guards…check. Cleats…check. Illusions of my son running on the field, scoring goals and taking names, being trampled on…coming right up!
Practice began well enough. Luis went on the field, his coach led him through a simple routine and I watched from the sidelines, proudly taking video and pictures of what I know in my heart will one day be a soccer star. His cooperation and enthusiasm lasted for about a whole four minutes — and then the real fun began.
He cried, he played with the dirt, he ran circles around me. Literally, circles. He said, “I’m just watching, Mommy,” as he put one foot on the ball and pretended to hold a telescope like a pirate. He overturned cones and said he was digging for treasure (must have been the Peppa Pig pirate video he saw earlier in the day). I was baffled. I didn’t want to make the experience a negative one by disciplining him harshly for monkeying around, but I didn’t want to allow him to literally run circles around me.
I tried everything. I told him I would take him to the playground after he participated in practice. I pointed at the other boys and loudly applauded their efforts. I even patted his rear when he said “no!” after I instructed him to listen to his coach. An hour crept by and I felt that all the parents were watching me implode. I knelt down to talk to him and after trying to reach for him as he wriggled away from my grasp, I fell backwards on my bottom. I had had enough. I suddenly saw his daddy walking towards me over the horizon and I raised my white flag to my son’s make-believe pirate ship. I was done.
With a look, my husband knew things were not alright. “I need a minute,” I said to him as I handed him the black soccer ball my son had so happily selected and hastily walked towards the restrooms. I didn’t make it very far before my emotions got the best of me. Hot tears ran down my cheeks. I was upset, frustrated, tired, and for the first time, embarrassed of his behavior. I couldn’t believe he had not listened to me. At all.
Once, when I was a brand new mom and Luis was a couple of months old, I armed myself with my coupon book and decided to venture to Target with him in tow for the first time. I’ll just put him in my Moby wrap, breastfeed him easily while I’m shopping and breeze on out of there with a few goodies. Well, the wrap proved to be a nightmare for me to adjust properly, he couldn’t get a good latch while I walked and the cashier refused to honor 6 of my coupons. (Fellow coupon-savvy moms out there know that 6 coupons totally changes the purpose of a planned haul! But I digress…)
I was sweating buckets as my son cried, and the line behind me grew with people who looked bothered and were tapping their feet impatiently. My face growing hot and my eyes brimming with tears, I told the cashier that I needed to leave and nearly ran out of the store. Now, 3 years later, similar feelings stirred a mommy meltdown in the middle of McAuliffe Park.
I’ve always considered myself a go-with-the-flow mom. But as my son has gotten older, I’ve realized that the amount of pressure that I have put on myself and him is immensely high. I’m not a perfect parent and he is not a perfect child. I’m not sure what I expected from him when I enrolled him in soccer, but it should not have been that he was going to immediately understand the concept of “team” and be an instant soccer star. I realized that my embarrassment was related more to the fact that as compared to the other boys, it seemed like my son just wasn’t getting it. I did a little bit of deep breathing, a lot of praying and came to a conclusion. It wasn’t fair to my son for me to have expectations that I have not yet explained to him or exposed him to. I needed to keep at it, take him to practice, and show him through example what a team sport is about.
Luis had his first game last Saturday, and I was biting my nails hoping he would do well– not necessarily by scoring goals, but just by getting out on the field and playing with his team. Lo and behold, he ran around and even kicked the ball a couple of times. Sure, he ran off the field because he didn’t get to kick the ball and by the halftime he was sitting on the sidelines trying to pull off his cleats, but he was on the field for two whole quarters. “I’m so proud of you!” I exclaimed as I gave him a tight squeeze.
I’m well aware that he might not be so willing next time or he might surprise me and do really great. But whatever happens, I’ll just roll with the punches. Or kicks.