Despite the fact that the fields were a mud pit worthy of trapping a wooly mammoth, my five-year-old’s soccer team had a game in the morning. The previous week it was too muddy and we received a phone call from the organization’s director claiming she cared about the welfare of our children. This week, one day and night away from a tornado touchdown across town, we are a go. It was picture day.
I had a feeling this was not going to go well. My son doesn’t like mess. Or mud. Or “wetness.” He’s also not terribly competitive so the point of the game is pretty much lost on him. As I have been diagnosed with ADD and can spot the signs, my husband and I anticipate the boy will end up with an ADD diagnosis down the line. Until it interferes with his happiness, success, and self-esteem we’re quietly (nervously) watching from the sidelines.
As I suspected, he was pretty uninterested in the game and more concerned about how squishy and wet his socks were getting on the field. I watched as the teams in green and grey t-shirts swished past him to the right, then the left while he stood dead center in the field, arms extended as if to say, “Who’s the wisenheimer responsible for this mess?” Shortly thereafter he walked over to me and his dad complaining that he wanted to go home but before I could discuss the matter with him, he was following his older sister and his best friend’s sister to romp over the hills beyond the field. I looked over to his coach and caught her eyes. She mouthed to me, “Does he still want to play?” I mouthed back, “I don’t know,” but I knew. He was done.
My husband said the same thing happened to him as a kid. His mom signed him up for t-ball and he was completely miserable. He only made it to two practices then quit.
I’m not married to the soccer idea. My son has played on and off in a kiddie league since he was two and he loved the little games the coaches played. “Real soccer” was never really a goal (no pun intended, but it works). My husband and I just want him to find something or somethings that he does excel at or at least enjoys doing in his free time. We want him to feel proud and successful. He has lots of time to find his thing.
Neither I nor my husband were ever good at sports. We never cared about it, either. We didn’t have that need to win, to be the best. My brother threw tennis balls at me from a lawn chair he sat in in the middle of our street — I was that bad. You know the kid who has to hit the ball against the wall? That was me. In tennis. In volleyball. Bowling. (Just kidding.) Team sports were anathema to me.
Not that I didn’t try. I tried every ball sport I could think of and failed at all of them. But I did excel at school and writing and art and music and theater. My mom should have gone ahead and had the word GEEK tattooed on my forehead to save potential friends the effort of asking me to play on their kickball team. To save me the humiliation of running to first base after striking out.
If my heart could climb out of my chest cavity this morning it would have leaped into the muddy grass and slithered its way to my son, with his outstretched arms. It would have covered him with kisses and reassurance. When he came off the field I knew he wasn’t going back, but I did have him tell the coach and I did suggest he pose for the team picture and I did kiss him on the head and tell him he could change into dry clothes once we got home.
I think he’ll make an excellent drummer or comic book artist or speculative fiction writer one day.