I can still feel the sweat dripping down my brow as I stood on the field, the heat of the equatorial Sun beating on my head. My uniform was drenched and I was definitely out of breath. But the ball was coming towards me and I had the opportunity to steal it from my opponent. Once my foot came in contact with the ball, they were naturally in sync and I made my way across the field, dancing past one player, then another until I had a clear, clean shot at the goal. Score!!
My daughters laugh at the flab underneath my arms and the shortness of breath I get after running a mile. But as a child and preteen I adored soccer. One of the horrors of having to move schools in high school was not being able to play for my international school’s varsity soccer team and moving to a school which had no girls’ soccer team. In fact, the entire sports program was shy of non-existent. I played tennis and at some point, became team captain. But I can’t even remember the number of matches we actually played. Until the time I graduated, I still wondered what it would have been like if I could have played soccer for my school in Indonesia.
When my daughter, Celeste, took an interest in playing soccer two years ago, I was thrilled. And last year, when little Genevieve was able to sign up for the first level of soccer (U5) and had an absolute blast, I was just as ecstatic.
Last year, after my good friend’s daughter moved up to a new team, I took on her position of team manager for Celeste’s team. I have since learned to love all the girls on the team and I adore the coach and assistant coach. I am thrilled when the girls run to me and hug me ~ dirty uniforms, sweaty faces, and all. I feel honored when they share stories of their school day or home life with me.
When a girl scores a goal, it’s as if it is my daughter scoring that goal. When the team loses a game, I am disappointed for the girls and want so desperately for them to do better ~ not so much to just win but so they realize how good they are getting. We live in a society where our efforts and achievements are not always apparent to others by what we do (goodness, that would be too easy), but by what we win, the accolades we earn. It is a wicked, cruel lesson our children start to see as puberty starts to set in.
But then again, I also wonder if we, as parents, sometimes instill this competitive nature in them to a point where it is no longer f-u-n. In the midst of fall soccer try-outs and listening to the concerns of my parents and several coaches, I have allowed myself to become consumed with club politics and the nuances that come with competitive soccer. Adults have this awful tendency of pushing their desires on their children and so I was afraid I was doing that to Celeste. At the high point of my anxiety I went from contemplating pulling her off the Club and into another one altogether (so she could develop consistently as a player without me having to deal with any heartache on her part) to saying holy sh*t, what the hell am I doing to my poor daughter? Subjecting her to so much undue pressure when all she wants to do is play the damn sport?!
Otis is much calmer and collected than I am, which is definitely a good thing. He listens to my woes and engages with the soccer parents because he genuinely likes them. But he attempts to stay away from the chatter and does not get emotionally attached. I, myself, am not going to figure everything out in one fell swoop. I do get emotionally attached and am competitive by nature. I look at soccer as something Celeste and Genevieve can do well into university level…IF they want. That’s what I have to keep reminding myself ~ at the end of the day, it’s up to them. Are they happy? If so, I need to let things BE.
Yesterday, on the way home from her second game of the day (on the team she guests for), I looked at Celeste with my pursed lips and disappointed eyes. “Sweetie, I’m SO sorry you didn’t get to play much. I think you could have stayed on the remainder of the game…” (There were only four minutes left of it when she was put in!) She smiled at me with her sweet smile, cleats off, and feet on her chair. “It’s okay, Mommy. Really. Every minute I play counts. Plus, I told the girls on the bench with me, if I don’t play at all, I was happy to be there to cheer the team on.”
Sweat dripped down her brow as she turned up the radio and took a big, sloppy bite of her ham and cheese sandwich (the late lunch she was patiently waiting for all day). It was a moment I knew she was growing up well. Secure in her ability, enjoying the goal she scored earlier in the day with her left foot. She was having f-u-n. It was me, her mother, who needed to sit tight. To be patient. To simply and without question love the game as I had years ago on the pitch in Jakarta.
Sometimes, when we least expect it and when we open ourselves up to it, our children teach us some pretty amazing life lessons. We just have to take the time to stop being stubborn adults to really hear them.