May 20, 2010

Recently, I learned I have issues. Lots of issues. Nothing like parenthood to take a few well hidden traits and put them on display for the world to see.  How did I learn such a thing?


Yes, soccer again. Never have I realized my son’s first sport would have so many hidden lessons for me. So, let me give you an update on soccer.

My son still does not like it. We are on game 5 and I have made no progress. I pump him up before a game, and promise him some wonderful things if he would just play at least half – just 2 quarters and I would be happy. I dress him in his uniform, he is ready to go and enthusiastic, and as soon as his foot leaves the van and lands on the grass he looks up at me and says, “I don’t want to play soccer.”

Ycghlehgalhggaghahgahgahga;gha;gh;a, I sputter.

Then, a full adult mother says this back: “You gave me a pinky swear you’d play!  You promised! I bought you that green bear from the yard sale and you said you would play!”

My five year old looks me straight in the eye and shrugs.  The all essential gesture of the male species. He is also looking at me like I am a little high strung.

The coach and the team try to coax him out but he refuses. Of course, now they are short one player, and none of the other kids on the team have a problem playing, so they have to struggle through. So, because I want Jake to learn all about teamwork, and sticking things through to the end, and commitment, I tell him we are staying for the whole game to root on the team. I close up the comfy lawnchair and stand by the goal for a front row seat. Jake decides to go sit in the van where it’s comfortable and this is where I lose it.

I follow him, take his bear away, and tell him he did not stick with his half of the bargain. I will not give the bear back unless he plays soccer.

And then the kid breaks down crying, tantrum and all, while all the other parents sneak glances at me with horrified faces. Not very kid friendly – I know. So, now I am gritting my teeth and telling him to stop crying and I will give him the bear back.

Boy, do I need a book for this job.

I get him back on the field and halfway through the game, the little girl playing goalie decides she is too hot and too tired and cannot do it anymore. She walks off the field, and Jake is sitting on the grass by the goal, playing with his bear and picking flowers like Ferdinand.

Opportunity strikes.

Immediately, me and the assistant coach tug on the goalie shirt and very loudly and excitedly tell him he will be the one to save the whole team by just standing in front of the net and blocking the ball. So, Jake is now the goalie, and he is standing there quite confused, blinking in the sun, and here comes the ball right to him. And I am shouting like it is the Mets playoff against the Yankees “Go, Jake, get the ball, get it!” He blocks the ball by standing there looking confused and I do a victory dance and the coach does a victory dance and you would think he just scored the winning goal himself. Jake begins to look a bit pleased at this attention so he decides to stand there a bit longer.

Flash forward.

I got him through a full quarter of the game standing in front of the goal.  We all celebrated and I took him for ice cream and asked him if he liked being goalie. He said yes, but he didn’t want to play soccer anymore because he did not like soccer.

I had a conversation with a friend today and I explained this stressful soccer existence. She looked at me like I had grown two heads and asked, “Why don’t you just let him quit?”

Enter my lightbulb moment. Ding.

Quit? Why, that’s too easy, isn’t it? Doesn’t he have to learn all the things in competitive sports? Doesn’t he need to learn teamwork and commitment and get exercise outside? When I asked her about this she shook her head. “He’s five. He just doesn’t like soccer – no big deal.”

OH MY GOD. No Big Deal.

Just let him quit. When I went home and told my husband this idea, he immediately agreed.  Then he informed me I was extremely enthusiastic on the field when Jake was just standing there.  A  little TOO enthusiastic. Embarassingly enthusastic.

Of course, I was stunned. I am not a competitive person. Am I? Just because I yell and shout in my living room over most baseball games does not make me competitive. Just because I have Scrabble tournaments and my husband refuses to play with me anymore does not make me competitive. I flow. I am artsy. Everyone says so. I always compare myself to Cher in the movie Mermaids. She’s cool.

Then it hit me. Yes, I have issues. Just because my five year old son doesn’t want to play soccer does not make him a failure or a quitter. Just because he didn’t run onto the field like the other kids and play does not make him difficult.  I will have other opportunities to teach him these lessons, but maybe from soccer I can take away another important one. Try. If you don’t’ like it, you may not have to do it.  This is not required like school. This is fun, and if he is not having fun, I need to accept it and move to the next activity.

I know everyone has different views on this. But I think finally receiving permission to ALLOW my son to NOT like an activity and stop gives me a freedom I never thought I had. Almost as if I have to keep reminding myself the only rules with being a mom right now are MY rules. Not everyone elses.

And I am looking on the bright side. I still have my little one, and I am grooming him for baseball.

❤️ Leave a comment → 


  1. Angelique says:

    OMG, you crack me up!

    I read this article you would have liked. If I can remember where I’ll send it. . . anyway this mother was writing about how she struggled – rushing about to get her two kids to the park between other commitments. She would get frustrated because her little daughter would “waste time” washing her hands and stopping to look at bugs or flowers on their way to the park. Suddenly it dawned on this mother that while many of her happiest childhood memories were spent in the park perhaps what was most important to her daughter was spending time in the bathroom playing in the water and stopping to awe over flowers and bugs. So, they bent down together and oohed and aahhed over nature, arriving at the park a little later, a little more relaxed, and a little more joyful. Somehow I felt like your oldest would enjoy hanging out with this little girl – they’d be so busy enjoying life they wouldn’t have time to hate soccer or think about rushing to parks 🙂

    Thanks for sharing. I love these stories – the different personalities, pursuits and pleasures. Letting things be ok & finding a different way.

  2. Kimberly says:

    I do believe there are many benefits to competive sports but what it comes right down too is that not all of us our competitors. I have observed enough about Jake to know what a deep thinker he is.
    Most all souls just really don’t like sports. lol
    We would rather ponder the universe.
    Hail to your little Galileo for being true to himself. lol

  3. erica says:

    Jennifer – I love this… My son is a creative, artsy fellow. We’ve tried soccer. I know all too well the days of arguing with him to try.. To teach him about commitment and being part of a team. Instead he would much rather recite 200 facts about spiders, or explain to me how butterflies hatch. He is a think out of the box … Never stops talking. This year we tried baseball. He seems to like it, but he isn’t putting in to much effort to practice. He spends alot of time on the field observing the world. I have decided to, that it wouldn’t be so horrible for him if he didn’t play sports. He’ll learn commitment from something else. I know someday he’ll be something great and will learn to be part of a team… It may just not be on a field in some oversized uniform. 🙂 Erica

  4. Nancy Chaudhry says:

    Good for you Jen. We all need to do what is best for us…..

  5. Terri says:

    I love this little boy (especially that shrug)! I think you should give him some fingerpaints and lots of room!

  6. Wendy Marcus says:

    Soccer is not for everyone. Have you considered karate?

    RE: Being competitive. One game, when my son was five he took the ball from one end of the field to the other and scored a goal. I jumped up and down and cheered, “Great job, Ben. You did it all by yourself. I’m so proud of you.” One of the mother’s glared at me and called out, “Great teamwork kids!” Oh well. Can’t win them all.

    Oh, and I love where you end on grooming your son for baseball! My son played baseball for years. Town ball. All Star ball. We traveled from Albany to Maryland for baseball. Did a tournament in Cooperstown where the boys, then 11, stayed in dorms and played baseball four days straight. The last day they played five full games in a row….and my son has not picked up a baseball since. Broke my husband’s heart.

    • jennifer121 says:

      Too funny! I would LOVE him to get into karate. I want them to try yoga also, I studied for so many years and meditated, would love to take them to an ashram for the whole experience but Ray is not too keen on the idea…but I told him we are definitely going to try it when they are a bit older. And of course horseback riding looks cool. Can you tell I am taking all of my childhood dreams (my mom always said no money – just go out and play) and putting it on them. Meanwhile, they will probably be happy just to go out and play!

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