Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Lessons About Life And Parenting From The Soccer Field

My oldest had a soccer game in Mossville last night. I couldn't have been more proud.

His team was getting killed. But down eight or nine to nothing, there he was... taking the ball from half towards the goal. For those of you who have played with or against me, it looked like a miniature version of his dad... his little legs churning... letting him fly like the wind. He loses the ball for a second, then gets it back, goes around the defenders and pops it into the goal.

It was his first, and I of course was beaming.

But that's not what I was proud of. Minutes later, his friend Eric saves the ball and he runs back to congratulate him... but in the process, a little blonde kid from the other team turns and shoves my son with two hands and says something. For the rest of the game this continues, this kid in his face... my son shaking his head and pushing the kids hand away.

At the end of the game, the kid is still on him and I yell "hey" to get them to stop. In talking to my son after the game and hearing from others... apparently this other kid was going up and down the field telling mine how "he sucks" and how "he's a loser." I asked my son what he said back... and he said, "Daddy, I told him to just play the game and get your head in the game."

I was amazed.

As a coach, I really stress the importance of good sportsmanship and he's picked up on that... although the actual line "get your head in the game" I find out later came from a scene in Disney's High School Musical. As a player, the kind of crap my son was taking would (and still does) get my blood boiling. As a player, pull that on me and I become an even bigger jerk. I won't play dirty... at this point in life, I'm pretty lazy as a player, but I'll work really hard the rest of the game to score or set up as many goals as my broken down body will let me... and my ultimate goal becomes to make the offender feel like they've wasted their afternoon (my brother and sister like to tease me for this, but I've come to accept that at this point in life, its who I am).

As a parent, I went through a whole range of emotions those last few minutes... mostly anger and outrage. And here's my son... who ignored it all and continued to play for the joy of playing.

I wanted to say something to the mean kid's father after the game, but refrained. Maybe it would have turned out okay, but maybe not. If this is the way his kid is at five, how much has he has contributed to that? Would we have gotten into a screaming match... or would he have just hit me? And then what would my son have learned?

As a parent you want to protect your kids, stick up for them when they need it, but in that moment, I realized this is just another one of those moments where you have to let go, let them deal, let them learn. Shannon wasn't there, but I showed her video of the first incident. She can't believe kids this age are like this... but maybe this is just a symptom of where our society is headed.

Still, I have to say my son handled himself with such grace... and on the way home I told him how proud I was... he at first thought it was because he scored, but I made sure he knew that while that was great, I was most proud of how he handled himself with that other boy.

He must get this from his mom ;)


Old Bloomington Shooter said...

Long time reader, first time poster! I just wanted to say, I really enjoyed todays blog. Being a father really changes your outlook on life. It is those small things that really touch you inside. Keep up the good work.

Edgar said...

Thanks... my heart felt like it was the size of Texas when I he told me what happened.