It’s official: My daughter had her first soccer practice yesterday.
Despite the affected disdain I’ve been projecting on Twitter, I’m really very excited for her and not the slightest bit upset that this event has destroyed the last vestiges of my "edginess" by relegating me to the domain of “Suburban Soccer Mom.” Okay, maybe I’m slightly upset. But not at her. Thank goodness, I traded the Volvo SUV in for a Prius, otherwise I might have to get my eyebrow pierced or tattoo Chinese profanity in a prominent place on my body.
N.’s been wanting to play on a soccer team for a while, but Tariq and I thought it best to wait until she was past five for her to start. Mostly because, and I’m not judging, but a three year old playing a sport “to win” is just creepy.
As we got ready for practice yesterday, I felt a little flustered. Other than the fact that it’s kind of like basketball, I don’t know anything about soccer. In fact, this may surprise you (not really), but I am not a very sporty person. These days, there’s just all this blurring of the lines. Now? You can be an Asian kid, book smart, a pretty girl AND play sports. It was not necessarily this way when I was growing up.
Or so it seemed to me at the time.
Anyway, as the great philosopher Bob Dylan is known to have conjectured, “the times they are a-changing,” and to my dismay, my Asian child, who is both good at math and a pretty girl, wants to play soccer. Note that I am not dismayed because she’s a girl or Asian. Those things clearly occupy the higher rungs of the human evolutionary ladder, so that would be silly.
No, I am dismayed because I have no idea what I’m doing.
And I hate having no idea what I’m doing.
I fumble to get my daughter dressed in weirdly synthetic shorts and socks that look like they’re going to be, well, very... hot. I pack snacks, water, and a small towel in a backpack. I literally grab her younger brother under my arm and we leave.
For the practice.
Where the kids... they play... the soccer.
We get to the field, I have no idea where "Field Seven" is. Why aren’t there numbers? Damn, I not only don’t know what I’m doing, but I also look like I do not know what I’m doing.
This? Is my worst fear realized.
As I’m looking around for the God-forsaken Field Seven, I notice that the other kids have their shin guards under their socks. I’d strapped Nuha’s guards over her socks. I ask her as I inconspicuously gesture towards the metallic red and black shin guards that would look more appropriate on a character in X-Men, “Did Daddy tell you how you’re supposed to wear these?”
“This is how I wore them at the store,” she says helpfully.
I think for a minute and try to conceal the fact that I’m studying the other children’s shins. I decide that Tariq has probably had her try them on over her socks simply because it would have been a pain to have her try them on under her socks at the sporting goods store. I tell her to sit down on the grass, so I can fix them.
I feel incredibly stupid.
I feel like everyone is staring at me.
I have no idea why I feel like this.
“The grass is itchy,” she whines.
“Honey, if you’re going to be great at soccer, you need to learn to love the grass.” I have no idea if this is true. In fact, I have no idea what you have to do to be great at soccer. Also, tragically, I have no idea why I just said that. I’m pretty sure, however, that I shouldn’t have said it at all.
“Oh, okay...” she wiggles around as if she’s trying to settle into the ground... she's mushing herself further into the grass as she dutifully accepts and applies my (made up) wisdom on the subject. I can see she doesn’t love the grass, but I can also see that she wants to.
This somehow makes me feel like a terrible parent.
This also makes me wonder if the reason I never played soccer is because I'm allergic to grass.
And, then, thankfully, her father shows up, and I can relax. Because he knows about this stuff. He’s the jock, I’m the brain. Well, technically, he’s a brain, also. So, basically, I’m just an un-athletic loser.
So, anyway, like I said, I can relax now.
Except that I don’t.
Because completely true to form, my daughter is being super timid and cautiously observant for the first fifty minutes of practice. She is also slightly overwhelmed to the point where she mentally checks out, like, four times and I have to constantly remind her to listen as her coach tells her to stand next to her cone during a drill.
Why am I worried about her doing well at something I've never done? This is because of me, I think. She's not comfortable because I'm not athletic enough. I beat myself up a little for not being more athletic. I should start playing sports. Tennis, maybe?
Wait. I hate sports. I don't want to play sports.
The last five minutes go swimmingly, though, and she finally gets a feel for what’s going on. She gains control of the ball during the scrimmage and passes to a boy on her team and he scores the winning goal.
I am elated. She is having fun. She is enjoying herself. She likes this. It’s going to be fun for her.
I am shaken by the strangest feeling.
My daughter is taking a path than I’ve never taken nor will I ever take.
I don’t know if this is normal, but, at that moment, I feel ... alone. Because this is hers.
In fact, even when the doctor placed her on my chest just minutes after she was born, I did not feel what I am feeling now. Even when this child stopped nursing, I did not feel what I am feeling now. Even when this child stopped sleeping in my bed, I did not feel what I am feeling now. (For the record, what I felt then? Was happy.)
I feel, for the first time in five years, separate.
Like an outsider.
My mind is spinning, and I’m envisioning conversations about not wanting to go to college, about not getting married, about not wanting children, about not wanting a family... I am realizing that a promise to love your child no matter what means that you actually do have to love them no matter what. No matter where they go, what they choose, who they become... or where they choose to run... I won’t always get to pick, nor do I want to.
It feels strange. Up until now, I have been pushing towards independence of action and even, as much as a five year old can live it, independence of thought.
And, now, there she is... on the field, with her shin guards inside her socks, of course, in those stupid shorts... just running fast.
In another direction.
Photo Credit: keithminer
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