As I write this, my daughter is playing Wii baseball, while my son provides play-by-play from the couch. I'm sitting beside him with my leg up, a tensor bandage wrapped around a Thera-Pearls ice pack, wrapped around my stupid defective knee.
That's right. We are ATHLETES, people!
My daughter had her first ever soccer game two years and six months ago. Her birthday is in April, which meant that she was among the youngest on her team. My son was only 9 months old at the start of that soccer season. It was a sunny spring day. Cold enough for sweaters but not for full-on insulation. Our family was relatively new at this whole family-of-four thing. We looked a little something less than Rockwell, rolling down the street with our double stroller. Shelton the tyrant the baby in the backseat with a good supply of cookies and milk to keep him quiet happy during Danica's big debut.
Danica took one look at all of those strange kids in that big dirty field with a bunch of excited grown-ups standing around. She looked at me with her huge brown eyes. She looked at her dad, and her lip began to tremble. She let me haul her out of the stroller. And then she began to scream.
I sat with my daughter, six feet behind the rolled up blanket that served as her team's bench, for most of that first game. She in her soccer shirt looking terrified and miserable. Me in my thick glasses, unwashed hair, stained shirt, and grim resolve. We had committed to this. We were NOT leaving. I had not slept in the better part a year, and we were going to participate this normal family activity if if KILLED us!
Fortunately, her coach happened to be one of those amazing people put on this earth to work with children. The next game, Danica agreed to sit on the bench with her team. But only if a parent sat directly behind her. The game after that, Danica agreed to sit on the bench without us as long she could be right beside her coach. And the game after that, Danica played soccer. Holding her coach's hand the entire time. While her brother learned to walk pushing the stroller around the adjacent field. And I pretended like I wasn't crying. I was so proud of her!
Sometime in the next few games, Danica ran on the field by herself. And then in another game, she didn't need anyone to sit with her or hold her hand or reassure her that she was safe. And by the last game of the season, she was just another three-year-old playing at playing soccer. I was all done crying. I was grinning ear-to-ear, in my too-big, vomit-stained shirt. With my hair stuffed into a hat. While Shelton mined the field for teething-appropriate garbage.
I would love to tell you that this was the beginning of Danica's abiding love of team sports. Hah! She does have an abiding love for her coach, who turned out to be her playschool teacher and an all-around fantastic woman. But team sports are not Danica's thing, so far. After two seasons each of indoor soccer and outdoor soccer, the young Miss Valentine is officially DONE with soccer. (Can I get a hallelujah?) She hated it. I hated putting her through it. And this year, I didn't even provide it as an option for fall activities. (I learned last year that she would choose soccer just to drive me nuts prove a point. Stubborn, that one.) She's enjoying swimming and skating a lot more.
And also books, pens, paper, science and art projects. I mean, she IS my daughter.
My number-one-son had his first ever soccer game today. He was vibrating with excitement over breakfast. He was thrilled that his sister's hand-me-down shin-pads fit him. He pulled on his brand-new Lightning McQueen soccer shoes. He let Mike help him with his snazzy new soccer shirt. And then he just grinned at the gym full of three-year-olds, their parents, a few coaches, and the facilitators. So much room to run! With soccer balls! And collapsible nets! He may have noticed that his dad is one of the coaches, too.
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