My youngest child, who will be 5 in two months, is the first of my three children to show any kind of broad interest in sports. Playing sports, that is – I still live in a house completely unadorned with anyone who would voluntarily watch a sporting event on television except in the least dire of circumstances, or watch one in person without the promise of a constant stream of stadium food to distract and delight.
In fact, there are very few sports my 8- and 10-year old like to play. Other than goofing around in the swimming pool, the only one they really seem taken with is skiing – the most expensive one they could have picked. They’re rather remarkable at it, considering they only get to do it one week a year, thanks to the largesse of my parents. Young Master Weisman is a true burner, while Young Miss Weisman is technically skilled and in fact won the slalom race in her ski-school class because she was more prepared to make quick, smooth turns. Both tackled their first black-diamond runs two weeks ago with hardly a hitch.
But Youngest Master Weisman has a roll call of sports that he’s into. In addition to doing his first full green run on the slopes this month, he is interested in basketball, baseball, golf (well, putting), taekwondo, swimming and soccer. He’s been playing soccer on Sundays for roughly a year now, failing, like his dad, to be bored by it within the first five minutes. (A constant supply of Goldfish crackers doesn’t seem to hurt.)
In his current soccer class or whatever you would call it, he’s in a group of 4-year-olds that includes several of his ability – and one who’s young Pele. Now, my son is rather astonishingly coordinated given his genetics, but he is not on the same planet as this ball-magnet, shoot-from-any-angle dynamo. And so when they play games in the second half-hour, some other non-Pele parents and I get a little edgy, because none of our kids are as quick to the ball as Pele. Though I did introduce my son to the word “assist,” it’s not like age 4 is the moment where kids are prepared to learn the glory of passing.
During today’s activity, I toyed with the idea of asking the coaches whether they were going to consider moving Pele up to the next level of soccer players – promote him to Double-A ball, so to speak. After all, in addition to being sort of an innocent ballhog (the kid doesn’t seem anything but nice) who was depriving everyone else their fair share of touches, it seems clear that it can only be good for his development to play against better competition.
Then I second-guessed myself. A huge chunk of my parenting hours are spent repeating “You get what you get, and you don’t get upset” in one form or another. Why should I go out of my way to remove this layer of character-building adversity? I think I’m so prepared for my kids to fall out of love with a given sport that I’ve become afraid of anything that might discourage them. But now I’m dealing from strength, with a kid who really seems to have a taste for sports in general. (Plus, if there’s one sport I’m willing to have my son surrender, it’s soccer.)
And there is an upside to this. The presence of Pele could inspire or essentially force my son to play better, or teach him how to handle situations where everything doesn’t go his way. It’s not easy to watch, but at the same time, it’s everything I’m looking for.
When the session ended, my son came off the field and said in a happy voice, “I didn’t score any goals, but my team won!” I mean, what more could you ask for than that?
Five minutes later, he burst into tears because I wouldn’t buy him Cheetos as a follow-up to all the Goldfish.