Sometimes I felt as though I were a single parent. My husband worked shift work and rarely had weekends or holidays off. And if he was on swing shift he was gone to work before the kids were home from school and back when they were in bed. We had 2 sons so all activities were up to me to manage. This also meant I had to be in two places and one time, not to mention keeping those eyes open in the back of my head at all times.
Our youngest was three when I signed him and his five year old brother to play soccer. He was almost as tall as his big brother and just as husky. So they played on the same team for one season. Although he was as big for his age he was not as physically developed as a five year old. In fact, he was quite clumsy and had trouble looking where he was going. We used to call him the walking disaster as his feet went in one direction while his brain was elsewhere.
But this team did well for all the boys and we all had fun watching our little athletes. What I loved the most was the constant mob scene of kicking feet that surrounded the ball. There was dust flying, kids falling and being kicked, chips of grass being tossed and none of them willing to work as a team. No one knew their position or how to pass to each other. I found my first experience in group sports to be cute and funny. If I only knew…
When the season ended the team mother had an after game party and ordered a team cake. It was a full sheet decorated with the team colors of purple and green, (I have no idea who chose those colors) it had a soccer ball, goal nets and all the kids’ names scrolled around the edges and was really quite nice.
As she set the cake down on the lawn and reached for the drinks and dishes I warned her, “You shouldn’t put the cake on the lawn.”
“Oh, it will be ok. The game is almost over and they can sit around it for our party.” She smiled with pride.
“I still don’t think you should put the cake on the lawn” I repeated, knowing I’d never sat at a table where the little one didn’t drop, spill or knock something over. And this was the lawn, you know, same as the floor!
The game ended and all the boys came running over to see the beautiful cake. As they gathered around it my three year old, who had played goalie, was the last one over and was yelling to wait for him to see the cake, too. As the boys parted out of his way, he just kept on running, right through one side of the cake and out the other. Everyone just stood there stunned, especially the team mother who screamed as if in pain. He stood there shin deep in chocolate cake and purple frosting, and some of the boys started to cry and other parents moaned. Except one whose laughter I knew all too well, it was my five year old who boldly said:
“Boy, whose bright idea was it to put the cake on the lawn?” I did my best to help salvage what was left of the cake. Besides, in our house we had a “Five Minute” rule: if food was on the floor under 5 minutes, they could eat it. Besides, they were boys, it was cake, and they all ate what they could.
As both boys grew, the older one preferred baseball, while the younger was better at soccer, cake aside. He was a pretty good goalie, he was fast, he knew what to look out for, he had a great long distance kick, and no goal had been scored against him all season.
The following year, he was moved up to the A team who were undefeated. Some of the boys and their parents were cocky about it. My son, who was six at the time, held the goalie position but he seldom had anything to do. Most of the games were played at the opponent’s goal net, seldom ours. All these six and seven year olds were big for their ages and knew how to work as a team.
This one hot summer day our team was scoring undefeated as usual, but my son son was bored stiff. I watched him as he looked up at the net and I could hear the wheels in that tiny brain moving. He was wondering how high up he could climb. And, so he began his ascent. He climbed up the net to the top where the bar was, but then he got tangled and couldn’t get down. No one was watching him except me. You’re supposed to watch your kid play and that’s just what I was doing. He looked like a bug in a spider’s web trying to escape before the spider returned to feast.
All of a sudden I heard a cheer, and the other team had the ball. They were moving fast toward our goal.
“Where’s the goalie?” I heard someone cry out. And, there he was, tangled at the top of the net, hanging upside down, by his foot, still trying to get untangled. Everyone was screaming at him to get down. The parents were screaming at their boys to get the ball back, the coach was screaming at him to stop fooling around, and in all the confusion and noise, the other team scored their first goal against our team. The first goal all season. And I sat there and laughed. How cute was that? Being bored he found something to occupy his time. Better than peeing in the grass at this age like his older brother did while being bored in the baseball outfield, I thought.
Well, it was a long time before his team got over it, especially the parents, but it was not World Cup Soccer, it was little boys playing a game. The adults needed to calm down and enjoy their children. Plus, this was not nearly half as bad as when tried baseball the following year.
We got to this game late because I had to pick up our older son from his ball game at a different field. When we arrived, the coach dumped the catcher’s gear at the younger one’s feet and said
I knew nothing about being the catcher but as the older one went over to the bench I helped him get into the gear. There were knee pads to be attached, a chest pad to be adjusted, and then fit for him, a special face mask that went under the catcher’s mask, and then there was the rounded mitt that almost was too heavy for him to lift his arm. Everything was way too big for him, but I thought it nice that they were so concerned about the little boys’ faces to give them two masks to wear. So, under his helmet I put the little, green, oval-shaped mask that had breathing holes in it to cover his mouth and nose, then helped him into the larger mask that pulled down over his face.
When we approached the catcher’s position, the coach came running over to us. He pulled the little, green mask off my son’s face and shoved it down the front of his pants.
“What are you doing?” he glared at me with disdain and shoved the kid over to his position. Being blond, when he turned red it was more like fire engine red that glowed through the face mask and shined like a beacon. I went over to the bench and sat by my older son.
He patted me on the back, “Nice move, Mom.”
“Well how was I to know? I’d never dressed a catcher before.”
“Yeah Mom, I could see that.” He smiled.
I had put a crotch protector cup on my son’s face because I thought it was extra protection for little faces. How was I to know that extra protection was for a different place? My brothers were and I were on the track team, no gear needed.
Even today when I remember this, it makes me giggle.
I still hear “Nice move, Mom”…. every time I do something dumb.