Saturday, March 27, 2010

"That's exactly why I'm not heavy into activities" (Or I wasn't, anyway.)

Bonus points if you know the movie I'm quoting. In this week's 7 Quick Takes, I promised a post about soccer.

I have sworn since Calvin was first born that I was not going to have my kids involved in a lot of activities and spend all of our time in the car. In fact, avoiding "minivanitis," as a friend puts it, is one of the reasons I am looking forward to moving to Asia. Now, I took piano lessons and spent nearly every day at the ballet studio as a teenager, so I am not sure why I am so opposed to the idea. Perhaps it's because I want to avoid living an over-scheduled life. Maybe it's because I don't want my children burning out before they reach middle school. Most likely it is because my rebellious nature causes me to dig in my heels every time I find myself taking one more step toward a conventional, suburban, American life.

So when I suggested to my husband that we sign Calvin up for soccer, he pretty much thought I was crazy. I pretty much thought I was crazy, too. Calvin had been kicking the ball around with Auntie M and really fell in love with it. When he found out that kids his age played real games on real teams, he was ecstatic. With great hesitation, we signed him up for the Spring youth league that started in March.

That was in January. Over the past two and a half months, we have become increasingly certain that our decision was actually a good one. Calvin spends a lot of time outside playing sports of all kinds by himself these days, kicking the soccer ball, hitting golf balls, asking us to pitch a softball to him so he can practice batting. But he is always by himself.

When Calvin competes with an actual person, his good sportsmanship skills leave a lot to be desired. An innocent board game like Candy Land often ends with the board turned over, pieces scattered, and Calvin stomping off, fists on hips, ready to punch anyone who gets in his way. Bike rides turn into screaming, hysterical meltdowns if Hobbes gets a head start and is in front of him for even one second. Never mind that Calvin always passes his brother in the end. He is a remarkably bad loser. Every time. I would say it's just a kid thing, but Hobbes is not like Calvin, not to that extent.

With this is mind, we headed to the fields today, Calvin in his sky-blue shirt, ready for the first game of the season. I wasn't expecting much, since the only practice had been sort of chaotic, but when the whistle blew, a miracle happened right before my eyes. Sure, the kids all sort of ran in a clump around the ball. And they kicked it out of bounds or into the other team's goal more than into their own. Players tripped their teammates. No one kept score, and there were not many rules to follow.

But Calvin ran and dribbled and kicked and tripped with the best of them. He ran hard, determination and joy mingling on his face. He celebrated when his team got a goal, whether he kicked it in or not. He gave high fives and listened to his coaches and actually tried to play the game with his team instead of in spite of them. When the other team scored, or he accidentally kicked it into their goal, those hands went to his hips for a minute, a scowl threatening on his face. Just as quickly, the ball moved in the other direction, and his scowl was lost in joy as he ran back down the field. When the game ended and the teams lined up to shake hands, he didn't just give a slap and a mumbled "good game" to each passing player. He walked down the line, huge grin covering his entire face, giving each player a hearty handshake as he went.

At the end of the game, two players on each team got the "MVP" award and received a coupon for a free ice cream treat. The idea is that each child will receive one by the end of the season. Part of me cringes at that, at the way our society wants to make everyone feel like a winner when I want my kids to realize that they will lose sometimes. Part of me hates that they don't keep scores at kids' games so that feelings don't get hurt. But most of me knows that minimizing competition is a really good thing for Calvin right now. His joy in the game might just be enough to move him a little closer to good sportsmanship, and if he can just learn to think less and move faster, he might even become decent at this sport.

Then again, this is Calvin, the king of overthinking. I don't really care how good he becomes, as long as he learns to lose and win with grace. Missed goals and all, when he ran to show me his award tonight, there wasn't a prouder mom on the soccer field. Then he showed me the certificate and said, with much disappointment, "Mommy, it just says a free waffle cone."

"Don't worry, Calvin, it means a waffle cone with ice cream."

And now I'm off to wash a uniform for tomorrow's game. Maybe afterward we'll celebrate with that ice cream cone.

1 comment:

Em the luddite said...

Hope he enjoyed both the waffle cone and the icecream, and that it takes him a while to be bothered by the lack of score-keeping!