Soccer has started again. And with it comes a barge of schedule conflicts, forced organization, meals on the go, and driving all over Western PA for games. One kid goes East, the other needs to go West. Hubby and I are like partners in a covert secret mission. We convey important information in rushed and often low tones as we fist bump each other in the entry room. Car seats are switched in cars for The Littles who are really just along for the ride. And the M & M's we use to bribe their behavior on long game days.
I know some families who just say no to team sports because of the picture I painted above. Families who rave about family sports where everyone, regardless of age and ability, can play together at the same time. Oh! The fairy tale it puts in my mind of a life without the rushed meals and missing practice jerseys. Happiness and peace.
It wouldn't work for us.
No really, it wouldn't.
My older boys need their own thing. They need something that they experience that is independent and separate from the rest of the family, mainly from close-in-age-siblings. Sure, they play the same sport, but the divisions are as different as grape jelly and a car tire. Common, but separate experiences.
They need a place where when there is a story to tell, no one else interrupts to tell the best part. Only they know the outcome.
They need a place where when the game goes extremely well, it is their victory alone that fills our house with excitement. Something they contributed to that we were witness to, but had no part of.
We are still close enough that when things take a turn, like a team mate says, "You suck," they are forced to handle it at that moment on their own, but we are there to talk it over. And to talk about how our own remarks and actions towards others can be hurtful.
Sometimes the game or practice isn't a happy ending. And that's okay. Life is not always about happy endings.
Sometimes you don't make the team with all your friends and that's upsetting. But you make new friends and decide you like the new team more.
Sometimes the team plays poorly and although you won in a shut out last week, this week the other team wins in an embarrassing shut out. And they played dirty with lots of pushes and trips. Hey, not all of life's paths will be green and grassy. Suck it up and get ready for the next game. But if I see you "playing dirty" you will be watching the game from the side lines.
Sometimes even when your team wins 14 to 1, it was you in the goal who let that goal pass and you who took the hurtful comments. Remember, a soccer team is just that: a team. You may have been in the goal box, but it was your team that let the ball get down the field. And look at how many you saved, including the one that bounced off your face before you tackled it.
So although we don't participate in family sports, we still participate as a family in the sports that the kids play. Team sports are a good place for my boys to have limited exposure to the "real world." We protect them and encourage them, build them up when they fall, but sometimes we have to let them a little out of our reach while we still have the ability to pull them close again.