Friday, June 10, 2016

Star Player

My sister-in-law asked if I wanted to sign A up for a summer football clinic. I was unsure about it, given his previous experience in a sports-oriented class (the coaches couldn't really rein in my hyper little man), but his dad was all for it. So we signed him up, and—true to my mantra of "If you can't perform, japorms"—got him a pair of cleats and some knee socks.

He and his cousin (a week younger than him) were the youngest ones in the group, and the others had already been exposed to football before. It was the first time for my son, so he lagged behind when it came to following instructions. Although I suspect that had more to do with the instructions being in English; he was, after all, the only Filipino-speaking kid in class.

Coach Ricci: Who wants to run?
Other kids: Me! Me! Me!
A: Ako din.
(By the way, Coach Ricci was awesome. It amazed me how A actually listened to him. Kid probably recognized that he wasn't the alpha in this group!)

As the days progressed, I became increasingly frustrated, seeing A run off somewhere, or be more interested in playing with the dirt than in scoring a goal. He probably spent more time eating on the sidelines than actually joining the scrimmage (or what counts as scrimmage for three- and four-year-olds).  

(From top) Eating a cookie during drills; having some taho; snacking on cereal. He is his mother's son.

Babycenter sent me a relevant email ("Should you sign him up for an organized sports team?") a few days too late: "Watch a little-tot soccer game and you're apt to see a child or two off picking dandelions and another in tears on the sidelines." That's my son! I thought. Except he's pulling up grass and playing with rocks.

On one particular day, my competitive spirit was getting the better of me. All the other kids were eagerly chasing the ball around, trying to score, while A was busily knocking over cones. I kept calling out to him, but he was off doing his own thing. And then as he ran across the field, laughing his hearty, infectious laugh, another soccer mom remarked, "He is such a happy kid!"

And that's when I caught myself.

My son is a happy kid. He laughs so easily, and he would crack up whenever they would do new things (like heading, which he thinks is the most hilarious thing). He would run around the field pretending to be Spider-Man until a bunch of other kids also started pretending to spew out webs from their wrists. Who cares if he wasn't quite living up to his Messi jersey just yet? He was having fun! Besides, he's three—there's loads of time for him to grow into an athlete.

And even if he doesn't, that's fine by me. I used to joke that he would be the next Lebron (same birthday, also raised by a single mom), but I've realized: I'd much rather have a son who's watching from the sidelines, but who's bursting with joy over the simplest things.