My kids are a perfect experiment of how diverse children’s personalities can emerge. They swam out of the same gene pool, were reared in the same home, attended the same schools, experienced the same vacations – and yet they are as different as night and day.
There is no greater example than their aptitudes with regard to sports. My three brothers played every sport imaginable, including practicing pole vaulting in our front yard over my Volkswagen rabbit. My husband played football and basketball through high school, so introducing our boys to the world of athletics was a given.
My youngest could throw a ball – any ball – ambidextrously, even though predominantly left-handed. He is gifted at soccer, golf, – you name it. My eldest must have been off reading a book when the universe handed out sports talent.
My oldest attended Montessori school, and we became close friends with several parents of boys his same age. Collectively, mostly likely over cocktails, we decided that when they were three we would all sign up for a soccer team through the local YMCA. We live in the suburbs, flooded with kids, so if those poor soccer fields could talk, it would be an extended soliloquy of observations concerning the thousands of kids, parents, and coaches that had stomped across them.
We all excitedly get signed up, attend practices, and get their little uniform, cleats and shin guards. The parents are ready: video recorders fully charged, and in hand for the kids’ first game.
Now these kids are three-years-old. So during most practices there was more picking of flowers, spinning in circles, and other toddler antics. We were sure the two, thirty minute halves of this game might be “America’s Funniest Home Video” gold, and a winning video was a strategy for funding college some day – so we were ready.
Finally, the referee (very experienced, he must be 14) blows the whistle on this warm fall morning. Let the games begin.
Three year olds don’t really play in formation – it is more like a herd of puppies, in controlled chaos, stumbling all over each other. They are all bunched together, randomly kicking with very little ball contact occurring. Shin guards don’t get this much action during a World Cup match.
All of sudden, my child turns toward me, and breaks out the pack.. Heading for the goal with the ball? No, trotting over to his beaming mother, who is following his beeline to her with the video camera.
Mom: “Honey, is everything ok?”
My Son, putting his pudgy little hands on his hips, and rolling his eyes: “Mom, this is ridiculous. We need another ball, NO ONE is sharing.”
Apparently through all the practices, and excitement around this amazing opportunity, the entire concept of a team sport failed to register. But fear not, his skills in leadership and persuasion soon blossomed from the experience. Let me explain..
Two weeks later, I show up at the Montessori school to pick up my children, and my eldest and his two soccer peers are on their hands and knees inside a large wood barrel designed for the kids to crawl through. The headmistress struts up to me, explains that during recess she heard girls squealing like pigs caught in the fence. She turned her head in the direction of the ruckus, so see three amigos had opened their pants, and were urinating into the open barrel of the play equipment. In front of EVERYONE at recess. Of course they were.
My mind quickly flashes to a passing comment my husband had made. He and the other dads supervised soccer practice earlier this week, and when the kids had to pee, they thought it was stupid to hike all the way back to the YMCA building. So he and the other dads shuffled the boys to the tree-lined edge of the soccer field, and “taught” the boys to pee outside. A common practice within boys sports to which I was not privy. In my mind, I spike a football and dance in the parent-end zone – “This is not my fault!”
When I arrived home with my child, who luckily had avoided being labeled a pervert, I got the trademark “What did I do that was wrong?” look on my spouse’s face when I relayed the day’s events.
So that afternoon at the school, the headmistress shared something else with me. When she asked Friend #1, whose idea it was, he said my son. Friend # 2 also said it was my dear boy’s brainchild. And when questioned, my spawn volunteered he had thought the whole thing up. At least they are honest.
Fear not, he continued to play soccer for another decade, so it was a good start. Eventually, he stopped asking for his own ball during a game. Progress not perfection, people.