Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Nine-Year Old Athlete

Because I went through pregnancy, labor and delivery four times I get to brag about the kids I brought into the world. I just get to, and I'm sorry if you'd rather not read about my son Nathan's amazing soccer skills. I'll understand. But I just have to blog about what I witnessed this afternoon at his soccer game.

My son is a phenomenal soccer player. He can play almost any sport--he's extraordinarily coordinated--but he truly shines at soccer. He just glows, radiates, gleams, etc. He shines so brightly that the other teams' coaches beg our coach to take him out of the game. Our coach says he's staying in until he drops. He usually ends up dropping on the way home. But while there is a breath of energy left in him, he will work his guts out. He will maueuver around the other players at breakneck speed to score multiple times. Today his team scored six goals. He scored five of them.

I'm just so proud. I get so excited when I watch his hummingbird-like footwork that I pump my own legs up and down while I'm cheering in my lazy Mom chair. Part of the time I am a shouting, pleased-as-punch parent, the other I stare bewildered at this kid of mine. How in the world did my husband and I produce such a coordinated, agile child?

I ran sprints in junior high and a year of high school, so maybe he gets a bit of speed from me. Maybe. But he definitely didn't get his endurance from me. That must have come from his Dad. And his competitiveness and determination are definitely traits from his Dad. His love of sports? His Dad. His energy? His Dad. But his love of soccer? Mystery. His incredible skill and ability? Another mystery. Maybe some great-great granfather down the line was a soccer player. Or at least had some of the same skills.

As a Mom I wonder how or if I should push him to a higher level of play. Do I want to head down that road of competition sports where I have to invest lots of time, money and energy into his playing? Do I let him keep on shining in recreation soccer for a while longer until he is ready to move onto to bigger and better things? If he does move up to competition soccer, will that affect how much time I can devote to my other children's activities? I think, cool, what if he became a professional player some day? And in the next thought, that's crazy, what kind of a life is that?

For now it's a kick being #12's Mom. It's such a rush to answer "yes" to the question, "Are you # 12's Mom?" I think they expect to see some buff, tall, athlete-type in a sweat suit, and they're kind of taken aback when they see me in all my Momliness. I think they're imagining what Nathan's Dad looks like. Maybe he gets it from him, they're thinking. Most likely, though, they're not thinking anything of the sort.

I also wonder how to strike a balance between praising and encouraging Nathan and teaching him humility. I told him, "I think it's so great you're such a good soccer player and that you love it so much, but be careful not to brag about it (like your Mom is doing at this very moment). "I won't Mom!" he says, exasperated. I can only hope the whole thing doesn't go to his head someday, and that in his zeal to score goals, he remembers to be a team player.

I'm having a hard time getting images of him on the soccer field out of my head. I see a blond 3rd grader, red-faced and grim-looking, determined to get the ball out of the other team's territory. With precision he pelts the ball long and hard over a smattering of player's heads, then sees no teammates are around to receive it. So he runs after the ball himself, reaches it at the same time as the other team's defenders, whisks it around them with some fancy footwork, dribbles down the field and angles it into the opposite corner of goal box.

The grim determination leaves his face, replaced with a luminous smile. He raises both arms above his head, wahoos, and proceeds to high five a bunch of teammates. He looks over at me and smiles while I'm busy cheering like a maniac, something I always thought was so unbecoming of parents.

Tonight he went to bed with grass stains on both knees even though he'd showered. "Nathan, how come you didn't wash your knees?" I asked him. He thought for a minute. "Because I wanted to remember how great today was, Mom, and that one move where I wiped out and rolled trying to pass the ball to David!"

Tomorrow or the next day he'll have to scrub off the stains. But today they are a monument to the pleasure of playing, pure childhood fun and the sweet springtime air at the soccer field.

1 comment:

Michelle said...
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