the son’s dad

Marching 14th, 2011 9:24pm

I suppose like any other kiddie-sports league, watching what appears to be vast tracts of psychological damage and trauma, roots of neuroses and seeds of lifelong behavioral disorders being ruthlessly ground into the tykes is going to generate a certain amount of apprehension in any parent who actually cares about their kid.

Watching the look of heart-felt failure on the face of a dad as their little 3-4 yr old breaks out crying because some kid just kicked the ball from them, leaving them rolling in the dust, unable to score a goal yet again, is withering to a father’s psyche. I know this because I was exactly that dad last year1 when Mac had his first season of organized-sports practice.2 Watching the complex and uncontrollable maelstrom of emotions—anger, confusion, outrage, angst and despair—arise out of the little bodies of these boys is heart-wrenching and terrifying, but I sense also especially self-immolating to the americana dad.3 We’ve all been through these incredibly strong/damaging emotions and we want to protect our kids from it, yet we are told sports teach children how to function in a competitive society; it’s a given sports are healthy and good and develop model citizens, encouraging both team-sacrifice and the taste for the pursuit for excellence that quadrennially culminate as the Olympics.

I think the worst part is watching the confusion on the boy’s face as their supposed team-mate, the one they have been practicing with for last 45 minutes is placed on the opposing-side for scrimmage and what was all practice and teamwork and fun is now very much a 15-minute encapsulation of The Lord of the Flies: the soccer ball, the conch. Then he, the lost one, will stop running and stand there alone, crying in the body-wracking way little kids will cry, innocence lost and all that cal. The fathers will run up, at first smiling and calmly cajoling, while the inevitably large set of relatives watch from the sidelines having shown up to see little junior play, and so the cajoling will quickly turn into quiet pleading and eventually outright ordering or so help me… Soon frustration sets in as the little boy continues to stand in the middle of field shamelessly crying, while the rest of the kids run back and forth, completely ignoring the poor kid, no more an object in their awareness than a tuft of grass to be stepped on, while dad is bent over, arms outstretched on either side of the boy, gesticulating wildly, trying to push the boy toward the field of play without actually touching him. Any sort of physical contact now would be an admission of complete and absolute failure. Inevitably, you will see—it will happen to every dad out there at one point4—you will see failure washing over the dad’s face like the tears washing their son’s.

The mom’s get this. I’m not sure what all they know as they patiently calm their son that dad has made inconsolable. I do not know all that Jenn or the rest of the moms’ know but at least I know they already know that these are their little boys and not men, not ready for the testosterone-fueled competitiveness that is prevalent for much of man’s life. Scarlett of course, has been blowing any and every belief or myth or general sense of knowledge about girls, especially little girls, not only out of the water but vaporizing pre-conceptions a priori. Scarlett at this stage in the game, could literally run circles around the boys on the field, leaving them choking on her dust.5

BUT…

This year, it turns out that your kid actually does OK.6 No jags of crying that lock them up. This year it’s not you out there but another dad going through the same feelings of failed fatherhood, but now you know that being able feel this already disproves7 the fear. You want to go up to them and say my son did exactly same thing and that almost exactly one year ago8 on this same spot, I felt exactly what you are feeling right now, thinking it’s only your kid who stands apart from everyone else, tears streaming, overwhelmed with terror that roots them the ground, unable to think, act or walk, let alone kick a ball in any meaningful manner. You want to pat them on the back and say, “It’s OK. we’ve all been through exactly what you feeling and it will get better. And you’ll learn not to take the entire clan to watch little johnny play and score the winning goal. Next time it will be just you and him, one on one and it will be a whole lot better.”

  1. And to some extent this year. []
  2. we are in our 2nd year now. []
  3. those toss-the-football and play-catch myths are themselves demonstrated to be myths when I drive around the neighborhood and see what the other dads are doing with their kids. []
  4. each every kid having their own unique breaking point []
  5. And it’s a very wet soccer field. []
  6. Mac up until very recently had been doing a very subtle parody of Charlie Sheen. Mac has only one speed: SLOW! even when he has the ball and everyone is begging him to run, nay walk just a bit faster, he obstinately plods along. He has great ball-handling skills but molasses passes him. So this year, he actually has started running! This is a much bigger accomplishment to see than I can describe on paper. []
  7. I hope []
  8. Jenn reminds its only been 6 months []

brief update 25Oct2010

24oct2010 5:33PM CMT BKGY

Jack has been climbing up the stairs. To the top. And Sits there with a big wide grin. His arms wide, each one holding a remote control, which he blinks on and off. He has fallen a few times. Not for lack of trying, we have tried to prevent this. We have up gates and he wormed his way through them. Already outsmarting us.

It is thundering outside. Haven’t heard real lightning in a long time. It goes on for far longer than I remember and longer than I thought possible out here in the MidWest, like dropping a rock down a very deep well, the crumbling thunder keeps rolling on and on, reminding me of a Finnegans’s Wake passage:

The fall (bababadalgharaghtakamminarronnkonnbronntonnerronntuonnthunntrovarrhounawnskawntoohoohoordenenthurnuk!) of a once wallstrait oldparr is retaled early in bed and later on life down through all christian minstrelsy.

Soccer meeting

We had our first official soccer meeting for Mac. They organizers had invited the parents to bring out the kids but since the meeting was being held at 7pm, most of the kids were already a bit loopy from staying up past their bedtimes and were glassy-eyed when they first arrived at the fields.

While a dense core of seriously-minded looking parents were closely paying attention to the organizers, a fair percentage of parents were in the periphery minding the kids as they (the kids) slowly got the idea they could kick their soccer balls as hard as they wanted to without any adult really paying any negative attention to them, and so they just took off, running and for the most part kicking the ball in front of them and eventually into the goals.

Mac initially arrived at the fields saying he didn’t know how to or couldn’t kick a soccer ball, but he soon saw the other kids playing and within a few minutes had absconded with some other’s kid ball and ran the length of the field, actually kicking the ball in a determinate fashion and finally getting to the goal and punting it in. It was quite neat to see him do what we had been practicing in the back yard for the past year: Our little bit of dad-tossing-the-ball-with-son schtick.1 Needless to say, Scarlett also was kicking the ball around. We are not exactly sure how we are going to keep her off the field during an actual match; she’s too young to be signed up.

I soon picked up on the fact that these kiddie games would be as much as an excuse for the parents to get out and socialize as it would for the kids. Of course we would enjoy watching our kids at play, but we would also get the enjoy the company of other adults which is extremely limited when smalls kids take up every waking2 hour available. Yes I know I am stating the obvious, but it’s new to me.

  1. Yeah I know I mixing metaphors []
  2. and non-waking []