Fretting Footballer

Flag football season has begun.  My littlest, when initially asked, said "YES! I want to play!"  He turned 5 four weeks ago.  Football started, though, and he did not.  He was sick for the first two weeks of practice.

Last week he was healthy.  I said, "Football practice is Thursday."  He said, "The thing is Mom, football is kinda wrestly."  I said, "Yes, I guess it is."  The next day I said, "Let's go buy you cleats for football on Thursday!"  He said, "Yes! I need cleats!"

Thursday came and he felt nervous.  We went to practice. Reticently, he went through the motions of practicing football.  At the end of practice the team played Sharks & Minnows.  Most of the team stands in the end zone; these guys are the Minnows.  A few team members stand in the middle of the field; these guys are the Sharks.  The object is to run past the Sharks without getting your flags pulled and stop at the other end zone.  My little guy was fast.  He dodged the sharks time and time again.  During the second to last round he made it to the end zone, but the Sharks pulled his flags anyway.

He turned into a puddle.  It was not a good practice.  All previous successful runs past the Sharks did not matter at all.  The only thing that mattered was the one run that ended poorly.  We took to the sidelines and then watched older brother practice.

Game day came just two days later.  Saturday.  We packed up the truck with rations for two hours on the football field.  Cleats, jerseys, mouthguards - check.  Juice boxes for the team - check.  Umbrellas - check.  Older brother played the first game and loved it.  He ran his heart out, tried his best, and had a grande ol' time.

When the little guy was up, trepidation set in.  Dad laced up his cleats, tucked in his jersey, took his hand and confidently charged the little guy to warm ups.  The little guy, hung his head, and cautiously walked beside his father.  Just as cute as could be, he warmed up.

The Lone Firefly
The game began with his team on offense.  If you've never watched 4 and 5 year old children play flag football, it can be likened to releasing a jar of fireflies back to freedom.  They scatter.  Some follow the ball, other's run randomly in all directions, and usually one stays back inside the jar.  That one, alone in the jar, then looks ahead and slowly leaves.  That was my little man.  The lone firefly.  Once he realized everyone else was down somewhere in the end zone, he walked there, then he looked off the field of play to see his mother cheering him on.

He turned into a puddle.  He ran off the field, to my arms, crying hysterically.  Game over.

This week, I've tried to talk it up.  I've been upbeat, positive, "it's just like playing tag - you're so fast, buddy!"  His sad eyes return, his head droops, "but what if I cry, Mom?"

The debate then has been in my head all week, certainly not his.  He is not feeling it.  Do I make him go?  Do I tell him buck up camper?  Do I make him sit on the sideline to watch?  Am I one of those mother's who says, "finish what you start" or am I one of those mother's who says, "you're 5, don't feel sad about sports"?

I've certainly been the "finish what you start" Mom.  When my eldest tried to puppy-dog eye pout her way out of soccer at age 5, I tried the buck up camper bit.  Now, at 9, she is terrified of competitive sports.  So maybe that isn't the best choice.  I am also certain the "finish what you start" Mom will return, one day, when this guy is older and it actually matters.  This time I'm opting for "don't feel sad about sports".  I'm going to enjoy his silly shenanigans on the sidelines while cheering for the older brother who really loves it and really wants to be there.

No comments: