Like most mothers, I can ramble on for several hours about my 5-year-old’s incredible motor skills and natural gift for athletics. I’m probably mostly impressed by how much better he is at sports than I was at his age. I’m still having my doubts about signing him up for a real sports league, though. I’ve checked out the T-ball games and the football games and the soccer games. I almost always ended up depressed at the sight of children who didn’t really want to be there, and parents being more into the action than any of the kids. And, sorry to say, I also saw plenty of those cliched parents who were flipping out over a simple game. Usually at their own kids.
The main thing I’ve learned by attending these games is to get other people to ask my children some questions once in a while. I’d talk to parents in the stands, and they’d love to tell me about how their kid is a real natural, and he (or she) can’t get enough of the practices and the actual games. Then I’d talk to their kids–with their parents not listening–and get some honest answers about how they’re on the field for plenty of reasons that didn’t have anything to do with their own interests.
We know children need to be physically active, and they have to build their bodies along with gaining self-confidence, and it’s always nice to have fun. Also, it does parents a lot of good to get the children out of the house. I’m just not sure my time isn’t better spent bicycling with my child, or taking him out for long walks with carefully-scheduled breaks. I know my child needs to know about trying, and maybe even the horrible aspects of trying and failing, but I’d rather that my kids get to have some fun without the burden of success or defeat.
For now, I’m willing to spend some time kicking a soccer ball back and forth, and letting my 5-year-old learn by failure without the pressure of being part of a team. I’m pretty sure he’s enjoying learning the rules of soccer at a leisurely pace, too. I think it’s a pace that I’ll maintain until the day comes (if it ever does) when he announces that he’d like to play on a soccer team. I’m sure that I’ll be worrying then that he’s giving in to peer pressure, but maybe that’ll just be my clinical take on the fact that, hey, kids want to play with my kid.