The Last Game

Brad Paisley’s Last Time for Everything reminds his fans of all those moments in their youth that will never happen again for them. A sad nostalgia for their glory days.

And on the day my eighth grader played his last soccer game with the friends he’s played with his entire life before they split off into various high schools, the song kept playing in my head. He may not ever play again in this world of “cut” high school sports.

But I find that life is funny and filled with surprises.

Yesterday, before heading off to his game, I found myself doing a few things that, at one point years ago, I thought I had done for the last time too. At 7am, I was in the basement of our school library with his robotics club making a poster with glittery letters. Was the last time I did that in middle school?

At 1:00, I was learning a new song in my piano lesson. Until two years ago, I last played when I was 18.

Then in a first time long after I should have had my last time, I blew my whistle coaching fourth grade boys’ basketball (which I have never played, but wanted to).

A few weekends ago, I roomed with my college roommate, making it, after almost thirty years, the new last time.

So, as I drove to my son’s last soccer game, I was less sad for him. He too will have fun with life’s surprises… his next times.

Advertisements

His Teenage Name Day

Sitting in the stands at yesterday’s late afternoon soccer game, I held my breath when my son got the ball in front of the goal.

The goalie caught his attempt, but it was a nice shot. Everyone cheered, and above the din, I heard his teammate – their best player nursing an injury – yell, “Nice try, Kelly!”

It took me out of the moment. Until then, none of my boys had been called anything but their first names. The names we chose for them.

But he is 13 – that age when teammates or classmates choose a different name for you. A last name. A shortened version of your own. A weird mashing of words that somehow, they think, describes you. A teenage badge of honor.

I was the only one who noticed. The only one who marked the moment as important.

Then today, another friend, “See ya tomorrow, Kelly!”

Your Number One Job

Since our boys were very little, I have made sure they hear me say, “Your number one job in life is to be good to your brothers.”

In the closing weeks of summer vacation, I had to remind them often. They had spent too much time together, suddenly missed their friends, and with the older boys entering adolescence, I began to worry that my mantra was lost on them. “What’s your most important job on this planet?!”

But they just rolled their eyes.

Then, yesterday, after a few weeks back in the groove of school, the 12 and 13 year olds both showed me that they have been listening.

First, I heard from their Lego League teacher, who was in the process of creating two distinct teams for competition, that the older one had pulled her aside. He let her know quietly that all that matters to him is that he and his brother are on the same team. Even though his two best friends in the entire world are also in Lego League, he wants to share it with his brother.

Later in the day, I picked them up from soccer practice, after which they were delighted with themselves and each other. The younger one, and better athlete, had earned the “play of the day.” The older one had scored the winning goal – his first ever goal. Neither of them cared that their feats had been achieved in practice, not a game.

The younger one waited until we were alone to tell me that his brother “was so happy when he scored that goal. You should have seen him. And the whole team was happy. It was awesome.”

I whispered what I had heard from the Lego League teacher. “That’s because if I’m on his team, he knows we’ll win,” but his grin spread from ear to ear.

Phew, A No-Drama Night

During the first week and a half of school, it seemed that my boys were running a relay of tantrums and meltdowns. As soon as one recovered from whatever angst he was experiencing, he passed the baton, and the next one took off.

“I have no friends in my classes!” He does.

“I don’t know why I am doing soccer! I hate soccer!” He has a blast.

“I am not doing Lego League!” This is his third year. He loves it, and more of his friends are doing it than ever before.

“I heard someone behind me in line say I was useless!” Unwilling to put a name to the voice.

“I only touched the ball once for all of recess! And it was a punt. It wasn’t even a good punt!” Can they please ban playground football?

Each of these and other statements spiraled down into two hours of tears, moping, glares, stomping feet or refusals to talk. And the fights that such moods triggered between them… Seriously?! Then yesterday, thank goodness, the world shifted back onto its usually peaceful, happy axis.

“I got a 100 on my math quiz!”

“I’m so bummed we don’t have soccer practice tomorrow. It’s the best part of the day!”

“I hope everyone’s going to be at Lego League.”

“Can I bring my red football for recess?”

“We finished our homework. If we go together, can we go Pokemon-ing until dinner?”

Transition back to school complete.

Dirty Knees and Grass Stains

A washcloth and my exfoliating lotion cannot cure my 6th grader’s dirty knees. Even after a long shower, the dirt remains – a souvenir from the best moment of his day. Recess.

Today, his knees are fluorescent green.

He dives for the football. Slides into first base. Beats his opponent to the soccer ball only by skidding into it. You see, when you fall, it looks more dramatic. Your effort gets recognized even when you get beat. Top 10 moves on SportsCenter.

So he sacrifices his body for the highlight reel in his mind, dirty grass-stained knees his badge of honor.

I ask him if his friends say anything – “No!” – and realize that he is not alone. There is a little gang of dirty knees proving their mettle in every field and schoolyard.

Best Sports Moment in History

Today, in their last game, my son’s soccer team finished the season undefeated.

It was his 6th birthday.

And when he scored his goal, he sprinted straight off the field, shouting joy, and tackled me in front of his team, his coach, his opponents, the entire kindergarten-YMCA-soccer-world.

They say winning the Super Bowl is great. I cry when my basketball favorites win the NCAA tournament. A World Series win for the home team is amazing, especially when you are in the ballpark. A victory at the Kentucky Derby, a gold medal at the Olympics… until today, they were the best moments in sports.

But nothing in all of sports will ever again beat my son tackling me after his goal the day he turned six.

When the Youngest Plays Soccer

My five year old joined a YMCA soccer team. It’s his first extra-curricular activity besides following his big brothers to theirs. During his five years of being a spectator at every practice, game, lesson and recital, he has gained something the other two lack – a desperate desire to come off the bench.

No dandelion-picking for him!

While he has yet to score, he takes joy in his teammates’ successes.

Although he is not quick, he runs with a determined eye on the ball, arms swinging, never stopping even when passed.

When the coach calls the team, he is the first to be at Coach’s side with a hi-five.

When he is on the sidelines, he may use even more energy jumping up and down than he does on the field.

And he yells. He yells when he’s on the field. He yells off the field.

When his brothers pretend to know more about soccer than he does, he covers his ears. “I don’t need any advices!”

Most important, though, he can’t stop smiling at everyone. It is finally his turn in the spotlight. And this little man is making the most of it.