Monday, May 23, 2011


I got my kid into soccer for what I thought were all the right reasons. I thought he'd learn something. He could meet other kids and do something he doesn't get the chance to do living where we live: play outside.

We live on the side of a hill that you practically have to rappel down just to cut the grass.

Of course, he's five and over the course of this waterlogged season, I've watched him lie down on the field and roll around like a dog during practice. He's stomped dandelions in fear of bees during games and has approached the game of soccer with the sort of disinterest usually reserved for leafy, green vegetables.

Saturday was his last game. He had his uniform on, but, really, all he wanted was to go outside and poke a stick in a mud hole for a couple of hours.

So, I let him.

It was hard. Playing soccer meant a lot to me when I was a kid. I made friends playing soccer. I also grew aware that despite my fractured self-esteem and weak self image, I was stronger than I thought, faster than I believed and while never a finesse player, I discovered there was room on the field for a hard-headed thug who took some pleasure in reducing the aspirations of college scholarships for the opposing team.

Soccer helped me get in touch with my dark side and gave me a decent outlet for some of my teenage angst and rage. It gave me a certain amount of confidence and taught me that pain could be endured for the right reasons.

But... my kid isn't me. He's also five and not twelve and trying to define his masculinity by playing a sport more brutal than swimming. He has plenty of friends and kids who already think he's great and look forward to seeing him every chance they get.

This was just another lesson in that education.

So, I let him off the hook, which wasn't easy, and let him go outside to drag his action figures through a muddy ditch and pretend they're fighting evil. He's too young for real demons and when they come, if they come, he'll find his own ways of confronting them. With a little luck, the things he discovers, the things he develops a passion for, will bring him joy instead of only release.

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