It may have been the build-up. The longest set-up in the history of eight-year-old soccer. He stood there, trying to get the best angle, turning this way and that for what seemed like ages while some invisible force kept the other players far enough away for him to get everything lined up just right. Fists clenched, I held my breath and played it cool on the outside, but in my head I screamed, “JUST KICK IT! KICK IT! KICK IIIIIITT!” Finally, he did. And he scored what turned out to be the winning goal. My son’s first goal.
That goal wasn’t my success, but it sure felt like I had won. Teetering on the edge of my seat, it’s all I can do sometimes to even remain in it. There’s a lot of stress involved when you’re the parent watching the game. I never knew that before sitting through seasons of sports and games sometimes too painful to watch. It’s hard to see your kid being just like you.
My hope is always that he’ll overcome his fears because I never overcame mine. Isn’t that what we all want, for our kids to do better than we did? To not endure the same embarrassment? Courage. He needs courage. And it took awhile, but he’s finding it.
Lately my son had been improving little by little, making contact with the ball. Some days that’s all we could wish for. Then he had one good game. It was promising.
So last week, when my son’s team played a bunch of his classmates, I wondered how things would turn out. Would he step up and have fun with these boys he rough and tumbles with on the playground or clam up? When the ball came his way and his classmate was the one pushing it toward the goal, my son did nothing but step aside and let him score. I wanted to laugh and cry and yell at him to kick the stinking ball.
He said his heart was about to pound out of his chest. Nerves. Ah, just like me. I never did well at sports. I prayed the ball wouldn’t come near me. What my poor parents had to sit through. But seeing my son push himself and go farther in one season than I ever did my whole childhood, it makes a mom proud.
When my son scored last night on his third attempt, my nerves were shot. In an instant, a lump caught in my throat like a supersize wad of bubblegum. My eyes glazed over with a sheet of tears so fast, I feared I’d lose them there on the field, but not before I saw a smile spread across my son’s face and a humble celebration. And my husband, a quiet man who doesn’t give his emotions away easily, jumped from his chair with his arms raised in victory and cheered like he’d been living for that moment his whole life. The shock of that was enough to bring me back to reality.
I’m not sure who slept with a bigger smile on their face last night: my husband or my son. But the relief of knowing my son found his courage and maybe isn’t so much like me will make me smile for many nights to come.
Go, son. You did it. The success is yours.