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Posts Tagged ‘soccer’

My older son, who is almost five,  is playing soccer for the very first time this spring. He was a little reluctant when we first registered, despite the fact that he has always loved kicking around the soccer ball in the backyard. But by the time practices started a few weeks ago, he had embraced the idea.

His team is mostly soccer rookies. There’s one boy who I jokingly refer to as “the ringer” because this is his third season, and he’s quite good. But the rest of them are still novices. Enthusiastic novices, but novices nonetheless. Which is fine. You have to start somewhere, I’ve always said. 

Also, this particular league is a low-pressure league where there are actual rules spelled out to govern good sportsmanship on the part of coaches and other involved parties. Which means that it’s less likely to be full of Those Parents. You know. The dads (and moms) who are hard core about the sport. The ones who yell constantly at their kids to work harder, play harder, run harder, do better, beat up the other kids and win at all costs. Okay, so the last two things are (mostly) implied. But you get my drift. Low pressure situation. People there to learn. People there to have fun. Emphasis on having fun and learning to play, not on winning games. Check, check, check, and check.

So it was a little disheartening to hear a little boy on the team that mopped the floor with my son’s team on Saturday (hey, I said they were novices, right?) crowing loudly about how many goals he’d scored. He and a couple of the girls on his team were scoring over and over again, and our little bunch was starting to droop a little bit.

Now, I’m realistic about kids. Five- and six-year-old kids don’t always do the right thing every single time. Heck, adults don’t always do the right thing, so why would we expect children to? Children do have one excuse, though: they have to learn how to do the right thing. And that means someone has to teach them. From what my husband and my friends said, no one from the boy’s team was gently advising him that it wasn’t about all the goals that he’d scored, that it was about playing the game the right away.

It wasn’t all the boy’s fault that he wasn’t behaving in the most sportsmanlike way. But someone should have said something to him, so that he’d recognize that what he was doing wasn’t very nice.  No one begrudged him the right to be proud of his skill. But we didn’t want the other kids to get discouraged. We didn’t want our rookie soccer players to start feeling so low that they just gave up. And with a bunch of newbies, that’s always a possibility. All the parents and fans tried to cheer things like, “Good try!” and “Good hustle!” to keep the kids’ spirits up, to let them know that we appreciated their effort more than anything else.

Luckily, the kids on my son’s team didn’t seem to suffer any long-term ill effects from the experience. Kids are pretty resilient. Thankfully. Also, there were plenty of other kids on the other team–and parents, too–who weren’t acting like that. Of course, they were will demolishing our team, but well, that was pretty inevitable.

As my friend said after the game, “Were our kids having fun? Were they playing by the rules?” Yes and yes. So we were all good. That’s what we are trying to emphasize, and as long as we continue doing that, we’re succeeding. Maybe they’ll also gain a few soccer skills and score a few goals, too.

The point of this long anecdote, as you can probably guess, is that it’s another example of how important is it to both 1) lead by example, and to 2) make the effort teach our children what we value as important.  Colossians 3: 12–“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience”–has always been one of my favorite Bible verses. If I value compassion and kindness, which I do, then it’s up to me to try to instill those qualities in my child. And to show him what compassion and kindness look like. That’s my goal as a parent. (C’mon. You knew I was going to make a soccer pun at some point.)

Even–especially?–on the soccer field.

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Happy Mardi Gras!

It’s the last day before Lent to party down and cowboy up and indulge. I can’t believe I’ve made it through the entire Carnival season without having king cake even once. Pitiful. My New Orleans friends would be so disappointed in me. Tsk, tsk.

Tomorrow, of course, is Ash Wednesday. Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the penintential season of Lent. During Lent, Christians prepare for the crucifixion and the resurrection. It’s a quiet, solemn time of reflection and sacrifice.

Ash Wednesday has always been a pretty big deal in the Catholic tradition, perhaps less so in the Protestant tradition. My childhood church did have  an Ash Wednesday service, where the pastor would put ashes on each member’s forehead. It didn’t get the same emphasis that, say, Maundy Thursday or Good Friday, received, though. I very clearly remember attending those services, but I don’t have a lot of memories of the Ash Wednesday services. And I’m pretty certain that I didn’t attend that service as a young child at all.

That’s why I guess it never occurred to me to take my elder son, who is almost five years old, to an Ash Wednesday service tomorrow. In fact, I just checked our church’s online calendar, and there’s not even a service listed.

So I was surprised when a mother of one of the kids on my son’s soccer team asked me yesterday if the team was really going to have practice on Ash Wednesday.

“Um, yes?” I said. “Yes, at 4:30 p.m.”

I didn’t know what else to say. I just hadn’t even thought about it.

And she hesitated and said, “Really? Well, okay. I guess we’ll see you there.”

Her question had me thinking all evening long.  It really had never occurred to me that Ash Wednesday was that big a deal. And yet, I couldn’t imagine having a soccer practice on Good Friday. And yet, weren’t they connected? Or if they’re not, in my mind, should they be more so?

Should I find some way to mark Ash Wednesday with my son, now that we’re finally getting into a (simplified) explanation of Lent and Holy Week and the real meaning of Easter this year?

In the past, I tended to not talk much about Holy Week with him because he was young, too young, I thought, to really learn about the crucifixion. I tended to present Easter as a celebration of Jesus–of Jesus being with us forever. In fact, I wrote an entire article for the magazine Presbyterians Today that discussed the possible ways to talk about death, dying, crucifixion and resurrection with young children [see the March 2010 issue].

It was okay, I learned, to not talk about capital punishment with a three-year-old. It was okay to save that conversation for later. But I knew that at some point, my son was going to need to know the real meaning of Easter–and how we got to Easter, which is through Good Friday. And we’ve gotten to that point. I’m not saying that I’m describing, in great detail, about the nails going through Jesus’ body to keep him hanging on the cross to my son, but I’ve at least read the stories in his children’s bible to him that are age-appropriate. He knows now that in our religious tradition, we believe that Jesus died, and that Jesus rose from the dead. I don’t know that I would expect him to sit through an entire Good Friday service yet, but we are talking about what happened on Good Friday and what it means in the context of Easter.

So wouldn’t it make sense to talk about Ash Wednesday as the beginning of the path toward Easter? And yet, I haven’t. I hadn’t even thought about doing it until yesterday, until that mom hesitated on the phone with me.

Hmmm.

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