It was a beautiful September afternoon and my whole household was giddy with excitement because it had been six years since we'd experienced what we were about to experience. With smiles and anticipation, my husband and I and our eight children walked to the local soccer field to watch our 5-year-old son, Axel, play in his first recreation soccer game.
“How many goals are you going to score today?” one child asked. “I bet he’ll beat my record,” another child said.
The kids began making bets on how many goals Axel was going to score, with all of us reminiscing about recreation soccer of yesteryear. We remembered the game our oldest son, Anderson, scored nine goals unopposed as the smallest 4-year-old on his team. We thought back to the time Ace and Aussie were on the same team and together took on every single team their age, crushing the competition to the point the opposing coaches asked that they not be on the field at the same time.
As a family who comes from a line of successful athletes, including soccer players, it was fun to experience these first moments together. And as a parent of these standout athletes, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy the comments made on the sideline. Things like, “Whose child is that?” or “Man, that kid is fast.” And of course, I loved seeing the smiles on my kids’ faces as they experienced the accolades that came from that well-earned success.
As we made our way to the field, however, nobody was more excited than Axel. He had waited so long to play the game all his older brothers before him had, and he proudly wore his long socks, shin guards and cleats that had been passed down from brother to brother to brother to brother.
Fast-forward five minutes into the game, and all of that excitement had gone and was replaced with, “How much longer is this game?” and “Why is Axel picking grass, laying on the ground, and running away from the ball?” We also watched him perform several forward rolls, randomly placed jumps and karate kicks.
For the next several minutes that seemed like days, we watched in horror. Strike that. We watched our child perform a spectacular circus routine with intermittently placed grass pickings and naps.
Parents were asking who that kid on the field was, but not for reasons we were used to. We were the parents of the kid who stood out as one who had no business being on that soccer field. We were the parents who had to pull our child out mid-game to give him a good talking to, only to send him back so we could watch him do the same thing again.
Even after the worst first soccer game in Brown family history, Axel wanted to continue to play, of course, for the treats at the end. Things did not improve despite our constant efforts to teach him the rules of the game. He continued to pick a lot of grass, roll around in that picked grass and spend a large portion of his time jumping around and flipping for no apparent reason.
While, I won’t give up on Axel’s athletic pursuits because I have seen his tumbling abilities both on and off the field, I won’t, however, be signing him up for soccer anytime soon.
Furthermore, I will be on the lookout for stunt double classes with instructors that don’t mind a little freestyle action, or traveling circuses seeking a spunky 5-year old boy who is as much a character as he is a performer.
Those soccer cleats may need to wait several more years before they kick another ball, but my couches will continue to be launching pads, and my backyard trampoline will always be put to good use. And I hope to continue to have a house full of giddy kids excited to support each other in whatever pursuits make the others happy.