Soccer season has officially begun.
If I was feeling apprehensive as the days before Lars’s first game approached, then I was an all-out wreck by the time we arrived to the field the day of.
But like any good mother, I swallowed up my nervousness and pushed it down to that same place that houses our inadequacies as parents and the mystery meat I ate for dinner the other day.
There was no particular reason I was brimming with anxiety over a small child’s soccer game, it was just that I somehow knew what was to surely unfurl just before the game commenced.
Because although I was worried, Lars was even more so.
This is something I’ve come to learn about my son: he gets nervous. Whether it be a bunch of children at the park he doesn’t know, trying out new hobby or starting an extracurricular, tension usually gets the better of him. Jamie can tend to be a nervous person and I seem to get flustered over anything that has to do with the children, so perhaps Lars has learned this behaviour from us — I’d like to think not, but the possibility is definitely there.
However, like most road bumps we’ve learned a few tricks to conquer and prevail. Mostly the ability for Jamie and me to veil the anxiety we are feeling over whatever anxiety Lars is feeling. In other words, my husband and I have become masters at faking serenity.
Or so I thought. The soccer field was filling up quickly and it occurred to me that Lars seemed to be one of the only kids on his new team who hadn’t previously played the game. All of the soccer moms huddled together and the majority of the boys on the team were fist bumping and excitable.
Lars was kicking the ball around when the coach called in the boys to begin. The kid had literally stepped a foot onto the field when he was accosted by a flood of tears and terror (perhaps terror is a strong word … to me it felt like terror).
“I — I just can’t do it … I’m too nervous!” He was saying between hyperventilating and compulsively tugging at the laces of his cleats.
“Oh, you can do it buddy.” Jamie was saying supportively to him.
I had known this was coming from the moment we enrolled him in soccer and yet I was completely unprepared. I should have begun thinking up positive things to say as soon as I noted how tight-knit this soccer field and its patrons were. Instead, I just stood there rubbing his back uselessly.
I looked around at the other moms. They were yelling stuff like, “Get your foot on the ball!” or “Force them down to the other end of the field!” to their soccer star seven-year-olds.
Hell, I didn’t even know what half of it meant. These cheering mothers were sitting on fancy collapsible chairs with makeshift coolers as tables. It made my blanket strewn messily about over the ground seem rather inferior and incredibly novice.
I did the one thing no parent is ever supposed to do when faced with a similar situation. I said to my son, “You know Lars, if you don’t want to do soccer, you don’t have to.”
It might possibly have been the lowest point in my parenting career thus far. The pressure of soccer had gotten to me and I was ready to flee. Thank God that Lars is the mature one out of all of us though. After the words came spewing regrettably out of my big mouth, he seemed to have a change of heart. He wiped away his tears, grabbed a ball from the sidelines then ran in without any more hesitation.
By the end of the half hour game, he was just as enthusiastic as his teammates when someone would score a goal. He bragged for hours afterwards that he had kicked the ball six times (exactly) and next game he would definitely get it in the net. He was ecstatic.
As we drove home, Lars said, “Mom, I’m really glad that I decided to stay. I really like soccer.”
It was in that moment that I stopped worrying about Lars’s nervousness. I stopped worrying about how I was feeling in comparison. I stopped worrying about our inexperience in soccer and the other soccer moms, and I told Lars how proud I was of him.
It takes a lot of courage to stand up to your own nervousness. That night, my son taught me how to face your fears in the best kind of way.
Lindsay Brown is a Sylvan Lake mother of two and freelance columnist.