Well, friends. Soccer season has officially ended at our house. Three practices, zero games, and Zuzu has declared herself absolutely finished.
David took her to the first practice and (according to him) she basically half-assed all of it. I gave her lots of pep talks before week two, and took her to practice, and it seemed to go much better (thanks in large part to the mom/coach who held her hand and gave her lots of special attention). She had told me she wasn't sure she wanted to go back because she felt "shy of everybody" but she ended up having fun. Coach was intense, but at least she participated and seemed like she was having a good time.
This last practice was rough, though. David didn't give her a snack on the way there (I still maintain that was the fatal flaw) and she was put in the group with the dad coach first instead of the mom coach and he didn't know her name and she would only whisper it so he couldn't hear her and she wouldn't listen and she didn't want to kick the ball and kept wandering off the field and saying, "Mom, I need to tell you something" but actually had nothing to tell me except vague whining or complaints.
Exasperated, I told her (through clenched teeth) to get back on the field and listen to Coach.
She stomped her foot, but turned around and headed for the soccer field. I felt the quiet satisfaction of a parent whose child listens to her. And then she kept going. And going. Off the field on the other side. All the way across the park. Toward the racquetball courts and playground.
We watched her for a moment, and I could feel the other parents behind us shifting, watching, wondering how long we would wait before going after her. I was silently pleading for her to turn around and come back, but I knew that this was Zuzu and this girl gave zero f*cks about whether we were following behind her or not.
I also knew, deep in my gut, that this was the last soccer practice we would be attending this year.
David and I kept looking at each other and looking at her little braided pig tails getting farther and farther away. Finally I said to David, "I think you'd better go after her."
He told me to meet him at home and then took off, walking quickly through the park. Zu was already a hundred yards away. I gathered up our blanket and water bottles and Coco and her toys and then grabbed the snack sign-up sheet and hastily scratched out our name. Pretty confident that the Duckworths will not be bringing snacks to the game in mid-October.
Not embarrassing AT ALL, right?
She got home and we talked about how you can't just freaking take off and run away from everyone when you are upset. And then she asked for an ice cream cone and I said, very calmly but firmly, "Absolutely not. When you don't listen to your coach and you run away from your parents, you don't get special treats."
To my mind, I sounded like a reasonable, though mildly frustrated parent.
To Zuzu, I might as well have obliterated all the hopes and dreams she had in life. Because she COMPLETELY lost her shit. Screaming, crying, and then running into the living room and deliberately throwing three bins of toys off the living room shelves in her fury.
That earned her a trip upstairs to her room so she could think about the consequences of her actions, which resulted in similar destruction upstairs--books flung off shelves, blankets ripped off the bed, dirty clothes strewn everywhere. And SCREAMING. SO. MUCH. SCREAMING.
David and I tried to stay calm and kept trading off and taking turns with her as we tried (unsuccessfully) to calm her without giving in to her demands. She just kept SCREAMING and demanding things (raspberries, ice cream cones, and milk) and instead I would offer the rest of her dinner and water (she'd already finished her milk), but that only made her angrier.
We got home at six o'clock and she raged until after 8pm. I am not exaggerating. I thought for sure she would wear herself out and be asleep by seven. But that was not the case.
And as much as she was driving me crazy and making me angry, she was also breaking my heart. She was SO upset and I didn't know how much of it was maybe from feeling nervous or uncomfortable or out of place at soccer practice, or exhausted from school, and I felt like a bad parent for putting her in soccer to begin with.
I mean, it's four-year-old soccer. I don't care if she plays or not. I thought she might enjoy running around and kicking the ball, but really I just hoped that she'd make some more friends in the neighborhood and have fun being outside. Well... obviously that didn't pan out.
I just want her to be okay. I want her to be happy and have fun, but I also want her to not be afraid to try hard things or new things. I don't need her to be extremely outgoing or popular, but I do want her to feel safe and secure and confident. I want her to make friends easily and to be assertive. But she didn't seem to feel confident at soccer practice, and that worried me.
Unless maybe she was just hot and tired and bored, which... who could blame her? I mean, I was hot and tired and bored and I was just watching.
So in the aftermath of her temper tantrum, as she's finally dozing off and whispers, "I love you, Mommy," I just started crying. Why didn't she have fun? Did we not prepare her enough? Should we have introduced soccer earlier at home? Am I not doing enough to facilitate neighborhood friendships? What am I doing wrong that is preventing her from enjoying soccer? How am I failing her as a parent now that will have a devastating impact on her future?
I'm THAT parent, overextending my child in extracurriculars, even though I know kids need down time and playtime and time to just be kids. And maybe she's not getting enough sleep at night because I have to get her up early for school. And if I were a stay at home mom, then she wouldn't be exhausted from a day at school, and she'd want to go to soccer practice... So basically all my life choices are terrible.
And of course once I started spinning into hypotheticals, I couldn't help but start thinking about how different her life would be if she were the little/middle sister instead of the big sister. If she'd watched Eliza play soccer last year, she'd be so excited to play herself this year. And she wouldn't feel shy around the other kids, because her big sister would help her out. And she'd know more kids because I wouldn't feel a brick in my stomach every time I met someone whose daughter started kindergarten this year, or who has three living daughters. (Oh, hello Anxiety, meet your close friend, Grief.)
I kept coming back to worrying about her confidence, and I was trying to figure out why she is perfectly comfortable chatting with strangers at a party of all adults from my work, and yet she won't talk to other four-year-olds playing soccer with her. Is it because we don't do enough play dates with other families? Most of my close friends with kids live way out in the county and I feel like we're busy enough as it is, but maybe I should be doing more to socialize her besides sending her to preschool?
And somehow I got from preschool to freaking out about where she'll go to grade school (we still haven't made a final decision on that), and then suddenly I was SOBBING and telling David that I'm so scared she'll have an eating disorder and cut herself and we won't be able to prevent it or to help her.
David was not quite sure how I got from Zuzu quitting soccer to Zuzu becoming an anorexic cutter, but I swear it didn't feel like that big of a leap.
Anyway, I'm trying to have a better perspective on it now. Yes, we're out the fee to play and the cost of a pair of cleats and a pair of shin guards and cute soccer socks. But our Saturdays are free again!
(Okay, fine. If I'm being really honest, there's a little part of me that is still embarrassed about the way it all went down in front of the other parents--especially having to grab the Sharpie and scratch her name of the snack list before doing the walk of shame up to my car. Coco wouldn't even hold my hand: "No! I wok!" But since we never do neighborhood playdates anyway, I guess I won't have to face them again any time soon...)
Zuzu is asking us when she can start gymnastics again, so maybe she's just not going to be into team sports. She loves swimming and gymnastics, and she's obviously more comfortable with a smaller kid-to-coach ratio, so maybe soccer just isn't her thing. I had zero interest in playing team sports when I was a kid, and I'm a somewhat well-adjusted adult (emphasis on somewhat).
ALSO she's only four. Maybe she'll want to try soccer again when she's six or seven.
And if this is our only soccer season? It's not a straight shot from dropping out of preschool soccer to dropping out of school and buying drugs on the street, right?
I know it's not a direct correlation, but when she has a fit like she did this week and I can't figure out how to fix it, it's hard to imagine how I'll be better able to cope with bigger problems than not having an ice cream cone after dinner. I want her to maintain her independent streak; I really do. But I also want her to know that, no matter what, I am always, always on her team.