Friday, September 9, 2016

Soccer Season

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.


  1. Zuzu and Benjamin are the same child. Except he's a male who doesn't care much for other males or other children, really. He's not into team sports and prefers things like gymnastics and socializing with adults and swimming. But I double dare you to bring yourselves over here and see how Benjamin handles a good tantrum. Two hours is long, but nothing I haven't seen many times over.

    We have clone children.

    And I have those same episodes of panic as a mom to a deceased child and strong-willed one and a third who appears to have her own attitude paired with the SUPER FUN influence of everything she has witnessed in poor behavior over the last 2.5 years of her own life.


    Soccer was an enormous joke for us and it was totally effing embarrassing. I won't be doing that again.

    I hope you know you're not alone. After all, you said it. They are FOUR. And extremely sassy. I'm not sure I knew that sassy bit would be nonstop behavior, but turns out to be the case.

    I've had many sharpie moments. Shame and embarrassment and A LOT of jealousy over watching that "perfect" family who probably doesn't have a dead kid and also has a fabulous rule-follower who does nothing but run up for high-fives after they listen to everything Coach said and go in for the hand pyramid thing at the end.

    I feel you.

    1. Honestly, it does help me to know that you face the same challenges as a SAHM. It also makes me respect you even more because HOLY HELL, full-time parenting kids like Zuzu and B is not easy. Maybe the little sisters will be the rule-followers, but as you said, the attitudes seem strong and the sibling influences are powerful! At least we can commiserate. And someday brag about their leadership skills?

    2. I read both your blogs and concur that my 6-year-old is the triplet. MORTIFYING fits of unprecedented length and ferocity (and destruction). Since I have a couple years on you both, I'll tell you they have gotten a lot better. I won't lie - she's still the kind of kid you walk on eggshells around, but she's slowly getting better. I think I've decided that she's just that kid who feels everything with the utmost strength, including her love and kindness.

  2. So... My five year old totally prefers adults to other kids, and as a stay at home homeschooling mom, I've been thinking of putting her in a preschool / kindergarten setting since clearly everything we do regularly with kids her age isn't enough of a social life for her, and if nothing else, you've both made me feel like maybe this is just part of who they are at this phase of their lives? I admit she hasn't gone a full two hours in a fit of rage, but she is a card-carrying member of the Zero F*cks Brigade. She'll keep walking, however metaphorically, according to the situation. I like to tell myself it's because she knows I'll always follow her / never leave her, and not bc she doesn't care if I do.

    Either way, you guys are amazing parents, and Zuzu sounded pretty assertive in terms of making sure you guys knew exactly how she felt about soccer. If any of the parents there were being judgmental vs understanding, (however silently) you're not missing out on much. <3

    1. The Zero F*cks Brigade--can we get them t-shirts printed or something? So we can all recognize each other in public?

    2. Size Medium for me. V-neck.

  3. My daughter is a member of the Zero Fucks Brigade. I also tried to put her in preschool soccer last spring... it was $10 to sign up but after two times, I stopped taking her. She loves to run, to kick, and so I thought she'd like it, but she was just not interested. She kept running off to the playground instead. I didn't even TRY to make her understand or try again because I know this girl, the more I tell her she should do something the less she's likely to do it. Like Zuzu, she loves swimming and gymnastics, non-team sports with much more 1 on 1 interaction with the coach/teacher. (Ok we really just do open gym gymnastics cause she's of course not going to do the beam when everyone else is, she's going to want to do trampoline or bars, that's how she rolls.)

    I personally hated team sports my entire childhood, and if my mom had tried to put me in soccer at that age (maybe she did?) I would've totally reacted the same way. And I would've totally gone apeshit at home because for me being involved in a team competition is about the most stressful, awkward, nightmarish thing I can think of! It's embarrassing to leave, but hey... you gave it three tries, and it's TOTALLY ok for her to just not like it! I'm sure you reassured her that as long as she tried, it's ok to move onto something else she likes better!

    Also, I totally freak out all the time that putting my daughter in school is totally wrong for her. And if she ends up not going to school I will totally freak out about that, too.

  4. Don't feel bad about her not playing team sports!! In Simplicity Parenting (by Kim John Payne) he explains why you shouldn't feel bad about that at her age. He also has lots of good tips and advice.

    ( This woman is my go-to on Parenting. She has some great tips and tricks that have given me confidence in the face of the inevitable melt down.

    Hope these are as helpful to you as they have been to me!

  5. I participated in many sports growing up because my parents wanted me to try many things. I learned many skills, but I also learned that I hate sports with any kind of contact, be it from other people or from flying objects (soccer balls, softballs, basketballs...). I hated soccer because I didn't like people running at me or the physical contact that accompanies trying to get the ball. I did like field hockey when I was older, in no small part because I could defend myself with the stick. I ended up choosing swimming as my sport.

    I think pursuing what she's interested is a good idea. Swimming and gymnastics are great sports both in terms of athleticism and socialization opportunities, and she might enjoy the challenge of full body coordination that swimming and gymnastics require. Also, swimming and gymnastics are eventually team sports, but you get your own space for training and competing.

    1. I actually never played team sports either. I swam in high school and did theater in high school and college. I think maybe I was secretly hoping she would be sportier and more coordinated than I am? But of course you're right that pursuing what she's interested in is what we want to do!

  6. That sucks. We struggled with soccer too. I found hockey was better b/c they can't see you (and therefore can't come and whine/pout/not participate). My husband coached soccer this year and there are lots of kids (including my own) who struggle and aren't out there having a blast. They're little and have big emotions sometimes. Hang in there. You're not alone. And for what it is worth, you are doing an amazing job.

    1. Little Canadians playing hockey. So adorable. I know that not every kid loves it 100% of the time, which is why I wasn't sure whether we should push/encourage/require her to keep going, or just retire for now. I hope we made the right decision to stop for this year. (And thank you for the pep talk.)

  7. When my daughter was three, she begged me to sign her up for ballet. She was so excited at the prospect of dressing and twirling like a princess. When we got there, she made it seem like I had signed her up and dragged her there under violent duress. She spent four months watching. Sometimes next to me, sometimes sitting, or sprawling, a few feet in front. REFUSING to engage. (I wish I could upload a photo I have that depicts the situation perfectly.) And then one day it all clicked and she was fine.
    I remember her first major meltdown / tantrum clearly. I was so unprepared and naive and blown away, I thought she was having an actual physical medical emergency. Had I been alone, I would have called 911. ;)
    Kids are weird.

    1. I admire you for taking her for four months! Holy moly. Kids can be so exasperating. I'm glad it clicked for her, though! And I hear you on the tantrum. There really should be an emergency line for such things.

  8. DO NOT SWEAT THIS. 4 is still really young for organized sports. I have a friend who is a youth sports coach and she says at 4 kids should just be going to camps and playing games where they all have their own balls. I mean, they don't even start keeping score until 3rd grade in most sports-- she'll play when she's ready and it is SO OKAY that she's not ready.

  9. Sarah is right. Four is really young for organized sports. Ella started in first grade, and it was still a bit of a joke for several years. I think she did it for the snacks.

    Frances started in Kindergarten, mainly because they needed a coach and Marcus stepped in last minute. She didn't like practices at all, and was super grumpy. She is loving it this year so far - 7 and 8 year olds - age makes a big difference.

    I did no organized sports outside of one silly year of t-ball. None. Not my entire school career. I took dance lessons through elementary, and piano for twelve years, but nothing athletic at all. Somehow I survived into adulthood.

    Ella does enjoy it now (8th grade), and is decent at it. I do see the benefits of team sports, and I think it's been good for her. She has so many different circles of friends because of the things she's involved with. But we're not sports obsessed in our family by any means. It's a fun way to get some fresh air and exercise and community for two hours a week, but it's not for everyone. She's more normal than atypical, I promise.

    And good for you for calling it off for the year. That's not embarrassing. Embarrassing is the family with the kid that obviously hates soccer and they are screaming bloody murder at them from the sidelines every weekend.

  10. We also quit soccer after 3 practices. It was literally ruining our weekends, not fun to start our time together with tantrums and tears. It was just fun toddler soccer in our neighborhood, ran by the Y. I had the same delusions of making neighborhood friends and her getting out some energy and not kicking every ball in the house anymore. Wrong. Major breakdowns every week 20mins into practice. No bribe, talking it through, or even threats worked. I also wonder what I'm doing wrong-why does my 3yr old prefer vying for adult or older kids attention, then playing with her peers? If someone has the answer to this please let me know.

  11. I missed this when you first wrote it but yay for Saturdays free!
    I wish I had answers but I've got nothing. Lucas is fine with any random kids, even older then him, but lord forbid he have to talk to an adult we don't know. He is adamantly against going to the field trip to the pumpkin patch. Haven't decided if I am going to make him or not.

    4 year old soccer is rough. I think this is the norm more than not!