It was the end of Esmé's very first soccer game.
"Esmé, how do you like soccer?" I knew what answer was coming.
"I hate soccer."
Soccer is a kid rite-of-passage, I guess. One I never participated in. So Esmé's involvement was mainly thanks to Roo. He thought it would be a good way to redirect her overflowing energy. So we signed up and bought the ball, the cleats, the shin pads. There I was in Sports Authority trying cleats on my kid and puzzling how to make shin guards work, feeling like a foreigner in a strange, neon spandex-clad country.
The first game was Saturday morning at 8 am. Roo unfortunately had to go to USC for school that morning so it was just me. Pure soccer mom. We found the field, already crowded with kids and very intent soccer moms and dads, dressed to perfection in track suits and prepping their five year olds on how to hustle. Penny and I sat down in our chairs and I sent Esmé in trying to ignore the plain reluctance on her face. They at least gave her a pink jersey.
First the coach had them kick the ball. That was where things got dicey. Esmé's previous experience with a ball was really just one night when we kicked a Frozen beach ball at each other for about 20 minutes. So with the other six little girls on her team frantically kicking the ball back and forth, she was a little overwhelmed. She was deliberate, though, and did a good job. The coach then set up three or four other practice routines that Esmé made her way through. Once practice had ended, I think she had made up her mind about soccer. But then they had to play. I hate to say that I laughed the entire game, but...I laughed the entire game. She ran back and forth in the little herd, not really sure why she was doing it, and sticking strategically to the back and avoiding the ball but not being too conspicuous about it. She gets that strategy from me. When she realized this is what soccer is, and that the game still had thirty minutes to go, she kept looking over at me with her signature furrowed brow and hunched shoulders like, "Really?!" But she stuck to it. When the other team scored and the parents cheered, she furrowed her brow again and made a grand gesture of plugging her ears to ensure that I appreciated how obnoxious she found the whole thing. I laughed because that's exactly how I feel when I play sports.
The game ended and she plunked down next to me with a big drink of water. That's when she told me how she felt about it, as if I didn't know. I congratulated her on finishing the game even though they had to run so much, then made a mental note to have Roo be her coach/pep-talk-giver next time.
That's about when the team moms handed out the snack bags. Capri Suns and Oreos! I decided to revisit the soccer question: "Do you like soccer?"
Game number two is Saturday. She's going to destroy the other team.