I am finally ready to write about it. It took some time and perspective, but here goes.
Moving is hard. Moving changes everything. Moving makes finding your way and where you fit in a challenge.
T.Puzzle hit the ground running. He breezed into classes and cliques relatively unscathed.
Full Speed had a much different experience.
I never changed schools growing up so I am not sure what is typical of joining a school in your eighth grade year. It seems that where we moved is well-established. Most kids have grown up here and they stick together. There are good kids to be found, but at the beginning of the year, Full Speed had a hard time connecting with them.
He ate lunch alone for over two months.
As fate would have it in the midst of his lone lunching, he tried out for basketball. Tryouts ended in disaster as he suffered a mild (though frightening) concussion on the very first day. Apparently two basketball passes to the head will do that to you.
We had some pretty dark days post-concussion.
Thankfully, we had access to excellent follow-up care. Over the course of three months Full Speed successfully completed all physical therapy and passed all cognitive testing.
In the interim, he was offered the chance to be the basketball team manager.
This changed everything.
He quickly became the heart and soul of the team. He started to get recognized at school.
He finally had friends to sit with at lunch.
This all culminated in him getting to suit up and participate in the final home game of the season.
He played a few minutes here and there. He showed some fire on defense and fed his teammates some passes.
As the clocked ticked down its final minute, he was subbed in. The goal of the team was to feed him a shot. Everyone was invested as they all cheered him on.
He never did make the shot, but he didn’t need to.
The winning happened the minute he stepped on the court.
I hate to admit it, but sometimes, I am a reluctant soccer mom. I used to be more gung-ho when my boys were small. Since I still choose to keep them in a relatively low-key rec league, I am required to be at the fields for all their practices. Even though my boys are close in age, often their birth dates do not align and they end up on different teams. This means that they can have different practice nights. This means that I am at the soccer fields almost every night of the week not including games. Hence, this is where some of my reluctance creeps in.
This current season has started. Full Speed was asked along with a few other members of his U12 team to help fill out the roster of his coach’s U14 team. I left it up to him and he seemed excited to help out. While the coach was confident he could hold his own skill-wise, I voiced my concern about his size. Full Speed is a lot of things, but being tall for his age is not one of them. He’s kind of skinny, too. I, of course, think he is the perfect size and height to be who he is, but I also am not delusional. How was he going to stack up against U14 size-wise? The coach assured me he would be fine and given there is no slide tackling in this particular league, I believed her. Maybe it was the heat.
Full Speed had his first U12 game and even though it was in the morning, it was intensely hot and humid. His team lost quite miserably but he genuinely had fun with his teammates (they are a great group) and had two assists. He was happy but very tired after the game. We took him home to rest up and cool down for the next game which would be against a U14 team.
We returned to the fields well before the opposition arrived. During warm-ups, I could see Full Speed’s opponents approaching the field. From faraway they looked slightly bigger than average. Upon their arrival to the field, they were GIGANTIC. I’m talking full-grown adult-sized. I’m talking maybe some should consider playing college football big. Their goalie was pushing 6’0 and nearing 200 lbs. Full Speed barely cleared most of their waists. Yikes.
It was pretty obvious early on, given our diminutive size and the use of several U12 players, we were going to get creamed. But that’s part of it. That’s life. Sometimes you are going to take a beating and it’s up to you how you handle it. I thought Full Speed’s team handled it quite well. Nearly all of them kept trying and didn’t give up. It wasn’t fun to watch by any means, but I was proud of them.
It’s possible because this was the second and much worse beat-down I was witnessing Full Speed endure that day in 100+ heat, but the opposition’s goalie was becoming problematic for me. In what I believe to be a show of complete disrespect, he stopped playing in the goal. He wandered around the field, often pushing all the way up to midfield. Granted, we maybe only had a handful of shots taken on goal, but his disregard for Full Speed’s trying-so-hard team was difficult to take. From the goalie’s perspective, I’m sure he was bored by the tiny team taking tiny shots. From a mom-nearing-heatstroke’s perspective, I wanted a goal for Full Speed’s team so bad I could taste it. The open net taunted me. I started to formulate a plan. If we didn’t score soon, I was going to run on the field and take it to the house myself. What’s the worse that could happen? I’m banned from the game? I’d have to go to my air-conditioned car until it was over? Soooo tempting. Or worse (better?) yet, I’d be banned from the fields for life? No more fire ants to contend with or sweating until I’m pushed to delrium (I’d obviously passed this brink if I was plotting to score a goal).
I was so hot and I was so frustrated and watching that goalie walk nonchalantly around the field was too too much. Little Full Speed was up at striker and I have never wanted him to score a goal as much I wanted it in that moment. Finally, he managed to outmaneuver their defense. When I asked Full Speed later what is was like going up against defenders twice his size he said his focus was ‘to not get run over or get kicked in the face.’ He had succeeded at both and finally had the ball in his possession. He broke for that wide open net. The goalie attempted to race back to meet him. He got there in time to block Full Speed’s strike. The goalie anticipated a high kick, Full Speed went small and chipped a low shot right at the goalie. Since the goalie went high, the ball bounced underneath him and INTO THE GOAL!
I cheered like we won the World Cup.
It was amazing.
Full Speed managed another goal a few minutes later. This time, as the goalie back-pedaled to the goal, he tripped on his own feet and Full Speed’s teammate kicked the ball at him. The ball ricocheted off the goalie and set up Full Speed in a perfect assist for a goal. It was pretty sweet. Another goal came later on a penalty kick by Full Speed’s teammate.
Yes, Full Speed’s team lost 17(?) (I honestly lost track after double digits) to 3, but those were three of the most glorious goals in the history of soccer.
This summer was the first time my boys ever played organized basketball. There was a part of me that really dreaded this. On some level, I knew my boys were going to have some challenges mastering the sport. I was absolutely right. They both quickly learned that remembering all the rules, dribbling while in motion and taking a shot with someone twice their size right in their face were all rather impossible. On a positive note, they both looked absolutely adorable in their uniforms. So, basically, they always have their looks to fall back on.
In all seriousness, I knew the season was going to be tough when the first team the boys played was adult-size and had been playing together for six years. I actually thought it could have been longer than six years as I was pretty sure I had seen their center driving his own car to the game (not really, but I did want to check his birth certificate to verify his supposed under 10 age). Needless to say, my boys are not so motivated to hoop it up anytime soon. Long live soccer!!
Over the course of summer, in between basketball practices and games, I got to spend a tremendous amount of time with my guys. For the most part, I found this time to be truly delightful. I enjoyed their humor, their company and their energy for life. It wasn’t all smooth. There were some classic moments such as these:
Full Speed and the Situation I took the dogs for a walk and instructed the boys to get themselves ready for soccer camp. Here is actual text communication sent from Full Speed, “Where are you? We have a situation with the Gatorade bottle.” Two minutes later I received this text, “The problem is I can’t open the Gatorade.” Thankfully, this ‘situation’ was quickly resolved but the text cracked me up for the rest of the day.
T.Puzzle’s Hug Aversion T. Puzzle hates it when I ask him to hug me. He acts as if he is being sentenced to death and tries all sorts of creative ways to get out of it. I told him to ask his brother how to handle it. Full Speed said, “When Mom wants a hug, just man-up and do it.” Still, to no avail. I eventually had to take a hard line with him and he will give me hugs but there is still a lot of resistance. So, it surprised me when he approached me for what seemed like a genuine unsolicited hug. “Wow, T.Puzzle, that was so nice.” He looked at me and said, “Dad told me to find you and said I had to hug you, so I did.” Okay, thanks?
Full Speed’s Independence When your ten year-old has ‘situations’ with Gatorade bottles, sometimes when you ponder the future, you wonder if he will be able to live independently. Full Speed was looking in the fridge and he couldn’t find something. “Mom, where is it? I can’t find it anywhere!” I walked over, opened the door and promptly found it in two seconds. I said in a rather exasperated tone, “I really am going to have to live with you when you are older, aren’t I?” He replied, “No, Mom, because I’m going to be the one who puts everything away so I will know where stuff is.” Touche’.
T.Puzzle’s Future Living Arrangements Since Full Speed has established in his mind that he will be living independently from his parents in the future, he has lots of ideas about how this will happen. He talks about possible occupations, where he wants to live and hopes I will take care of his dogs when he has to travel. When I ask T.Puzzle about the future he is often mute on the subject. Even though he is hug aversive, deep down, he really is attached to me and I think he can’t fathom living anywhere else than where he is right now. Full Speed’s solution is simple. T.Puzzle can live with him. Well, that’s all fine and good, but I’ve noticed Full Speed can be very particular in his ways. T.Puzzle is a little more free-flowing with life. “How are you going to live with your brother if he annoys you on a regular basis, Full Speed?” He answer was simple, “My house, my rules.”