He is skipping towards the car, wind whipping his hair, carrying his silver water bottle.

I juggle oranges (not the- for your entertainment juggling, but the trying not to drop them juggling, which come to think of it might be just as entertaining) and the mug of tea, sloshing up the side, unfinished because the sideline dog (1/5 actually) drank some. Its not that I don’t want to share with the dog, its just that I don’t want people to see me share with the dog, and there was a crowd around when he had tea, and this tea is not really for two.

Oliver drags the mesh bag of soccer balls babbling about its relative weight vis a vis his camping back pack which is packed and on the floor of the kitchen waiting for his departure.

I don’t know what Steve is carrying, but something that makes his snuffling worse, and for now I can’t tease him about his man cold, because a whole bunch of things have come together to make him an actual real martyr. In Shelburbia terms at least.

So Leo skips ahead of us sing- songing “we won, we won, we won.”

Where to start with this.

Steve tells him “We don’t keep score” which, don’t get me started about the importance of effort and fun, and all but soccer is dull enough WITH a score, can’t we just track the very very few goals we make.

I am thinking of the other issue.

Leo didn’t play soccer. He came to the field. But he didn’t suit up or watch his own game, and here he is declaring victory. It is a victory of sorts.

Rewind 6 weeks to the hallway of the parks and rec office. I’m signing Oliver up for soccer. Leo whines. “Why not, me?” Classic. This kid has participated in zero of the sports we have registered him for, and after figuring out that I’m the asshole for registering him he has been lesson, practice and game free for going on two years. I KNOW he will not want to play soccer. Coaches do things like tell you where to go and what to do, and he does just about as much as he can manage of that at school. I have been trained to pretend to expect the best so I run over the 6 week commitment and he comes up with this idea. “What if dada is my coach?”

So instead of seeing of this is taking one likely mistake and exponentially increasing its impact on my family I say. “Well sure, lets sign Dada up to deal with your inevitable field side meltdowns.” Or something like that.

Week two it emerges that Steve has NEVER PLAYED SOCCER. Which seems as impossible as me NEVER HAVING WATCHED TV. I grew up in Newton Mass. Home of Soccer in America. So I sort of laugh through that and feel lucky that both boys practice on Wednesdays and that we have shinguards and cleats and shins and feet and just keep trying to muddle through it. There is the expected amount of whining and feet dragging, and dinner time shifting, and missed shots, and “falling down and stepping on my own leg” and pre-field abject misery, but fun times during practice. For now.

Week three neither boy wants to go. Vicki would ask me to figure out what the situation called for, but as a practice skipping by even just one boy might lead to a practice skipping by me I was more for it than I should have been.I look at Steve’s face, and although it is calm I realize it is calm verging on stoic and I remember that no matter what happens he is going to the field. Since he has a concert that night and I am doing bedtime the thought of leaving him alone out there (and me alone with the boys here) motivates my statement. “Well, Dada has to go so I am going because I got him into this, so you have to go. We can’t force you to play, but we can drag you with us to the field.”

So we went to practice, Steve coached, I griped to friends, and Leo and Oliver played tag. Technically sort of like a soccer skill. Later we have a full family discussion about fun and commitment and what to do when two correct statements point towards different outcomes.

  1. Soccer is supposed to be fun.
  2. Joining a team is committing to a team.

Oliver seems painfully torn. Steve is on the commitment side. Leo will never play soccer again as long as he lives.

So this morning we went to the fields. Leo gathered water bottles, cleats and shinguards and Steve and I raised out eyebrows at each other with no additional comment.

He didn’t play. He didn’t even go to the game. He went on the swings and brought Oliver his water bottle, and followed me around.

But somehow, an hour and half later he was declaring “his” team the winner.

I’m not sure.

Did he win?

Oh, and remember Steve the martyr? After coaching a bunch of 1st and second graders without his son anywhere near his field he is packing up to go camping with Oliver. In the rain. With his cold.

When Oliver is excited he doesn’t stop talking. Can’t imagine where that comes from. Since we have returned home and I have disappeared to the bedroom to type this up for posterity I have heard a running chatter (if things at full volume can be called chatter).Where are the almonds, I can’t find my stuff sack, do you think 8 water bottles will be enough?, we will get wet but not too wet, where are my socks?, are there any kid socks? Leo do you have any socks? Mama can I take these socks? You know what will be good? Cooking out. Did you pack the camp stove? Dada? Dada? I HAVE SOCKS.

This camping trip is going to be incredible.I can’t wait to hear all about it. From my dry bed.


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Anna Rosenblum Palmer is a freelance writer based in Denver, CO. She writes about sex, parenting, cat pee, bi-polar disorder and the NFL; all things inextricably intertwined with her mental health. In her free time she teaches her boys creative swear words, seeks the last missing puzzle piece and thinks deeply about how she is not exercising. Her writing can be found on Babble, Parent.co, Great Moments in Parenting, Ravishly, Good Men Project, Sammiches and Psych Meds, Playpen, Crazy Good Parent, and YourTango. She also does a fair amount of navel gazing on her own blog at annarosenblumpalmer.com.

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