I wanted to write this article, but I took too long so Andy beat me to it. As I watched the video, it was easy to get caught up in the story-telling and the performance. It’s a great fusion of poetry and cinematography. Something about it bothered me a bit though, and I couldn’t put my figure on just quite what it was. This post gets it right.
In his continuing quest to ingratiate himself into the household, New Dog has starting sleeping in my daughter’s bed. She is, as any 9 10 year old girl would be, absurdly pleased that the Dog has anointed her as Sleeping Buddy, especially because it’s something her brothers don’t get to do. In a house with four kids, exclusive *anything* is a valuable commodity: we are communists by necessity.
Well now, in a new display of utter patheticness, New Dog has taken to going into my daughter’s room after she leaves for school, gently removing one of her stuffed animals, and find a comfy spot in the sun to sleep with it.
One little boy is a lot like a slinky with caffeine jitters. Two or more little boys is like watching a bizarro-world NASCAR race where all the drivers are drunk and everyone in the stands is completely terrified. Crashes are a foregone conclusion, you just hope you can get there in time with the fire extinguisher.
If we survive, we grow up to say things like “Dude, hold my beer! I want to try that!”
Let’s just say that biologically speaking, it’s a good thing I don’t have a womb.
The Pokey Little Puppy
When I was a little boy my favorite book was The Pokey Little Puppy. As a dad I rediscovered the book thanks in part to my mom (hi mom!) and read it to my kids. One part has always stuck out in my mind.
“What is he doing?” the four little puppies asked one another. And down they went to see, roly-poly, pell-mell, tumble-bumble, till they came to the green grass; and there they stopped short.
I always thought I liked the book because I was always kinda late to everything. I now get why I like this book.
This book is really an owner’s manual for little boys. In fact, this is the essence of little boys: curiosity, and then a blurry bobble of arms and legs and spontaneous collisions.
Also, schemes involving desserts.
My daughter is no less curious or active, but she was in a pink tutu from her second trimester in utero until age 7 (second child, only daughter, lots of ruffle-butt dresses). She has developed a certain grace, comfort, and familiarity with her appendages that her male siblings seem to lack. She can also rip one that will peel the paint off the walls seemingly on command.
A little over a month ago, I got the email that as a dad I most fear:
I am writing to inform you that we don’t have enough coaches for our U6 Boys soccer, and so your son cannot be placed on a team. If you want to volunteer to coach, please reply to this email.
I dodged this bullet six years ago when my first son started playing soccer. At the time, though, I was incredibly excited. My good fortune only became apparent later.
In fact, I actually LIKE soccer. I like watching professional soccer more than watching any other sport on TV (although that’s a low bar). I used to play soccer as a kid. I would have played soccer in high school, except the summer after 8th grade this kid Joey gave me a nipple twist at the pool, and when I found out he was trying out for JV soccer I changed my mind and went to band camp instead.
Screw you Joey, I hope you have chronic Irritable Bowel Syndrome and high cholestrol.
My son’s first spring season went okay, and he seemed to like it enough that we signed him up for soccer in the fall. I was a little frustrated with the coaching at the time, and I thought I could do better …so I signed up to coach.
I dove into learning everything I could about coaching youth soccer. For months, I studied videos and read books. Then one day in August he came to me.
“Daddy, I think I want to concentrate on swimming and not do soccer any more.”
“Oh, um, okay. I thought you liked soccer. Are you sure?”
“Yeah, I really like swimming a lot. Soccer is fun, too, though. We can still kick the ball around if you want.”
Good kid that one, throwing me a bone there. “Oh, okay. If you’re sure. We’ll take you out for the fall then.”
That’s how I became a swim dad instead of a soccer dad.
Let me tell you though… So. Much. Better.
As a soccer dad, I was prepared to take on the responsibilities of coaching. That means committing to 2-3 practices a week, plus a good chunk of my weekend for games. I’d have to be out there in the rain, or hot, trying not to just motivate my own kid, but little Tommy the grass picker and Justin-keep-your-body-to-yourself.
There are snack rotations and balls and nets.
There are drills and trophies and patches.
I’m allergic to grass.
As a swim dad, my responsibilities are:
Carpool to/from pool on my assigned night
1 weekend a month, sit in a fairly climate-controlled gym or pool and read my Kindle for several hours, while occasionally looking up to see if it’s our event yet
Invent things to text to my wife to make it sound like I’m paying more attention at the meet than I actually am
Fulfill team’s volunteer hour requirements by yelling at children in an administrative capacity
Overall, way less effort involved in swimming than in soccer. At least for me.
Then, six years later, the bill comes due.
Son assembly required
Son number one is, in too many painfully obvious ways, a shorter, better looking version of me. He also reads this blog. Which reminds me, please excuse me for one second…
Son, go put your laundry away before you scroll down.
What did I just write? Laundry. Now. You don’t have to fold it– just get it out of the basket so your sainted mother can keep the circle of laundry going. Go. We’ll all just sit here, clicking reload, and wait for you to finish.
Son number two is definitely a very different child than son number one. First, he has the advantage of a September birthday, which means that he’s one of the bigger kids in his grade. Second, he’s a middle child, fairly easy going, and motivated predominately by Cheezits. It’s not so much that he’s a mystery to me, but he definitely has his own playbook and I have to work a little harder to figure out what he wants. This was the child who one morning, at age 2 and a half, we found sitting in the living room, staring at the blank TV, contentedly eating a frozen waffle. He’s slightly suspicious of having me coach the team, because in his experience Daddy likes to have him empty the trash cans, not coach soccer.
Our first practice is at the beginning of April. It’s still cold, the field is damp, and there’s a constant 60 mile an hour wind blowing down from Ottawa that is making me profoundly regret wearing shorts. There are 9 kids, including my own, staring at me suspiciously, as if they are expecting me to start making them do push-ups. I have a clipboard with a lesson plan on it from the league for an age-appropriate practice for 6 year old boys with little to no soccer experience. Glancing down at the notes, I take a quick breath.
WTHeck is this? They want me to do what? I should I have looked more closely at this before this morning. This is lame, the kids are going to hate this. Oh well, here goes nothing…deep breath, big smile…
“Okay soccer players! We’re going to play some games today. Who knows how to play red light green light?”
Inwardly I cringed. And then they cheered.
We played red light green light– first without the ball, then with the ball. They were all so into it, they wanted to play it again, and again, and again. As I watched them lurch forward, fall over, giggle, grin, and fall over again, I was struck by a thought.
I kinda sorta hope son number 2 eventually decides to go for swimming over soccer. He’s good at it, we’ve got a really good car-pool right now, and it’s ALL about the car pool. If he decides to stick with soccer, though, I think I’m up for it.
I have an instruction manual.
It involves desserts.
Special thanks to son number one for telling me to get off my hiney and write some more.