Saturday was Nana’s first day of soccer!
Nana was excited, not because she had any idea of what soccer is, but because her “best friend” Gigi was going to be there. I totally got it. Getting to hang out with your girlfriend outside of working hours is a guaranteed good time.
She chattered and sang the whole way to the fitness club. We both share singing as an expression of happiness so I love listening to her random nursery rhyme remixes. This was sing-a-long on steroids because she was constant and LOUD for the entire 20 minute drive.
The class was filled with little ones ranging from 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 years old with all that wonderful kid energy that keeps you young. Some kids were running around and shrieking, some were being tended to by their parents. Nana got swept up in the energy and immediately ran into the mix. Those little legs were a-running.
Speaking of running, home girl is definitively un-fast. Tortoise slow. Matrix slow. Ketchup in a bottle slow. You know how in cartoons the character’s legs are moving but they are running in place. Yeah, that’s Nana. She is forever trying to race somebody though. It is amazingly cute.
We picked soccer very deliberately. Nana is extremely social and easily distracted. She tends to follow the crowd and wants to always be in the mix. She is so busy that she doesn’t listen and finds it hard to finish a task to completion. These are all normal three-year-old developmental milestones that some kids reach a little later than others. I was willing to wait it out and let her mature a bit, but since her teachers have mentioned this listening thing multiple times, we needed to do something.
We get it. Our child doesn’t listen. *sigh*
We hoped that soccer will help her with listening and following directions, focusing on a single activity and burning off this incredible amount of energy that she has. Unrealistic expectations, much?
After a couple of minutes watching the kids warm up, I realized that I was a tad bit anxious. Real talk? I was stressed. Most of my time was spent comparing Nana’s behavior to the other children and keeping a running commentary in my head.
The other children are all lined up and waiting for directions, why is Nana running over here? Oh, okay, that kid is rolling around on the ground, and that one is crying to her dad. Nana is doing alright then. Yeah! She kicked in three balls and some of those kids only kicked in one. She’s a natural! Wait, why is she picking up the ball with her hands? Seriously Nana! Pay attention! Aww…look at her. She is so cute when she is running in place. Yay! She did it!
Wood was tense too. We both stepped onto the field multiple times to help redirect Nana’s attention to the coach. We would retreat back to the sidelines, arms crossed, physically forcing ourselves to stay put and just let her have fun. We had to remind ourselves that she’s only three. Having fun is the point, right?
We weren’t alone. Other parents would step in to help their children, but I was hyper aware of how much time we spent in correction mode. When we weren’t fixing her, we were smiling through gritted teeth, making small talk with the other parents and trying our best to have fun and not be “those parents.”
Why was it so hard for us to just relax?
I admit that it’s hard to disassociate myself from Nana’s actions. The reality is that people see your child’s behavior as an expression of your parenting skills. If your child is running around and not following directions, then folks may think you are too lenient. If you child is way too focused and seems introverted, folks may wonder what’s wrong with them.
And as quiet as it’s kept, there is also an underlying racial component. Studies have shown that black children are judged more harshly even when doing the same things as their white counterparts. A lot of my reactions stem from an unspoken fear that someone will write my child off as the little sassy black girl that can’t follow directions.
How can we raise a #carefreeblackgirl when we have all these standards and expectations? When will she get the opportunity to just be, if not as a three-year-old?
I’m sure this will continue to be a struggle for us as we try to balance her opportunity to have fun and be a kid with our own internal concerns about how she is perceived. Who knew that being a soccer mom came with all these extra bags?