It was hot for March and the Florida humidity was already creeping in. Florida humidity is heavy and sticky. It’s why we spend most of our time on or in the water. We sat on the sidelines in our fold up camper chairs and watched our five year old, Cobe, run right next to the group of kids battling for the soccer ball. He was lit up. His whole body radiated excitement. His hands were clenched, the smile on his face, big and wide. He watched the kids with electric intensity while he ran just an arm’s length away.
And then the ball began rolling toward his feet.
He very nimbly hopped out its path- still excited, still smiling. One kid, Max, got the ball and ran down the field toward the goal. And Cobe ran too, still safely out of reach and cheering on Max. A gaggle of mini soccer players trailed behind them.
This same scene plays out in every game he’s played and at least five times during the game that night. We sat there confused and frustrated.
We’d yell, Get it Cobe! Kick the ball! And right after he’d managed to scoot out of the way and dodge any potential contact, he’d flash us a smile and thumbs up.
He came to the sidelines for a water break and happily reported that the Cyclones had 4 and his team had 2. We’re losing, he said with a smile.
I scooted closer to his sweaty little body and said in a whisper, Cobe why don’t you get in there and kick the ball? You’re so fast! You can score! Are you afraid of something?
Yes, he said in-between gulps from his thermos, I’m afraid I’ll hurt someone.
Immediately, I told him not to worry about that. To think of how many games he’d played without anyone getting hurt. I actually told him that soccer was a place he could push a little and wouldn’t get in trouble. Oy. My competitive nature was kicking in and she can be ruthless. Thoughts of winning and losing rushed through my brain. He won’t have fun if he loses. He won’t have fun if he’s not the best player out there. Maybe we should look into private lessons…
Out of body experiences are commonplace when you’re a parent. As Elizabeth Stone says, “Making the decision to have a child – it is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.”
Some of the most profound heart-walking-around-outside-your-body moments happen when you become acutely aware that your issues are running the show. It’s so hard to separate how we experience life versus how our children do. Often, they’re not the same, not even close. Our fears, our failures, our issues with our own parents-we’re all just looking to protect our fragile, little hearts.
When Cobe went back on the field, I had one of those moments. My motherly advice played in my head like an annoying mosquito. There he was, not touching the ball for the entire game, beaming with pride and full of pure joy. He wasn’t worried about being the best player. He wasn’t even worried about winning. He was afraid to hurt someone. He was ecstatic to be part of a team, to run and laugh and yell. He was happy to have us, his biggest fans, sitting on the sidelines. My little heart was out there on that field, thump-thumping away and doing just fine.
On the car ride home that night, I watched him from the rear view mirror. For the most part, his face was hidden in the dark but I could see his silhouette looking out the window. Whatcha thinking about, I asked him.
And he said, Today sure was a beautiful day.