Oh, the joys of kindergarten soccer. It’s not a total exercise in futility. No, I reserve that description for 3-year-old soccer. While the cuteness factor does somewhat make up for the pointlessness of watching (most) 3-year-olds stare into space and kick balls in the wrong direction, I did find myself wondering more than once why we were starting this so young. So we skipped a year, but when information was sent home for the kindergarten team, I thought it was time for the eldest to give it another shot.

After the first practice, I was encouraged. It looked like he was really getting it this time and if nothing else, he was having a great time running up and down the field with his friends with nary an iPad, LeapPad or pad of any other kind in sight.

But then came the first game.

It started off just fine. While they were “warming up,” he was laughing and having a good time. All of the kindergarten teams wear the same color shirt, so our coach handed out red mesh jerseys to our guys and gals to put on, so obviously everyone could tell which team they were on.

As they started playing, I could tell something had turned my little Pelé into Pouté, though I could not figure out the source of said pouting. At some point, he told his coach he just didn’t want to play anymore and coach told him to take a seat on the sideline.  

As I am wondering why I left work early to come watch him roll around on the grass, my husband walked over to investigate. Anders told him he didn’t like soccer anymore and didn’t want to play. Frank told him to suck it up and get a better attitude. We had committed to this and he was going to at least try. I think he went back in for a couple of minutes, but let’s just say his effort was minimal at best.

On the way home, he rode with me and I asked him why he’d acted this way. His response: “I think I’m better suited for individual sports.”

Well, OK then. Though I found his response somewhat amusing, I didn’t buy it. He had been having so much fun with his friends and went from hot to cold on this faster than he could kick a ball out of bounds. So I kept pestering him about it.

Finally, he spilled the beans. “I didn’t like that red jersey and I didn’t want to wear it. “Because that makes sense. But apparently the red jersey ruined soccer and made it “stupid.”

They have this program in the library where they use these anthropomorphic pickles to talk about behavior, so we decided to use the “pickle approach” to try and readjust his ‘tude before the next game. Frank reminded him he needed to be a “sweet pickle.” And I encouraged “team pickle” behavior. “No one wants to be that last, lonely pickle in the jar. It’s all dried up and nasty.”

I’m not sure if all this talk of fermented cucumbers got through or he was just in a better mood, but by the next game he was back to his normal, happy self and even scored a GOOOOOOAAAAAALLLLLL!

The next couple of practices and games went fine and kindergarten soccer was looking like an excellent choice indeed.

But then came Sept. 30, 2015, a day that will forever live in infamy within the Trice household.

The regularly scheduled game was going along just swimmingly when all of a sudden our “sweet pickle” turned sour.

For some reason, he started throwing elbows and something Frank referred to as “clotheslining.” I am not even sure what that is, but I am sure it happened. I’ve never seen him act like this, ever. In fact, I would say, if anything, we were worried he wasn’t being aggressive enough on the field. (I mean, as aggressive as you are in kindergarten soccer.) The coaches are high school kids so they didn’t really seem to notice, but I did. And so did some of the other parents, especially the ones of the kid who took a couple of elbows.

I was mortified.

“Frank, do something,” I said, thinking, Forget the pickle talks, just go kill him. I’ll just be over here trying to dig a hole to hide in and imagining our visits to him in prison. I’ll lovingly put my hands on the glass to meet his and tell him how I always thought orange was a great color on him.

Frank told him to knock it off and went over and apologized to the parents of the other kid. He clearly did not think it was as big a deal as I did, but you know dads always like to think of their boys as “tough,” so I’m sure while I was envisioning him mopping up the cafeteria at his prison kitchen job, Frank was probably secretly envisioning him hoisting up the World Cup.

And I don’t mind him being a smidge “tough” — like take-up-for-yourself tough — but my biggest fear was him getting labeled “rough,” which sounds similar but is really quite different.

“Rough” is the code word parents use to talk about other people’s kids who they think are horrible. It goes like this: “Have you been around Susie’s kids?” You say no. Other parent says, with eyebrows raised as high as they will go, “Well, they are rough.” Then both parents shake heads from side to side in pity for poor Susie and her terrible kids. It’s in the same parental code word language as “Well, that’s different,” the remark you receive when you are pregnant and you make the mistake of telling someone your baby name and they hate it. It’s often followed up with, “Is that a family name?”

Anyway, I don’t want anyone saying my usually sweet boy with a “different” name is “rough,” even if he is acting like the biggest a-hole in the pickle jar on this particular day.

On the way home we had another one of our talks about the day’s events. He very casually said, “No, no, it’s OK. That team was calling us names,” as if his reaction was a totally acceptable and normal response to the alleged name-calling.

So, of course, we had to go over how that wasn’t appropriate and have a big talk on sportsmanship, and on and on and on. And he seemed to get it.
But I swear, it’s so hard making good pickles sometimes.

The next game was fine and we have the last one this week. I feel confident he learned his lesson and we will end the season on a high note. But if the next 12 years of team sports are going to be this stressful, I think it would suit his neurotic mother better if he was, in fact, better suited for individual sports.

(We start tennis next month!)